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Chandigarh mayor election: Supreme Court slams returning officer, orders preservation of entire record

The Supreme Court on Monday slammed the Returning Officer of Chandigarh Mayor election, stating that he can be clearly seen defacing the ballot papers on video to influence the election result. The court ordered that the Returning Officer should be prosecuted for his actions. 

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud with Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra took strong exception to the Returning Officer defacing ballot papers and making mockery of democracy. 

CJI DY Chandrachud remarked that it is obvious that the Returning Officer has defaced the ballot papers, adding that he needs to be prosecuted. Mentioning that his action is a mockery and murder of democracy, the CJI questioned why the Returning Officer was looking at the camera often. He further asked whether this should be the behaviour of a Returning Officer, pointing out that whenever there is cross at bottom, the officer does not touch it and when it is at the top he alters it. 

Consecutively, the apex court issued notice to Returning Officer Anil Masih and asked him to appear before the court to give his clarification on his behaviour as seen in the video. It also directed that the entire records of the election be sequestered with the High Court Registrar general. The court also asked to preserve the ballot and videography. The top court also effectively stayed any activity on the part of the Municipal Corporation for the time being. 

The Supreme Court ordered that the ensuing meeting of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation shall be deferred till the next date of hearing on February 19.

Furthermore, the budget of Chandigarh corporation which was scheduled to be held on February 7, was postponed until further orders. It added that the papers should be handed over to the High Court registrar general by 5 pm on Monday. 

The top court bench was hearing a plea moved by AAP councillor Kuldeep Kumar challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s refusal to grant an immediate stay on election result in which BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar was declared elected Chandigarh Mayor.

On AAP councillor Kuldeep Kumar’s petition alleging fraud in BJP’s win and forgery in rejection of the eight votes, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had last week issued notice and listed the matter for hearing after three weeks. Subsequently, the AAP councillor moved the Supreme Court seeking a stay on the operation of the notification that has been or may be issued for appointment of Manoj Sonkar as mayor.   

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