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  India   All India  20 Feb 2024  SC Raps Returning Officer For Defacing Mayor Ballot Paper

SC Raps Returning Officer For Defacing Mayor Ballot Paper

Published : Feb 20, 2024, 1:47 am IST
Updated : Feb 20, 2024, 1:49 am IST

The court said it would review on Tuesday the ballot papers of Chandigarh mayoral polls and the entire video-recording of the counting day

Supreme Court. (AP)
 Supreme Court. (AP)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday rapped the Returning Officer for the Chandigarh Mayoral polls Anil Masih for allegedly defacing the ballot papers with tick and cross marks during the counting, observing that "horse trading is taking place".

The top court said it would review on Tuesday the ballot papers of the Chandigarh mayoral polls and the entire video-recording of the counting day, and directed the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to depute a judicial officer to bring the records safely to the national capital.

After watching the video of the electoral exercise for the mayoral polls on February 5, the apex court had lambasted the Returning Officer, observing that he had defaced the ballot papers and that he should be prosecuted. The court had also said that Masih's action amounted to "murder" and a "mockery" of democracy.

During the proceedings on Monday, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and also comprising Justices J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, directed the Chandigarh administration to provide security to the judicial officer, to be appointed by the high court, to ensure the safety of the officer and the records.

"We ourselves will look at the records at 2 pm," the bench said.

"Horse-trading taking place," the CJI remarked while declining a plea that the case on the mayoral polls be heard on some other day instead of Tuesday.

In pursuance of the apex court's direction on February 5, Masih appeared before the bench and was quizzed by the judges over the alleged tampering of certain ballot papers.

Responding to the queries of the bench, Masih said he did put the "X" mark on eight already "defaced" ballot papers and accused Aam Aadmi Party councillors of creating a ruckus and trying to snatch away the ballot papers.

He said that due to this, he was looking at the CCTV camera at the counting centre.

The bench also warned that the Returning Officer could be prosecuted if he took recourse to lies before the Court. "This is a very serious matter. All that you say .. if any falsehood you will be prosecuted ... Why were you looking into the camera and putting marks in the ballot papers?" the CJI told Masih.
The CJI was not convinced by Masih's explanation that he had made the marks on eight ballot papers, only to set them apart, and said, "You can sign the ballot papers ... Why were ticking or putting X on those ballot papers?... Which rule says that you can put ticks or X in those ballot papers? ... He (Masih) has to be prosecuted. In an electoral democracy, this cannot be allowed."

"We will ask the High Court Registrar General to depute a person and submit all the records before us tomorrow. We will list this tomorrow and see the ballot papers and decide what to do ... This whole business of horse trading which is going on is very disturbing. Let the entire video of counting of the votes be also produced tomorrow noon," the bench said.

"The ballot papers which are placed in custody of the Registrar General (of the High Court) be produced before this Court by a judicial officer by tomorrow 2 pm. The necessary security arrangement shall be made to ensure safe transit and proper preservation and custody of ballot papers along with judicial officers," reads the order.

The top court also directed Masih to be present personally in court on Tuesday as well.

AAP councillor Kuldeep Kumar has moved the top court challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court order that refused to grant any interim relief to the party, that had sought fresh mayoral polls in Chandigarh.

The Bharatiya Janata Party swept the Chandigarh mayoral polls against the Congress-AAP alliance on January 30.

Manoj Sonkar of the BJP defeated the AAP's Kuldeep Kumar for the mayor's post, polling 16 votes against 12 votes of his rival. Eight votes were declared invalid.

Ahead of the hearing on Monday, Sonkar resigned from the post.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Monday said that Sonkar's resignation as Chandigarh mayor shows that they won the elections by using "unfair means".

Talking to reporters, the AAP supremo said, "If the mayor has resigned then it is very obvious that something is suspicious there. It clearly shows that they won the elections by unfair means. This is how they win other elections too; if they don't, they buy leaders from the winning party. How will a democratic country function if elections are won unfairly? They (BJP) should let the party that won the elections run the government."




Tags: supreme court of india, chandigarh mayoral election
Location: India, Chandigarh