‘Won’t allow democracy to be murdered like this’
India's Supreme Court today called the defacing of ballot papers by a returning officer in the recently concluded mayoral polls in Chandigarh a mockery of democracy.
The election was won by the ruling BJP.
Taking note of a plea of an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor alleging wrongdoing in the polls, the top court also issued notices to the Chandigarh authorities, including the civic body to preserve the ballots and the video of the incident.
A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra expressed their displeasure after watching the video of the electoral proceedings and said that, prima facie, the returning officer, was "defacing" the ballot papers.
"This is a mockery of democracy. We are appalled by what has happened. We will not allow democracy to be murdered like this," the Chief Justice said.
"It is clear that he (returning officer) has defaced the ballot paper. Why is he looking at the camera? Why is he looking like a fugitive? This man has to be prosecuted. Is this the way a returning officer behaves?" Justice Chandrachud observed.
The observation comes after one of the AAP councillors had moved the top court challenging a Punjab and Haryana High Court order that refused to grant any interim relief to the party seeking fresh mayoral polls in Chandigarh.
BJP had on January 30 swept the Chandigarh mayoral polls against the Congress-AAP alliance.
Manoj Sonkar of BJP had defeated AAP's Kuldeep Kumar for the mayor's post, polling 16 votes against his rival's 12. Eight votes were declared invalid by the returning officer.
This was the first time Congress and AAP had contested in alliance as members of the opposition Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) since the latter's formation in August last year.
The 28-party INDIA was formed to take on BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in upcoming parliamentary elections due in a few months.
The opposition is trying to prevent Modi from getting a third successive tenure as PM since he occupied the post for the first time in May, 2014.