Supreme Court nullifies January 30 Chandigarh Mayor elections and declares Mr. Kuldeep Kumar as the new Mayor

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On February 21, 2024, the Supreme Court (SC) of India nullified the results of the January 30 Chandigarh Mayor elections. It overturned the initial result of the BJP Candidate’s (Mr. Manohar Sonkar) victory and declared Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)-Congress alliance candidate Mr. Kuldeep Kumar as the rightful winner. The bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra declared Mr. Kuldeep Kumar as the new Mayor of Chandigarh. Moreover, the SC bench initiated criminal proceedings against Mr. Masih under Section 340 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) for making false statements before the Court. While overturning the earlier Chandigarh Mayor polls, the SC came down heavily on Mr. Anil Masih (Presiding Officer) for his deliberate attempt to meddle with the election results during the vote-counting process. 

During the proceedings, the CJI opined that Mr. Masih was guilty of a misdemeanour and said “It is evident that in each of the 8 ballots, the vote has been duly cast in favor of the petitioner. The Presiding Officer has evidently put his own mark for the purpose of creating a ground for treating the ballot as invalidly cast…it is evident that the Presiding Officer is guilty of a serious misdemeanour in doing what he did in his role and capacity as presiding officer.” The bench also found that a fit case had been made out for initiating proceedings under Section 340 of CrPC against the PO. It further said, “Registrar Judicial is directed to issue a notice to Anil Masih, to show cause as to why steps should not be initiated against him under Section 340 CrPC.”

Moreover, the SC noted that Mr. Manohar Sonkar, the Incumbent Mayor had resigned on February 18; therefore, it observed “We are of the view that it would be inappropriate to set aside the entire election process when the only conformity is found at the stage when the counting of votes was recorded by the Presiding Officer. In allowing the entire election process to be set aside would compound the destruction of the fundamental democratic principles which has taken place as a consequence of the conduct of the Presiding Officer.”

Earlier on February 05, 2024, the SC expressed disappointment after watching a video of the electoral proceedings where it was visible that the returning officer was defacing the ballot papers. It said, “This is a mockery of democracy. We are appalled by what has happened. We will not allow democracy to be murdered like this.” Further, the SC summoned the official to explain the misconduct before the top court on February 19. During the proceedings on 19 February, the SC bench pointed out deep concerns over ‘horse trading’ and said that they would examine the ballot papers of the Chandigarh Mayor elections. On February 20, the bench overturned the results of the elections and declared the AAP-Congress alliance candidates as the new mayor of Chandigarh.