The Chandigarh Mayor elections controversy has come under the lens of the Supreme Court, which declared today that it would not allow the “murder of democracy” and ordered the Registrar General to secure all the records by 5 pm today. The court will hear the case on February 12.
Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party — which lost the Mayoral election held last month to the BJP — has accused the Presiding Officer of rigging the election and demanded that he be arrested for “tampering” with ballot papers. Eight votes were declared invalid, which turned the election in favour of the BJP despite the numbers favouring the AAP Congress alliance.
AAP has held mega protests in Delhi and Chandigarh over the issue and went to court, contending that the Returning Officer, Anil Masih, was caught on camera smudging the ballot papers.
AAP MP Raghav Chadha claimed that all eight votes declared “invalid” by Mr Masih had been for his party candidate. Had those votes counted, the AAP would have won. The Congress alleged that the BJP workers tore up the ballot papers and their agent was not allowed to see them.
Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said what the Returning Officer did “was like the murder of democracy”. “It is clearly visible in the video that he is looking into the camera and spoiling the ballot paper… Legal action should be taken against this officer,” the Chief Justice of India said, while hearing the petition by AAP.
The three-judge bench of Chief Justice Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra, has also put a freeze on the budget session of the Chandigarh civic body, which was expected to be presented on Tuesday. The budget cannot be presented till further orders, the judges said.
In its petition, AAP had alleged that the elections were not conducted in a free and fair manner. Ballot papers were tampered with and results were declared in favor of BJP.
AAP has called for canceling the election, sealing the records, banning the mayor from assuming office, an investigation into the rigging and a fresh election under the supervision of a retired judge of the High Court.
The party went to the top court after a bench of Justice Sudhir Singh and Justice Harsh Bangar of Punjab and Haryana High Court refused to grant it any interim relief.
The BJP had swept the mayoral polls, in a setback to the AAP-Congress alliance, which had claimed the election was an acid test for the INDIA bloc.
BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar defeated AAP’s Kuldeep Kumar, polling 16 votes against his rival’s 12. Eight votes were declared invalid. The BJP has 14 councillors in the 35-member corporation, AAP 13 and the Congress, seven.