Supreme Court Summons Chandigarh RO Amidst Ballot Defacement Allegations

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On Monday, the Supreme Court convened a special session to address the controversial events unfolding around the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation elections. At the centre of the discussion stood the Returning Officer (RO) Anil Masih, accused of defacing ballots during the counting process.

Harsh Questions From the Bench

Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, alongside Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, grilled Masih on his actions, particularly regarding the crosses and ticks found on some ballot papers. These marks contravened standard procedure, which called for the RO simply to sign at the bottom of each paper. The bench expressed grave concern over Masih’s conduct, asserting that such acts could not go unchecked in an electoral democracy.

Prosecution Threatened

The bench warned Masih that any falsification discovered would lead to criminal charges being filed against him. They further stated that he looked directly into the camera while making marks on the ballot papers, implying that he knew he was being recorded. The judges demanded answers from Masih, stressing that no one involved in the electoral process could be permitted to act in ways that threatened the sanctity of the voting system.

Preservation of Records

To ensure transparency and accountability, the Supreme Court directed the Registrar General of Punjab and Haryana High Court to preserve all records relating to the election, including ballot papers, videos, and other relevant documents. This measure aimed to safeguard the integrity of the electoral process and provide a comprehensive record for future reference. Concerns Over Horse Trading Aside from addressing the issues involving the Returning Officer, the Supreme Court also voiced alarm over the phenomenon of ‘horse trading,’ where elected representatives switch their loyalties to another political party in exchange for financial incentives or other benefits. Three Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillors joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the latter’s candidate, Manoj Sonkar, won the mayoral election. Despite receiving fewer votes than his opponent, Sonkar became mayor due to the RO’s decision to disqualify eight opposition votes. Resignation of Manoj Sonkar Shortly before the Supreme Court hearing continued on Tuesday, February 20th, 2024, Manoj Sonkar announced his resignation as mayor. His departure from the position added yet another layer of complexity to the already contentious situation.

Significance of the Judiciary’s Intervention

The Supreme Court’s involvement in the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation election dispute underscores the importance of the judiciary in maintaining the integrity of the electoral process. By intervening in cases like this, the judiciary demonstrates its commitment to protecting the rights of citizens and ensuring that democratic institutions function according to established norms and principles.


In conclusion, the Supreme Court’s summons of the Returning Officer for the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation elections and its focus on preserving records and preventing corrupt practices highlight the critical role played by the judiciary in upholding the rule of law and promoting free and fair elections in India.

-Prisha Jaiswal

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