“The Supreme Court is watching” CJI warns Presiding Officer allegedly caught vote tampering in Chandigarh mayoral elections

CJI Chandrachud directed all records related to the Chandigarh mayoral election to be submitted for scrutiny

Today, the Supreme Court directed Deputy Commissioner, UT Chandigarh to submit “the entire record pertaining to the selection of the Mayor of Chandigarh” to the Registrar General of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana “for safekeeping and custody.” This will include: 

  1. Ballot papers
  2. Videography of the entire electoral process
  3. All other material in the custody of the Presiding Officer (also called Returning Officer)

The Court stated that “an appropriate interim order was warranted, which the High Court has failed to pass, in order to protect the purity and sanctity of the electoral process.” The Bench consisted of Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, and Justice J.B. Pardiwala and Manoj Misra.

The Court was hearing a petition filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Kuldeep Kumar against the Pubjab and Haryana High Court’s refusal to stay the results of the Chandigarh mayoral election. Petitioners alleged “blatant fraud in the electoral process” which was “premised on the widely reported video where the Presiding Officer can be seen tampering/interpolating the ballot papers, which fortuitously was caught on camera.” The Presiding Officer is Anil Masih, a nominated municipal councillor and general secretary of the BJP’s Minority Morcha. 

Video shows only one part of the story: Solicitor General 

The Court ordered that the documents be submitted by 5pm on the same day. The hearing in the top court had gone past 4pm at that point. The Court specifically instructed the Presiding Officer to hand over the record “as it is”, suggesting that he must not tamper with the records.

The Court watched a video of the electoral process during the hearing, where Masih was seen tampering with the ballot paper. “Why is he looking at the camera and running like a fugitive?” Chief Justice Chandrachud asked, thundering that the Court will not accept this “murder of democracy.” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the video showed only one part of the story, and pleaded the Court to take a decision once it sees all the records. 

The Chief responded that it was obvious that Masih had defaced the ballot papers. “He needs to be prosecuted…Mr. Solicitor, this is a mockery of democracy,” he said, making it clear that the Bench was “appalled.” “Please tell the Returning Officer that the Supreme Court is watching him,” the CJI warned.

The Court will hear the case next on Monday, 12 February 2024 when “The Returning Officer shall remain present before this Court…to explain his conduct as it appears in the video.”


On 30 January 2024, Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Manoj Sonkar was declared the Mayor of Chandigarh after eight votes of members from the AAP-Congress alliance were declared invalid by the Presiding Officer Anil Masih. The AAP-Congress alliance approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court alleging that the ballot papers had been fraudulently tampered by scratching and scribbling on them. 

On 31 January, the High Court issued notice to the Union Territory of Chandigarh, but refused to grant interim relief to set aside the mayoral election. 

On 1 February, petitioners approached the Supreme Court challenging the refusal. “This is not a case of election dispute, but a case of abuse of public office, which destroys the very essence of faith reposed in the officer and is a constitutional wrong and breach of the doctrine of public trust,” the petition said. “The case was so egregious that the High Court ought to have passed interim orders.”