Top Court made history : Declares AAP’s Kuldeep Kumar as Chandigarh Mayor

NEW DELHI : In a major blow to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Supreme Court during a resumed hearing on the controversial Chandigarh mayoral election declared the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Kuldeep Kumar the validly elected mayor of the city’s municipal corporation on February 20.
The Top Court made history Tuesday by declaring the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Kuldeep Kumar the winner of last month’s Chandigarh mayoral election. The bench, led by CJI DY Chandrachud, in its order said, “The petitioner is declared to be the validly elected candidate for the post of Mayor of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation.”
This comes after the bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud ruled that the election’s presiding officer, Anil Masih, made a deliberate attempt to deface eight ballots that were cast in favour of Kumar so that the BJP’s Manoj Sonkar was declared the elected candidate.
Setting aside the entire election process will compound the destruction of the democratic principles that occurred due to the conduct of the presiding officer, it stated. According to the bench, the court is duty bound to ensure that the democratic process is not set at naught by such subterfuge. “We are therefore of the view that the court must step in such exceptional circumstances to ensure that the basic democratic mandate is ensured,” the bench added.
Cancelling the result of the last election which triggered controversy after Returning Officer Anil Masih “invalidated” eight AAP votes. Returning Officer Anil Masih was caught on camera invalidating and discarding eight votes in his favour. The judgement also means the AAP and the Congress – which contested as allies – have recorded the INDIA bloc’s first win as it bids to defeat the BJP.
Controversy over the results of the Chandigarh mayoral race broke after a video of the counting process was widely shared online. The video showed Masih surreptitiously marking some ballot papers. Halfway through his act he glances up and realises his actions are being recorded by CCTVs.
The order – preceded by the counting of votes, including those erroneously rejected, in the courtroom rather than a counting centre – cancels the earlier result that saw the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Manoj Sonkar elected Mayor. Delhi Chief Minister and AAP boss Arvind Kejriwal has hailed the verdict.
Mr Masih also faces a contempt of court action initiated by the top court, which came down strongly on the former BJP Minority Cell member, who was warned of prosecution if it was found he lied to the court.
Should Mr Masih be prosecuted – in an earlier hearing the Supreme Court called his actions a “mockery of democracy” and indicated it would do just that – it will be a historic first in independent India, and a stern warning to potential hijacking of poll results weeks before the Lok Sabha election.
As much as the court’s order will be welcomed by the AAP and Kuldeep Kumar, it will also be a shot in the arm for the Congress and the INDIA bloc, which is on the verge of breaking up, less than a year after it was formed, amid disagreements between members on seat-sharing and poll prep details.
The two parties’ state units, particularly in Punjab, are vehemently opposed to any deal. Against that backdrop, the agreement to contest the mayoral election together was seen as a breakthrough. The initial result – the ‘defeat’ – was seen as adding further strain on INDIA and the AAP-Congress ties, which will now likely be viewed in a more favourable light. But just how favourable is not yet clear, and will be revealed after the next round of seat-sharing talks between the two parties.
Earlier today the Supreme Court , led by CJI Chandrachud, examined the eight discarded ballots. Mr Masih had on Monday told the court he marked those eight because they had been “defaced” by the councillors themselves, and he wanted to ensure the votes were not counted.
The court was distinctly unconvinced, and noted “All eight have received the stamp for Kuldeep Kumar… the votes are cast for Mr Kumar. What he (Mr Masih) does is… he puts a single line…”
On Monday he was told, “If you are not giving a truthful answer, you will be prosecuted” and asked, “What were you doing, looking at the camera putting crosses on ballots. Why were you putting marks?” “After voting I had to put signs on (some) papers. Defaced ones had to be segregated,” he said.

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