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Chandigarh Mayor Polls: Returning Officer Masih Admits Tampering Ballots, SC Orders Prosecution

Supreme Court on Monday remarked that Anil Masih, returning officer in Chandigarh Mayor election, has to be prosecuted as he was interfering with the election process.

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A video earlier showed presiding officer Anil Masih scribbling on ballot papers and looking at the CCTV camera in between | Photo: Screen grab from video posted on X/@rishuraj_chd
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In a major development in the Chandigarh mayor election row, the Supreme Court ordered prosecution of returning officer Anil Masih after he admitted tampering ballots, an allegation AAP and Congress had made after BJP swept the election on January 30 and videos of Masih suspiciously scribbling on ballot papers went viral.

The Supreme Court said on Monday that ballot papers of the Chandigarh mayor polls and the video of counting needs to be produced by 2 pm tomorrow. Supreme Court remarked that Anil Masih, returning officer in Chandigarh Mayor election, has to be prosecuted as he was interfering with the election process. The top court, which was hearing a plea challenging the Chandigarh mayor election, proposed that the results be declared by counting the present ballot papers, disregarding the marks made by returning officer, instead of a fresh election.

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In a setback to the Congress-AAP alliance and INDIA bloc, the BJP on January 30 had swept the Chandigarh mayoral polls, retaining all the three posts. The Congress and the AAP alleged tampering with ballot papers by the presiding officer.

Manoj Sonkar of the 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.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), after the poll result, had cited a video that purportedly showed presiding officer Anil Masih making some marks on some ballots.

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The Supreme Court bench earlier this month watched the video of the alleged defacing of ballots during the Chandigarh mayoral polls and said it was "appalled" at the behaviour of the presiding officer.

Returning officer was apparently defacing ballots, said the Supreme Court on Monday, adding that it won't allow murder of democracy.

The bench had ordered that the ballot papers and the video recordings of the proceedings be preserved and had also ordered indefinite deferment of Chandigarh civic body's first meeting that was scheduled to take place on February 7.

In another major development, BJP leader Manoj Sonkar resigned as Chandigarh mayor on Sunday, ahead of the the Supreme Court hearing of the plea alleging irregularities in the mayoral polls. Sonkar submitted his resignation to the municipal commissioner.

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