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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday slammed Returning Officer Anil Masih for his role in the alleged defacement of ballot papers during the Chandigarh mayoral election and said that he should be prosecuted. The top court also proposed that results for the Chandigarh mayoral polls be declared by counting the present ballot papers, disregarding the marks made by Returning Officer Anil Masih instead of holding fresh elections.

 

Chandigarh Mayor poll | Supreme Court remarks that Anil Masih, returning officer in Chandigarh Mayor election, has to be prosecuted as he was interfering with the election process.
— ANI (@ANI) February 19, 2024

 

The top court, while hearing a petition on the alleged irregularities in the Chandigarh mayoral election, also expressed concerns over alleged horse-trading after the mayoral polls. “We are deeply concerned about the horse-trading which is taking place…” the SC bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud said. 

The apex court also directed the administration to provide security to the judicial officer and safeguard the records. It also asked the HC registrar general to depute a judicial officer to bring ballot papers, and videos for its perusal on Tuesday.

Earlier during the hearing, the Supreme Court grilled Masih over his conduct regarding his conduct during the controversial Mayoral elections in Chandigarh. Responding to the Supreme Court, Masih admitted that he put an ‘X’ mark on 8 ballot papers. Masih said that he was separately marking ballot papers which were defaced by the voters, so that they wouldn’t get mixed up.

On February 5, the bench of CJI DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra heard a petition filed by the AAP candidate and slammed Masih for his conduct and directed him to explain his conduct as presiding officer in the Chandigarh Mayor elections to the top court in person in next hearing. The CJI had called what transpired in mayoral elections a “murder of democracy”.

 “It is obvious that he defaced the ballot papers. Is this the way he conducts the elections? This is a mockery of democracy. This is a murder of democracy. This man should be prosecuted! Tell him the Supreme Court is watching him,” CJI Chandrachud said while passing orders. The court had expressed dismay over the videos that surfaced from the elections and asked why Masih was looking at the CCTV camera while counting ballot papers. 

The AAP and Congress have accused Masih of tampering with ballots to favour BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar. It is alleged by the INDIA bloc candidate Kuldeep Kumar that Masih rejected 8 votes as invalid while counting by forgery and BJP won elections by fraud.

On January 30, Manoj Sonkar, the Mayor candidate from BJP was declared the Mayor after winning 16 votes against the 12 votes received by the Congress-AAP candidate Kumar.

On February 18, just one day before the next hearing in the Supreme Court, the BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar resigned from the Mayor’s office. In another key development before the hearing, three Chandigarh AAP Councillors Gurcharan Kala, Punam Devi and Neha Musawat joined the BJP.