SC finds election officer guilty of helping BJP win Chandigarh mayoral poll

The Supreme Court declared Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Kuldeep Kumar the winner.
Returning Officer Anil Masih
Returning Officer Anil Masih
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A Supreme Court bench examined the ballot papers of the Chandigarh mayoral election on Tuesday, February 20, and declared Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) candidate Kuldeep Kumar as the winner. The bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, also found that Returning Officer Anil Masih, a member of the BJP's minority cell, had deliberately defaced eight ballots to help the BJP candidate win. The court directed the officials to treat the eight disqualified votes as legal and declare the results.  

The Chandigarh mayoral election held on January 30 was mired in controversy after Bharatiya Janata Party’s Manoj Sonkar was declared the winner with 16 votes. Kuldeep Kumar, who was the AAP candidate, had secured 12 votes. A video in which Returning Officer Anil Masih, a member of the BJP's minority cell, marked something on the ballots that led to allegations of ballot tampering, had gone viral. 

Based on the video, Justice Chandrachud further noted that Anil Masih had put a single line in the eight ballots. Coming down heavily on the returning officer, Chandrachud asked, “You told us that you put the lines because the ballot papers were defaced. Where is the ballot paper defaced?” 

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Anil Masih, argued that the returning officer drew the lines because the ballot papers were already defaced and he wanted to mark them. The apex court said it was evident that none of the eight ballot papers were defaced and that the returning officer made a deliberate attempt to deface the ballots to declare BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar as the winner.

In its order, the bench said that the electoral process has been vitiated by the misconduct of the Presiding Authority. “It is evident that in each of the eight ballots, the vote has been duly cast in favour of Kuldeep Kumar. The Presiding Officer has evidently put his own mark for the purpose of treating the ballot as invalid. He has acted beyond his remit of statutory regulations,” it added.

The Supreme Court on February 5 had termed Masih’s actions as a "mockery of democracy." On February 19, The Chief Justice had cross-examined a returning officer reportedly for the first time in the history of Independent India and warned him of consequences for making a false statement.

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