DC Edit | SC intervention corrects a travesty in Chandigarh

By :  DC Comment
Update: 2024-02-21 18:54 GMT
Anil Masih, Returning Officer for Chandigarh mayoral election, at the Supreme Court for a hearing in the alleged tampering in the election, in New Delhi, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024. (PTI Photo)

In another forceful intervention that can legitimately be counted as a warning shot against the attempts at systematic undermining of democracy in the country, the Supreme Court has used its plenary powers and declared the candidate who was made to lose the mayoral election through fraud in Chandigarh Municipal Corporation the winner. This order calls for celebration because it is not very often that the judiciary sticks its neck out and calls a spade a spade, notwithstanding its recent order scrapping the crass and opaque electoral bond scheme, calling it violative of the Constitution.

The shock defeat in the mayoral election was a perceived as a major setback for INDIA bloc as it was the first time the Opposition alliance came together to take on the might of the BJP in an election. The ruling party at the Centre in fact made a song and dance of the Opposition defeat, with BJP president J.P. Nadda saying INDIA had got both its arithmetic and chemistry wrong.

The Supreme Court cannot decide on the chemistry of political alliances but it can definitely look at the arithmetic and decide if a calculation is right or wrong. And it takes no exceptional knowledge in arithmetic to understand that a candidate with 20 votes should, in ordinary circumstances, win an election in a council of 36 members. However, the BJP member who was named the returning officer for the election held on January 30 invalidated eight ballots polled in favour of the INDIA candidate by scribbling on it and made the candidate with 16 votes win. The Supreme Court re-validated the ballots and declared the AAP candidate winner.

It is a matter of concern that such flagrant violation of rules, blatant undermining of the democratic exercise and flouting of principles of fair play did indeed take place. It is also a matter of concern that the Punjab and Haryana high court failed to discover the import of what was happening in the corporation and chose to take its sweet time to act. That it took the exercise of the powers of the Supreme Court under Article 142 of the Constitution, which, inter alia, empowers it to “pass such decree or make such order as is necessary for doing complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it” to restore the faith of the people in the democratic process is also a matter of concern.

It appears that the drama has not ended there in Chandigarh, if the reports are to be believed. Three councillors elected on AAP ticket have now defected to the BJP, making the continuation of the newly-installed mayor untenable. No court can intervene when political parties came out in the open, engage in horse-trading and upturn popular will reflected in ballot papers. Law courts can do only so much if players with deep pockets and control over levers of power choose to play foul.

We often hear Prime Minister Narendra Modi tell the world that India is the mother of all democracies; but his party is busy experimenting with newer versions of the idea. Unless the people realise the danger lurking about the institutions of democracy, electoral process including, and act with alacrity, our claims about democracy will stand exposed in front of the whole world. The earlier they act the better.


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