DOWNING heavily on the conduct of the teller during the Chandigarh Mayor Polls On January 30, the Supreme Court affirmed on Monday that what happened during the elections was a “mockery of democracy” and stressed that “we will not allow democracy to be murdered in this way.”
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud made the remarks while hearing the petition of the combined AAP-Congress candidate for the mayor’s post, Kuldeep Kumar, who lost to Manoj Sonkar of the BJP after the returning officer declared eight alliance votes invalid. .
After watching a video of the election process, CJI Chandrachud, referring to returning officer Anil Masih, said: “What is he doing? It is obvious that he has defaced the ballot… This man has to be prosecuted.”
“This is a mockery of democracy. He is murdering democracy. Is this how you conduct an election? We are shocked by what has happened. “We are simply shocked by what has happened,” she stated.
The court ordered that “all records relating to the election of the mayor of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation” be kept in the custody of the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court by 5 pm on Monday.
“This is a mockery of democracy… We are shocked by what has happened… We will not allow democracy to be killed in this way”: CJI DY Chandrachud on the president’s actions in the Chandigarh mayoral elections. @IndianExpress
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Accepting the plea of senior advocate AM Singhvi, who represented Kumar, the bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, ordered that the meeting of the newly elected body scheduled for February 7 be adjourned pending further orders. .
He also asked returning officer Masih to be present in court on February 19, when the matter will be heard again, “to explain his conduct as it appears in the video.”
“Is this the behavior of a returning officer? (He) Looks at the camera, looks at the ballot and then, obviously, where there’s a cross at the bottom, he just puts it in the tray. The moment there is a cross on the top, the man defaces the ballot and looks at the camera to see who is looking at him,” said CJI Chandrachud.
“Please tell your returning officer that the Supreme Court is watching… And we will not allow democracy to be murdered in this way. The only thing, the great stabilizing force in this country, is the purity of the electoral process, but what has happened here!” said the CJI while Solicitor General Tushar Mehta urged the court not to form an opinion without taking into account all the facts. .
Mehta said: “Your Lordships have only seen one side of the picture.” The CJI then said that the entire video will be produced before the court during the next hearing. Mehta agreed to do so.
Senior advocate Maninder Singh, appearing for the newly elected Sonkar mayor, tried to draw the court’s attention to some rules regarding the conduct of elections, but the CJI said, “We are not going to stick to the rules. We want our conscience to be satisfied. Otherwise, hold new elections. We will say who will be the teller. Hold new elections.”
Mehta once again urged the court not to “form an opinion based on something said very selectively.” But that did not calm the mood when the CJI said: “Why is he (the returning officer) looking at the camera like a fugitive? He has to be doing his duty. He looks at the camera and silently defaces the ballot.”
Singhvi said the problem can be resolved by holding fresh elections after seizing the records. The court granted the request.
Issuing the notice, the court said in its order: “Prima facie, at this stage we are of the view that an appropriate interim order, which the High Court did not pass, was warranted to protect the purity and sanctity of the electoral process.”
“We direct that all records related to the election of Mayor of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation be placed in the custody of the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. This will include the voting ballots, videography of the entire electoral process and all other material that is in the custody of the returning officer.”
Mehta said the returning officer had already submitted them to the Deputy Commissioner of the Union Territory of Chandigarh on January 30 in a sealed format. The court then ordered the Deputy Commissioner to hand over the entire records to the Registrar General of the High Court for safekeeping and custody.
The High Court had earlier ordered that election proceedings be videotaped.
Singhvi said, “The returning officer happens to be an active and well-known worker of a political party that opposes us.”
“There are 20 of us. There are two parties in alliance. It is true that 16 is his number. 36 is total. The vote is done. Thirty-six people come and vote. A tray is kept where the 36 votes fall. The man must sign. He collects each one of them and, while he signs, on many of these 8 that have been disqualified – as the video will show – he scribbles. After the scribbles… it says that these 8 are disqualified; the 8 are mine, so I became 12… He picks up everything and runs away,” he said.
He urged the court to intervene, saying “this is a complete denial of democracy.” He maintained that the apex court had established in Indira Gandhi’s case that “purity of elections is part of the basic structure”.
Kumar had approached the Supreme Court after the Punjab and Haryana High Court refused to grant interim relief.