Chief Justice Grilling Chandigarh Officer Is A First In Independent India

New Delhi:

In a stern response to the alleged defacement of ballot papers during the Chandigarh mayoral election, the Supreme Court has directed the prosecution of the returning officer, Anil Masih. The court conducted a hearing on Monday, following a petition highlighting alleged irregularities in the election, particularly after three AAP councillors switched allegiance to the BJP.

The election, held on January 30, saw the BJP’s Manoj Sonkar securing victory against AAP’s Kuldeep Kumar. However, controversy arose as 8 votes were declared invalid, prompting intense scrutiny and accusations from the opposition.

A video depicting the Presiding Officer, Anil Masih, who is a member of the BJP’s Minority Cell, seemingly marking on the ballot papers of AAP councillors, circulated widely on social media. This drew sharp criticism from the Aam Aadmi Party and its allies, who argued that Masih deliberately invalidated their votes, potentially influencing the election results in favor of the BJP.

The court not only expressed concern over the alleged defacement but also termed the ongoing political maneuvering as “horse-trading,” emphasizing its seriousness.

The exchange between Chief Justice of India (CJI) and Anil Masih during the hearing unfolded as follows:

CJI: Mr. Masih, I am asking you questions. If you are not giving a truthful answer, you will be prosecuted. This is a serious matter. We have seen the video. What were you doing looking at the camera putting out crosses on the ballot papers? Why were you putting marks?

Masih: After the voting, I had to put signs on the ballot papers. The defaced ones had to be segregated.

CJI: It is very evident from the video that you were putting X marks on certain ballot papers. Did you put X marks on certain ballot papers?

Masih: Yes.

CJI: On how many ballot papers marks were put?

Masih: 8.

CJI: Why did you deface the ballot papers? You had to sign the papers only. Where is it provided in the rules that you can put other marks in the ballot papers

Masih: The ballot papers were defaced by the candidates, they snatched and destroyed…

CJI: Mr. Solicitor, he has to be prosecuted. He is interfering with the election process.

The court has asked for the ballot papers to be brought to it for examination on Tuesday. After initially proposing that, instead of carrying out a fresh election, the votes must be counted afresh by a new returning officer, the court said that it will decide on the issue after examining the ballot papers.