The Supreme Court on Tuesday set aside the result of the Chandigarh mayoral election declared by Anil Masih, the presiding officer, noting that he defaced the ballot papers in order to invalidate them, reported Live Law.

The court declared the petitioner, the Aam Aadmi Party’s Kuldeep Kumar Tita, as the validly elected candidate for the mayor’s post.

A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra was hearing a petition relating to the alleged rigging in the mayoral elections held in January.

“The eight votes which were treated as invalid by making those markings, counting the eight votes for the petitioner will make him have 20 votes,” the bench said, reported Bar and Bench.

Asserting that Masih had "unlawfully altered the course of the mayoral election", the court said that a fit case was made out to initiate proceedings against him for making false statements before the court under Section 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It directed the Registrar (Judicial) to issue a show-cause notice asking him to explain why action should not be taken against him.

The bench was referring to the statements made by Masih during Monday’s hearing. He had told the court that he marked the ballot papers to ensure that they did not get mixed with the other papers.

The court also noted that according to Regulation 6 of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation (Procedure and Conduct of Business) Regulations 1996, a ballot can be considered invalid only if more than one vote has been cast, there is a mark identifying the voter or the marks have been placed ambiguously.

Since the criteria were not met, the court said that the marks placed by Masih at the end of the ballots had no consequence.

Commenting on the verdict, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal thanked the Supreme Court for “saving democracy”.

He also congratulated Tita. “This became possible only because of Indian democracy and the honorable Supreme Court,” said Kejriwal. “We have to preserve the impartiality of our democracy and autonomous institutions at any cost.”

Tita stated that the judgment “is a win for the people of Chandigarh and the INDIA alliance”. “This shows that the Bharatiya Janata Party is not unbeatable and we can defeat them if we stay united," he can be heard saying in a video shared by PTI.

Congress General Secretary (Organisation) KC Venugopal said that the Supreme Court’s decision on the “farcical election” in Chandigarh will go a long way in saving democracy.

“The entire election process was a complete farce, which has been duly exposed with this historic verdict,” he said.

Election results

During the elections that took place on January 30 in Chandigarh, Manoj Sonkar from the BJP bagged 16 votes and defeated Tita, the joint candidate fielded by the Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress, who secured 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 Anil Masih. Tita had approached the top court challenging the Punjab and Haryana High Court’s refusal on January 31 to stay the outcome of the polls.

While the BJP had 14 councillors in the 35-member civic body at the time of voting, the Aam Aadmi Party had 13 and the Congress had 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.

On Sunday, three Aam Aadmi Party councillors – Neha Musawat, Poonam Devi and Gurcharan Kala – joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. With this, the BJP’s councillors in a 35-member civic body have risen to 17, bringing its tally close to a majority.

The same day, Chandigarh Mayor Manoj Sonkar resigned from his post on “moral grounds”.

Hearing the case on Monday, the Supreme Court said it was deeply concerned about “horse-trading which is taking place” after the mayoral election.

On February 5, the court reprimanded the presiding officer for failing to conduct the mayoral polls fairly.

The bench headed by Chief Justice Chandrachud verbally remarked that Masih should be prosecuted for defacing the ballot papers.