PTC Web Desk: The Supreme Court on Monday lashed out at the Presiding Officer responsible for conducting the Chandigarh Mayoral elections, asserting that he had “defaced the ballot papers.” Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud expressed profound disapproval, stating, “This is a mockery of democracy. This is murder of democracy. This man should be prosecuted.” The court, appalled by the behaviour of the Presiding Officer, emphasised the need for legal action and suggested prosecuting him for his actions.
The controversy surrounding the election arose when a BJP candidate was declared the winner after the votes of eight candidates from the Congress-AAP alliance were deemed invalid. The CJI, after reviewing video footage of the Chandigarh Mayoral election, questioned the conduct of the Presiding Officer, noting alterations in the ballot paper. “Tell him that the Supreme Court is watching him,” CJI Chandrachud remarked. The court described the behaviour captured in the video as a “mockery of democracy” and deemed it imperative to take stringent legal measures against the responsible officer.
The Bench, comprising CJI Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra, heard a petition filed by AAP councillor Kuldeep Kumar, the defeated mayoral candidate, challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s decision not to stay the immediate election. The Supreme Court issued notice on Kuldeep Kumar’s petition, directing the deferment of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation meeting scheduled for February 7.
To ensure transparency and fairness, the Supreme Court ordered the sequestration of the entire record of the Chandigarh Mayoral election, directing it to be kept with the Punjab and Haryana High Court Registrar General. The preservation of ballots and videography was also mandated. The Deputy Commissioner of Chandigarh UT, currently in possession of the records, was instructed to hand them over to the HC Registrar General by 5 pm on the same day.
Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the petitioner, argued that the Presiding Officer, aligned with the BJP, intentionally defaced eight ballot papers of Congress-AAP councillors, rendering their votes invalid. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta contended that the video presented a one-sided perspective and urged the court to review the entire records comprehensively.
Expressing criticism of the Punjab and High Court’s approach, CJI Chandrachud asserted, “An appropriate interim order was warranted which HC has failed to do.” The AAP councillor approached the Supreme Court, alleging vote tampering in the Chandigarh Mayoral Elections, where the BJP candidate emerged victorious. The petitioner sought to set aside the election result, citing fraud and forgery, and called for fresh elections under the supervision of a retired High Court Judge.
On January 31, the High Court denied the petitioner’s plea to suspend the functioning of the office until further orders, reasoning that questions about the propriety of counting and procedural adherence were matters of fact.
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