Restoring trust in democracy - Hindustan Times
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Restoring trust in democracy

ByHT Editorial
Feb 21, 2024 09:10 PM IST

SC intervention in Chandigarh polls is timely, and serves as a warning for errant parties

The Supreme Court has done well to overturn the results in the Chandigarh mayoral polls and declare the AAP candidate the winner. It also ordered criminal proceedings against the presiding officer, Anil Masih, who had not only subverted the outcome but lied under oath to the SC. Masih’s association with the BJP provides the political backdrop to what was a brazen capture of the election process. His fraud — he defaced eight ballots and then declared them as invalid — delivered the mayor’s office to his party: The SC described his action, caught on camera, as a “murder of democracy”.

Anil Masih, Returning Officer of Chandigarh Mayor Election, at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo) PREMIUM
Anil Masih, Returning Officer of Chandigarh Mayor Election, at the Supreme Court on Tuesday. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

The SC verdict stands out for the promptness of the Court’s action and the subtle manner of its intervention; the Court did not quash the election process but restricted itself to the wrongdoings in the counting process and took it upon itself to supervise the recount. The three-judge bench led by Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said: “We are of the view that the court must step in such exceptional circumstances to ensure that the basic democratic mandate is ensured.” Earlier, it made a telling remark on the Punjab and Haryana high court (HC), which refused to act against the returning officer: “An appropriate interim order was warranted which the HC had failed to pass, in order to protect the purity and sanctity of the electoral process.” The SC’s action, coming in the wake of its ruling on the electoral bonds scheme where it privileged the right of citizens to know over the “privacy” of political parties and their donors, will help restore the sanctity of the democratic process.

The electoral fallout of the SC verdict may be limited, but it frames the BJP itself in a poor light. The BJP’s ambition to win at all costs and hegemonise politics at various levels is understandable, but as the party in office, it has to set an example for others on observing constitutional propriety. That someone as senior as BJP president JP Nadda congratulated the Chandigarh BJP for winning after the brazen mandate-grab sends out a worrying message. Masih’s audacious assault on the democratic process could not have been a lone-wolf act, for sure. Despite the low stakes involved — in the larger scheme, this was an inconsequential election for an inconsequential post — the full conspiracy should be unearthed.

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