19 Feb 2024

Supreme Court Grills Chandigarh Mayor Election Returning Officer Anil Masih, Gives This Order

In a crucial development regarding the contentious Chandigarh mayor election, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, posed challenging questions to Anil Masih, the presiding officer. During Monday's hearing, Masih admitted to marking a cross ('X') on the ballot papers, prompting the court to issue a directive for the presentation of all ballot papers in the upcoming Tuesday hearing.

The three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Chandrachud, had previously expressed strong reservations about the conduct of the Returning Officer, Anil Masih, during the February 5 hearing. The court had asserted that his actions amounted to tampering with the ballot papers, describing it as a 'murder and mockery' of democracy. The court had ordered the preservation of both the ballot papers and the election process video.

What Did CJ Ask Masih?

Following the court's instructions, Masih appeared for Monday's hearing, revealing his affiliation with the BJP as a nominated member of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation. Chief Justice DY Chandrachud sternly questioned Masih's actions, warning of potential legal consequences if he did not provide truthful answers. The Chief Justice specifically asked about the reasons behind marking the ballot papers and questioned Masih's involvement in the process captured on camera.

Masih explained that after voting, he had to sign the ballot papers, and the canceled ballots needed to be separated. However, the Chief Justice pointed out that the video clearly showed him marking the special ballot papers with a cross ('X'). Masih admitted to marking eight special ballot papers and claimed that bad candidates had interfered with and destroyed them.

Chief Justice Chandrachud, addressing the Solicitor General, called for legal action against Masih, citing interference in the election process.

Vote Counting Protocol

During the hearing, the Supreme Court directed the Deputy Commissioner of Chandigarh to appoint an unbiased officer as the returning officer for the upcoming election. The court mandated that the counting of ballot papers and the announcement of results be overseen by a judicial officer nominated by the Punjab and Haryana High Court to ensure a fair process.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Chandigarh administration, proposed fresh elections under judicial supervision. However, the Aam Aadmi Party candidate, Kuldeep Kumar, who was declared defeated in the initial election, opposed this proposal. Senior advocate Gurminder Singh, representing Kumar, argued for the counting of votes based on the existing ballot papers.

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