SC to review Chandigarh mayoral poll records amid allegations of horse-trading

New Delhi, Feb 19 : The Supreme Court on Monday said that it would examine the ballot papers of the Chandigarh mayoral polls and the entire video recording of counting day on Tuesday, citing concerns about potential horse-trading.

The apex court was slated to hear the explanation of Returning Officer Anil Masih who had allegedly “defaced the ballots” in the Chandigarh mayoral polls.

The plea filed by INDIA bloc’s mayoral candidate Kuldeep Kumar accuses the Presiding Officer of resorting to fraud and forgery in the counting process.

The court directed the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court to assign a Judicial Officer to safely transport the records to Delhi.

Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud stressed the urgency of the matter and declined a plea to postpone the hearing, citing ongoing horse-trading concerns.

Masih, appearing before the Bench, admitted to marking eight already defaced ballot papers with an “X” and accused AAP Councillors of creating disturbances during the process.

He stated that he had to monitor the situation via CCTV due to the disruptions caused by the AAP Councillors.

The top court had summoned the official in question to remain present before it on Monday to explain his conduct.

“During the course of the hearing, the video has been played in court. The Returning Officer shall remain present before this court on the next date of listing to explain his conduct as it appears in the video,” said the Supreme Court in an order passed on February 5.

After perusal of the CCTV footage given in the pen drive by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the AAP Councillor, CJI Chandrachud had orally observed: “This is a mockery of democracy. He is murdering democracy. Is this the behaviour of a Returning Officer, who looks at the camera and defaces the ballot? It is obvious that he defaced the ballots. This man has to be prosecuted.”

Deferring the February 7 meeting of the Corporation, the Supreme Court had ordered that the entire record pertaining to the election, including ballot papers and videography footage would be sequestered under the custody of the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

“Prima facie, at this stage, we are of the considered view that an appropriate interim order was warranted, which the High Court has failed to pass, in order to protect the purity and sanctity of the electoral process,” it had said.

The AAP and Congress’ joint candidate Kuldeep Kumar has petitioned the top court after the Punjab and Haryana High Court refused to stay the election results held on January 30, for the post of Mayor.

In his petition before the High Court, Kuldeep Kumar alleged complete departure of the practice and rules saying that the Presiding Officer refused to allow the nominees of parties to monitor the counting of votes. He prayed for fresh elections in a free and fair manner under the supervision of a retired High Court judge.

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