The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Wednesday sought response from the Chandigarh administration and the Union territory’s municipal corporation on a petition alleging fraud in the mayoral elections held on Tuesday, Live Law reported.

In the mayoral elections on Tuesday, Bharatiya Janata Party candidate Manoj Sonkar, with 16 votes, defeated Kuldeep Tita, a joint candidate fielded by the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress. Tita bagged 12 votes.

However, this was after eight votes from the Opposition alliance were declared invalid, which triggered protests by supporters of the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress against the presiding officer Anil Masih.

While the BJP has 14 councillors in the 35-member civic body, the Aam Aadmi Party has 13 and the Congress has seven. The Shiromani Akali Dal has one councillor.

Additionally, the Chandigarh Lok Sabha MP is an ex-officio member with voting rights. The current MP is BJP’s Kirron Kher.

A ballot can be invalidated for several reasons, including if any identifying marks on it reveal the voter’s identity and compromise the anonymity of the vote.

Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal on Tuesday accused the BJP of winning the election by “cheating in broad daylight”.

On Wednesday, the High Court declined Aam Aadmi Party Councillor Kuldeep Kumar’s plea to stay the election result and dissolve the functioning of the mayor’s office. “Whether counting was proper, whether procedure was followed or not…These are all questions of facts,” the court said.

The petitioner had sought the outcome of the election to be set aside as it “is a result of complete fraud and forgery laid upon the democratic process”, and asked for the court’s directions for fresh elections.

The petitioner also alleged that the presiding officer “in [the] most flimsy manner” had said he did not want assistance from the members nominated by the political parties during the counting of votes. Kumar alleged that the officer shuffled votes from one basket to another to create confusion and compromise the election process.

“The gentleman appointed [presiding officer] has tampered with ballot papers live on camera,” Gurminder Singh, the senior advocate appearing for Kumar, submitted. “The man himself marks on the ballot paper and rejects [it] for the reason that it was marked...Eight votes were manipulated and marked by him...We have shared the video recorded by [the] Chandigarh administration…”

A division bench granted the Chandigarh administration and municipal corporation three weeks to respond to the notice.

The mayoral election, which was first scheduled for January 18, was postponed due to the “ill health” of the presiding officer. The Punjab and Haryana High Court had on January 24 ordered the Chandigarh administration to hold the mayoral elections on January 30.

Also read: Why the Chandigarh mayor polls escalated into a national controversy