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Chandigarh Mayor Polls: ‘Murder of Democracy’, Says SC, Noting That Ballot Papers Were ‘Defaced’

SC directs all ballot papers and original records of the election process, including videography, be handed over to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

New Delhi: In a big setback to the BJP, the Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on the presiding officer in the recently held Chandigarh Mayor election, saying it won’t allow the “murder of democracy”.

The apex court said it was obvious that the presiding officer “defaced ballot papers” and directed that all ballot papers and original record of the election process, including videography, be handed over to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, according to a report in The Hindustan Times.

Recall that in the recently held Chandigarh Mayor elections, which was “won” by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the presiding officer invalidated eight votes by the Opposition candidate backed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Congress. The BJP candidate polled 16 votes and the AAP-Congress candidate 12 votes, after the invalidation.

This was followed by the Opposition INDIA bloc accusing the presiding officer of tampering votes. Later, AAP held a protest, demanding the arrest of presiding officer Anil Masih. The party alleged Masih, a nominated councillor and general secretary of BJP’s minority cell, had “himself scratched” the ballot papers to invalidate them, something that he denied. Videos showing the act also went viral.

In a scathing attack on the presiding officer on Monday, Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, who watched the entire video, said (as quoted by Bar & Bench): "It is obvious that he has defaced the ballot papers. He needs to be prosecuted. Why is he looking at the camera? Mr Solicitor, this is a mockery of democracy and murdering democracy. We are appalled. Is this behaviour of a returning officer? Wherever there is a cross at bottom, he does not touch it but when it is at the top, he alters it. Please tell returning officer that Supreme Court is watching him," 

The CJI-led bench, including Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, was hearing a petition filed by AAP councillor Kuldeep Kumar (the candidate who was ostensibly defeated) challenging the refusal of the Punjab & Haryana HC’s refusal to stay the election.

The SC also directed that the meeting of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation scheduled on February 7 shall stand deferred, according to Live Law.

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