Source: The Assam Tribune Relevance: GS II (Indian Polity, Governance and Judiciary)

Context: The Supreme Court quashed and set aside the result of the January 30 mayoral polls for the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation in which the presiding officer had named BJP’s Manoj Sonkar as the winner, and instead declared Kuldeep Kumar, the AAP- Congress coalition candidate, as the validly elected candidate.

Chandigarh Mayor Election 2024: Key Highlights:

  • Chandigarh Municipal Corporation mayoral elections recently took place, involving 35 council members.

  •  Security footage revealed the returning officer tampering with eight ballots.

  • The Supreme Court criticized the incident as a "mockery of democracy."

  • Ordered that ballots, documents, and footage be handed over to the Registrar-General of the Punjab and Haryana High Court for Supreme Court review.

Key Highlights of Supreme Court Verdict on Chandigarh Mayor Elections:

  • The Supreme Court emphasized its role in safeguarding electoral democracy, citing Article 142 to prevent voting deceit.

  • Instead of demanding a new election, the Court scrutinized the mayoral election results, identifying issues mainly in counting and declaration.

  • A show-cause notice was issued to the Returning Officer for his misconduct, under Section 340 regarding actions that affect justice administration.

  • The Chief Justice expressed serious concerns about political integrity, specifically mentioning "horse trading" among councillors.

Article 142: 

  • The Supreme Court has discretionary power under Article 142, which says that it may exercise its jurisdiction to pass any decree or issue any order that is required to ensure complete justice in any cause or matter pending before it.

  • For example: In judgments pertaining to the Bhopal gas tragedy case, the cleaning of the Taj Mahal, the release of A.G. Perarivalan, etc.

Expansion of the Scope of Article 142:

  • The 1962 Prem Chand Garg case set a precedent that Article 142 orders must align with the Constitution and not contradict existing laws, stressing the importance of aligning legal provisions with fundamental rights.

  •  In the 1988 Antulay Case, a seven-judge bench reinforced the exercise of powers under Article 142, supporting the findings of the Prem Chand Garg case.

  • The 1991 Union of India vs. Union Carbide Corporation case saw the Supreme Court clarify that its constitutional powers under Article 142 are not confined by statutory limitations, expanding the article's interpretation and emphasizing constitutional principles over conventional laws.

Significance of Article 142:

  • Justice Restoration:  Article 142 grants the Supreme Court special power to deliver complete justice in cases of legal irregularities or injustices, especially protecting the most vulnerable groups in society.

  • Uphold Citizen’s Rights: It ensures the rights of various societal segments, focusing on the most at-risk individuals.

  • Checks and Balances the Government Actions: Acts as a system for checking and balancing government actions to prevent overreach or abuse of power.

  • Bridges the Gap in Legislation: Fills legal voids, such as with the Vishaka guidelines established in response to the lack of laws against workplace sexual harassment highlighted by the Bhanwari Devi case in 2002.

  • Dealing with Non-Compliance by Executives: Addresses executive non-compliance, as seen in the intervention during the Bihar undertrial issue through the Hussainara Khatoon Case in 1979, laying the groundwork for Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in India.

Way forward:

The Apex Court may establish stringent guidelines that support judicial restraint and provide justification for the use of Article 142. In any such instance, the SC can guarantee that the society would receive complete justice without jeopardizing people’s rights.

Advait IAS