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Chandigarh Mayor Election: Presiding Officer Admits Marking Ballots, CJI Says He Must Be Prosecuted

CJI D.Y. Chandrachud said a Supreme Court bench will examine the ballots on Tuesday (February 20). The bench hearing the matter today expressed its concern about the horse-trading that was taking place.
Anil Masih, caught on CCTV camera. Photo: Video screengrab/X/@sardesairajdeep

Chandigarh: During the resumed hearing in the Supreme Court over the ballot-tempering issue in last month’s Chandigarh mayoral election, the election’s presiding officer Anil Masih admitted adding a mark on eight cast ballots that he later declared invalid and which paved the way for the victory of the now-resigned BJP mayor, Manoj Sonkar.

However, he justified his act by saying that he put ‘X’ marks only on those ballots which were already defaced by councillors during the voting process.

Masih said he was separately marking them so that they wouldn’t get mixed up.

To this, the bench of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud stated, “You [Masih] had to sign the ballot papers only. Where is it provided in the rules that you can put other marks in the ballot papers?” LiveLaw reported.

Then turning towards the solicitor general, CJI Chandrachud further said, “Mr Solicitor, he has to be prosecuted. He was interfering with [the] election process”.

Following this, the CJI said the bench itself will examine the ballots on Tuesday (February 20). It directed that the ballot papers, which have been placed in the custody of the registrar general of the Punjab and Haryana high court, be produced before the Supreme Court.

All the necessary security arrangements must be made to ensure the safe transit of the judicial officer nominated by the registrar general as well as the safe custody of the ballot papers, the bench added.

The bench also ordered the presiding officer to remain present during Tuesday’s hearing.

Later, it said it was deeply concerned about the horse-trading that was taking place.

On Sunday, although the BJP mayor resigned from his post amid rigging allegations, three AAP councillors joined the party in order to turn the tide in its favour in the event of a repoll.

Reacting on the development, AAP supremo and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said in Delhi today said that Sonkar’s resignation proved that the elections were manipulated.

“Now when the BJP can’t win elections, our councillors are being purchased and broken,” Kejriwal said.

AAP Punjab spokesperson Malvinder Singh Kang said that earlier, the BJP’s wrongdoings were caught on camera and were noticed by the Supreme Court. Now, the BJP are poaching AAP councillors overnight with an ‘Operation Lotus’, he said.

“I don’t think there has been any bigger mockery of Indian democracy,” he added.

“The world is witnessing the BJP’s greed for power”, said AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj on Sonkar’s resignation and the alleged poaching of the three AAP councillors.

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