‘Murder Of Democracy’: Supreme Court Slams Presiding Officer Of Chandigarh Mayor Polls

New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud made a scathing observation on the recent Chandigarh Mayor election and came down heavily on Anil Masih, the presiding officer.

Saying it was “obvious that he (Masih) has defaced the ballot papers” of the mayoral elections, the top court ordered that the first meeting of Chandigarh civic body, scheduled for February 7, be indefinitely deferred.

Controversy erupted after BJP’s Manoj Sonkar was declared winner against AAP’s Kuldeep Kumar by 16 votes to 12 as the presiding officer ruled that eight votes were invalid.

The AAP-Congress coalition accused Masih of tampering with ballot papers to help BJP win the mayoral election.

CJI Chandrachud’s bench was hearing a petition filed by AAP councillor Kuldeep Kumar, challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court order which refused to grant interim relief to their application seeking fresh elections under supervision of a retired judge.

“It is obvious that he (presiding officer) has defaced the ballot papers. He needs to be prosecuted. Why is he looking at the camera? Mr Solicitor, this is a mockery of democracy and murdering democracy. We are appalled,” said CJI Chandrachud.

“Is this the behaviour of a Returning Officer? Wherever there is a cross at the bottom he does not touch it and when it is at the top, he alters it. Please tell the Returning Officer that the Supreme Court is watching him,” the CJI added.

Chandrachud said that the purity of election process is paramount and this “murder of democracy can’t be allowed.”

The apex court directed that the entire record of mayoral elections be sequestered with the Punjab and Haryana High Court Registrar General.

“Let the ballots and videography, too, be preserved. The Returning Officer is put on notice that he shall hand over the records,” the CJI said.

The presiding officer has been directed to be present at the court on February 19 to explain his conduct as shown on the video.

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