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Returning Officer Cross-Checked Ballot Paper in Chandigarh Mayer Election Scandal

News Trust of India : Today, the highest court of the land accepted a plea brought by the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress concerning the Mayer election in Chandigarh. Both political bodies brought claims of misconduct during the election process, submitting a viral video depicting the returning officer as evidence before the apex court. This led Chief Justice DY Chandrachud to sharply rebuke the electoral body. During today’s court session, he confessed to having marked the voting paper.

The judicial panel questioned Anil Masih, the returning officer who made an appearance at the Supreme Court, regarding his acts of marking the voting paper. Anil Masih, fulfilling the job of the returning officer, confirmed the act, attributing it to the situation where the mayoral candidate of the AAP tore the ballot paper and absconded. In response to the bench’s inquiry concerning the rationale behind the marking, Anil Masih replied they sought to designate the paper.

The presentation of the ballot paper in court is slated for tomorrow

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the cause before the Supreme Court, also confessed to making the mark. The court indicated the necessity for penalties, noting, “We will request the deputy commissioner to designate a new returning officer.” Additionally, it was determined that the Registrar General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court would monitor the procedure.

“We will summon the Registrar General of the High Court to furnish us with all pertinent records related to this election,” the court said. The matter is expected to be heard on Tuesday. Furthermore, the court ruled that the voting paper kept by the registrar be delivered before a judicial officer at 10.30 am.

Events leading up to this time include the defection of three Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councilors to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Neha Musawat, Gurcharan Kala, and Poonam Devi, all AAP councilors, have now linked themselves with the BJP, drastically altering the dynamics of the mayoral contest. Consequently, the BJP currently possesses an overwhelming majority for the mayoral candidacy.

Ahead of the Supreme Court hearing, Mumbai Mayor Manoj Sonkar tendered his resignation. The apex court had earlier suspended the election process.

On January 30th, elections for the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation took place, during which the BJP held 14 councilors, making it the largest single party. The Aam Aadmi Party owned 13 members, while the Congress had 7. One councilor hailed from the Shiromani Akali Dal. Additionally, the Member of Parliament from Chandigarh exercised their voting authority. Despite the Congress and the AAP forming a coalition, resulting in a circumstance where the mayor should have been from the AAP, 8 votes cast in their favor were nullified, allowing the BJP, with 16 votes, to secure the mayoral office.

Subsequently, the Congress and the AAP approached the Supreme Court. A video showcasing Anil Masih, the presiding officer of the mayoral election, went viral on social media, depicting him altering the vote paper. This film was handed to the Supreme Court by the AAP and the Congress as evidence.

The Supreme Court chastised the returning officer for the Chandigarh mayoral election. After hearing a plea filed by the Congress and the AAP claiming electoral malpractice, the Supreme Court stopped the entire election process and ordered the sealing of ballot sheets. Chief Justice DY Chandrachud scolded Anil Masih, the returning officer, claiming, “It is apparent from the CCTV footage that he (the presiding officer) tampered with the ballot papers. Legal action should be pursued against them. This is an affront to democracy. Democracy is under attack, and we are dismayed.”

The mayoral elections in Chandigarh were previously set for January 18th, but were postponed due to suspected illness of Anil Masih. Consequently, upon the instruction of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the poll date was postponed for January 30th. Despite observation by CCTV cameras, the elections were purportedly marred by anomalies. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Congress urged the annulment of the election and a re-vote for the mayoral position.

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