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NEW DELHI: In a major victory for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed the result of the recently conducted mayoral election in Chandigarh and declared its candidate Kuldeep Kumar as the validly elected Mayor of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. ”8 votes which were treated as invalid, were validly passed in favour of AAP candidate Kuldeep Kumar and the counting the eight votes for him will make him have 20 votes,” said the Supreme Court.  ”We direct that the election result by the presiding officer is quashed,” it added.

 

Chandigarh Mayor Election matter | Supreme Court orders that AAP candidate is declared to be the validly elected candidate for the post of Mayor of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. pic.twitter.com/QMWkJUMij4
— ANI (@ANI) February 20, 2024

 

The top court also slammed the Returning Officer, Anil Masih, saying that he altered the election process in violation of law. The Supreme Court also issued a show cause notice to him over his alleged intervention in the mayoral polls. “A fit case is made out for the initiation of proceedings under Section 340 CrPC against Anil Masih, Returning Officer of Chandigarh Mayor poll,” said the Supreme Court. It also directed the Registrar Judicial to issue a notice to him to show cause as to why steps should not be initiated against him.

The top court earlier observed that all ”invalidated” eight ballots have votes been cast in favour of the AAP’s candidate Kuldeep Kumar in the recently conducted Chandigarh Mayoral Polls. Hearing the plea filed by AAP’s mayoral candidate Kuldeep Kumar, the Supreme Court said that the votes cast during the poll shall be recounted and these eight shall be treated as valid. The Supreme Court made these observations in response to a plea filed by AAP Mayor Candidate Kuldeep Kumar, whose votes were invalidated by the Returning Officer Anil Masih.

Today’s Supreme Court’s ruling holds big political significance since the AAP and the Congress – which contested the Chandigarh mayoral election in alliance with each other – have recorded the opposition INDIA bloc’s first electoral win as they prepare to defeat Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections. 

 

Chandigarh mayoral polls: Supreme Court says that it will direct that the votes at the poll shall be recounted and these eight shall be treated as valid. Thereafter, results be declared based on that, Court observes.
— ANI (@ANI) February 20, 2024

 

Court Orders Recounting Of Votes

During the hearing, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) showcased the ballots to the legal representatives, highlighting that all eight ballots were stamped in favour of AAP’s Kuldeep Kumar. Expressing scepticism over the justification provided by the Returning Officer for invalidating these votes, the top court emphasized the need for a recount and declared that the results would be based on the revised count.

 

Chandigarh mayoral polls: Supreme Court takes into note that all invalidated eight ballots have votes cast in favour of the AAP Mayor Candidate Kuldeep Kumar. https://t.co/Eg3WDMRiPJ
— ANI (@ANI) February 20, 2024

 

Concerns Over Electoral Integrity and ‘Horse Trading’

The bench, comprising CJI DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, expressed grave concerns over the integrity of the electoral process, condemning what they termed as “horse-trading.” They criticized the actions of the Returning Officer and emphasized the necessity of upholding the democratic principles of fair elections.

Call for Prosecution and Preservation of Electoral Records

The Court’s scrutiny extended beyond the immediate issue, with sharp criticism directed at Anil Masih for allegedly defacing ballot papers. Masih’s actions were deemed as a threat to electoral democracy, prompting calls for prosecution. Additionally, the Court ordered the preservation and production of all relevant electoral materials, including ballot papers and video recordings, for further examination.

Legal Battle Over Election Outcome

The legal battle surrounding the Chandigarh mayoral election intensified, with AAP’s Kuldeep Dhalor challenging the BJP’s victory in court. Despite the BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar securing the mayoral position, questions regarding the validity of the electoral process persist, prompting demands for fresh polls under judicial supervision.

Supreme Court’s Intervention

The Supreme Court’s intervention underscores the importance of safeguarding the electoral process and ensuring transparency and fairness in democratic elections. As the legal proceedings continue, the spotlight remains on upholding the principles of democracy and protecting the sanctity of the electoral mandate.