The Supreme Court dealt a jolt to the BJP’s victory in the Chandigarh mayoral elections, threatening to order fresh elections after a video played in the open courtroom on Monday showed the returning officer “obviously defacing” the ballot papers. , while furtively glancing at the camera overhead like a “fugitive.”
“What is he doing? It is obvious that he has defaced the ballot. This man must be prosecuted… Why does he look at the camera like a fugitive and then silently deface the ballot? This is a mockery of democracy… He is murdering democracy. Is this the way to run an election?” Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, heading a three-judge bench, addressed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Union Territory of Chandigarh, and Senior Advocate Maninder Singh, on behalf of the winning candidates .
The Supreme Court ordered the seizure of all records of the mayoral elections from the custody of the Registrar General of Punjab and the Haryana High Court immediately before 5 pm on February 5. These records include the voting ballots and the complete video of the elections. electoral process.
The court also restrained the new dispensation of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation from holding a budget meeting on February 7.
“Please tell your returning officer that the Supreme Court is watching you. We will not allow democracy to be murdered in this way. The great stabilizing force of the country is the purity of the electoral process… What is happening here?” Chief Justice Chandrachud asked.
Senior advocate AM Singhvi, appearing for Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councilor Kuldeep Kumar, said the election process was videotaped on the orders of the High Court.
He said there were 20 councilors from AAP and 16 from BJP. The returning officer was supposed to sign each ballot after the vote.
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“He scribbles on eight ballots and uses his own scribbles to disqualify the votes. Our votes are reduced to 12 and the BJP wins the polls with a margin of four votes. After voting, he collects all the ballot papers and runs away… This is a complete denial of democracy,” Singhvi said.
He said the returning officer is “no doubt an active member of the BJP”.
Punjab Attorney General Gurminder Singh said “the man (the returning officer) must be prosecuted.”
Singh began in his defense by referring to certain regulations on holding elections, while Mehta said they could “satisfy” the court. He said the Court should not form an opinion without seeing the full video.
“We are here to satisfy our judicial conscience. If we are not satisfied, we will direct the holding of new elections and appoint the returning officer… Mr. Attorney General, this is a mockery of democracy… a mockery! The man defaces the ballot and looks at the camera to see who is looking at him…” replied the president of the Supreme Court, listing the case on February 19.
The BJP had swept the Chandigarh mayoral elections, retaining all three seats, in a setback for the Congress-AAP alliance that alleged manipulation of ballot papers by the president.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court had earlier refused to grant the AAP any interim relief.
The AAP has called for fresh elections under the supervision of a retired judge.