Land Mark Decision: SC Declares AAP Candidate Kuldeep Kumar ‘Mayor of Chandigarh’

Supreme Court, Chandigarh

The Supreme Court on Tuesday took a landmark step in the Chandigarh Mayor election result hearing case, not only got the votes counted before the court but also overturned the election results and declared Aam Aadmi Party candidate Kuldeep Kumar as the elected Mayor of Chandigarh. The Supreme Court has also ordered the prosecution of the election returning officer, Anil Masih, for his “misconduct” after finding serious lapses in the declaration of the January 30 election results.
The top court made it clear that it was not quashing the entire electoral process and was not limiting itself to dealing with the malpractices in the counting process which led to the invalidation of eight votes cast in favor of Kuldeep Kumar.

A bench comprising of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Mishra, said it was clear that Masih made a deliberate attempt to mutilate the eight ballot papers.

The BJP had won the mayor’s post by defeating the AAP-Congress alliance candidate after allegations of tampering with ballot papers arose after the returning officer declared eight votes of alliance partners invalid.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s Manoj Sonkar defeated Kuldeep Kumar to get the mayor’s post by getting 16 votes against his rival’s 12 votes. However, Sonkar later resigned, while three AAP councilors have joined the BJP.

During the hearing the court has said that it will itself investigate the ballot paper marked by the presiding officer Anil Masih in the election. The court will also examine the video footage of the case. The court said that the presiding officer did not follow the rules. The marks marked by him will be ignored and the votes will be counted. After this it has become clear that the mayor elections will not be held again.

Actually, elections were held for the post of Mayor here on January 30 in which BJP’s Manoj Sonkar was declared victorious. However, Congress and AAP, the parties contesting the elections in the alliance, had alleged irregularities in the elections. Along with this, AAP also knocked the doors of the Supreme Court. During the first hearing, the court had made very serious remarks like ‘murder of democracy’.

Time Line:
What happened in Chandigarh Mayor elections? Why were there allegations of election irregularities? How did the matter reach the court? Know everything through timeline…

18 January:
Elections are held every year in Chandigarh for the post of Mayor, Senior Deputy Mayor and Deputy Mayor. Their tenure is only for one year. Elections for all three posts were to be held on January 18. Manoj Sonkar became the mayor candidate from the ruling BJP for the elections. Whereas, BJP made Kuljeet Sandhu its candidate for the post of Senior Deputy Mayor and Rajinder Sharma for the post of Deputy Mayor.

Before these elections, the opposition India Alliance parties Congress and AAP formed an alliance. According to this agreement, Kuldeep Kumar Tita became AAP’s candidate for the seat of Mayor. Meanwhile, Congress’s Gurpreet Singh Gabi and Nirmala Devi were fielded for the posts of Senior Deputy Mayor and Deputy Mayor respectively.

On January 18, councilors of Chandigarh Municipal Corporation were to vote for the candidates for the post of Mayor. After this, voting was to be held for the post of Senior Deputy Mayor and Deputy Mayor, but news came about the ill health of Presiding Officer Anil Masih. Due to this the elections were postponed till further notice. Earlier, the candidates concerned had filed nominations for all three posts on January 13.
30 January:
After being postponed on 18 January, elections were held on 30 January. After the elections held on this day, BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar was declared mayor. The common candidate of AAP and Congress had to face defeat. Manoj Sonkar defeated INDIA Alliance candidate Kuldeep Tita by 4 votes. The presiding officer declared 8 votes invalid. On this, AAP and Congress accused Presiding Officer Anil Masih of tampering with many votes. Congress and AAP shared a video alleging that Anil Masih was seen using a pen on several votes in the video. It was claimed that there is evidence of this in the video also.

5th February:
On the basis of the video, Aam Aadmi Party and Congress accused BJP of rigging the elections. Aam Aadmi Party councilor and mayor candidate Kuldeep Kumar reached Punjab and Haryana High Court but did not get any relief here. After this the matter reached the Supreme Court. On February 5, the Supreme Court heard the Chandigarh Mayor election case. During this, the court strongly reprimanded the returning officer. The Supreme Court said that it is clear that the returning officer has destroyed the ballot papers. The court asked the question whether elections are organized in the same way? This is a mockery of democracy. This is murder of democracy. We are shocked by the whole matter. This officer should be prosecuted. Is this the behavior of the returning officer? Along with this, the Supreme Court fixed the next hearing of the case on February 19.
18 February:
A hearing was scheduled in the Supreme Court on the Chandigarh Mayor election on 19 February. Before this, there was a big upheaval in the politics of Chandigarh. On the evening of 18 February, newly elected Mayor Manoj Sonkar resigned from BJP. At the same time, three councilors of Aam Aadmi Party joined BJP in the night. Councilors Poonam Devi, Neha Musawat and Gurcharan Kala joined the party in the presence of BJP national general secretary Vinod Tawde in Delhi.

Chandigarh Municipal Corporation has 35 members. Along with all the 35 councilors of Chandigarh, Chandigarh MP Kirron Kher also votes in these elections. Before February 18, the political consolidation of the Municipal Corporation was against the BJP because of the alliance of AAP and Congress. It had the vote of 14 councilors along with one MP. Whereas AAP had votes of 13 councilors. After this, there are seven councilors from Congress and one from Akali Dal.

Now the situation has changed with three AAP councilors joining BJP. Now BJP has 17 councilors instead of 14 and one vote of the BJP MP will be in the party’s account. In such a situation, if fresh elections are held, the equations will be in favor of BJP.
19 February:
A hearing was held in the Supreme Court on Monday (February 19) in the mayor election dispute. The presiding officer has been accused of irregularities in the elections. Punjab Advocate General Gurminder Singh said that the court has recorded the statement of the presiding officer. Apart from this, the court has said that the complete records should be kept safe. Which will be placed before the Supreme Court at 2 pm on Tuesday. The other side suggested that since the mayor had resigned, fresh elections should be held. The court took this into consideration and also said that the elections could be restarted from the stage where the illegality had occurred.

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About the Author: Ashish Sinha

-Ashish Kumar Sinha -Editor Legally Speaking -Ram Nath Goenka awardee - 14 Years of Experience in Media - Covering Courts Since 2008