Chandigarh mayoral poll: Ensuring free and fair election imperative for representative democracy, says Supreme Court : The Tribune India

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Chandigarh mayoral poll: Ensuring free and fair election imperative for representative democracy, says Supreme Court

A three-judge Bench led by CJI had on February 20 declared defeated AAP-Congress combine candidate Kuldeep Kumar Mayor of Chandigarh

Chandigarh mayoral poll: Ensuring free and fair election imperative for representative democracy, says Supreme Court

Returning officer Anil Masih during the counting of votes in Chandigarh mayoral polls, held on January 30, 2024. Video grab



Tribune News Service

Satya Prakash

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 22

Maintaining that free and fair elections are a part of the basic structure of the Constitution, the Supreme Court has said that ensuring a free and fair electoral process is imperative to maintain the legitimacy of and trust in representative democracy.

A three-judge Bench led by CJI DY Chandrachud – which had on February 20 – set aside the Chandigarh mayoral poll results and declared AAP-Congress combine candidate Kuldeep Kumar the winner – said, “Elections at the local participatory level act as a microcosm of the larger democratic structure in the country.”

Using its plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution, the top court had held that the eight votes declared invalid by Returning Officer Anil Masih were validly cast in favour of Kumar and who had in fact got 20 votes against BJP candidate Manoj Sonkar's 16.

The detailed verdict was released on Thursday.

The Bench said, “This Court has consistently held that free and fair elections are a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.”

It said, “Local governments, such as municipal corporations, engage with issues that affect citizens’ daily lives and act as a primary point of contact with representative democracy. The process of citizens electing councillors, who in turn, elect the Mayor, serves as a channel for ordinary citizens to ventilate their grievances through their representatives – both directly and indirectly elected.”

The top court emphasised that “Ensuring a free and fair electoral process throughout this process, therefore, is imperative to maintain the legitimacy of and trust in representative democracy.”

“Pertinently, this is not an ordinary case of alleged malpractice by candidates in an election, but electoral misconduct by the presiding officer himself. The brazen nature of the malpractice, visible on camera, makes the situation all the more extraordinary, justifying the invocation of the power of this Court under Article 142,” said the Bench – which also included Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra.

The Bench had refused to order fresh elections, saying, “We are of the considered view that it would be inappropriate to set aside the election process in its entirety when the only infirmity which has been found is at the stage when the counting of votes was recorded by the Presiding Officer. Allowing the entire election process to be set aside would further compound the destruction of fundamental democratic principles which has taken place as a consequence of the conduct of the Presiding Officer.”

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