Election Commission’s Fatwa to Media: Face Jail for Exit Polls

Election Commission will have to prove in the court how merely conducting a poll can affect voting. 

Hindi Female

A few hours before polling in Punjab and Goa, the Election Commission reiterated in clear words that media houses cannot even conduct exit polls. The commission stated in a written response presented before the Panaji bench of Bombay High Court that “… under Section 126A of Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 prohibits conducting any exit poll and publishing or publicising by means of print or electronic medium…”

Several media houses commission exit polls to specialised organisations, who collect data while polling is on. It helps them in catching the exact mood of voters and in making better projections. But due to the EC order, now data cannot be collected while voting is on. So, we may not see exit polls at 6 pm on 8 March, when the polling for the last phase is over.

The EC was responding to a plea filed by Goa based Fomento Media, which had made two prayers. The first one was to the EC seeking a clarification about simply conducting the poll now and publishing it on 8 March. The second prayer was made to the court about lifting the EC ban. But the court didn’t give relief to the media house by refusing to hear the matter urgently.

We tried to argue about the urgency, but the court said it wants to hear the matter in detail.
Advt Subodh Kantak, Lawyer of Fomento Media

The matter will be heard on 20 February. By then, polling in Punjab, Goa and Uttarakhand will be over. Three crucial phases in Uttar Pradesh will also be over. During these days, if any organisation conducts an exit poll, it will be a violation of the EC order.

The Peoples Representative Act was amended in 2009. After that, some conducted such polls, but this time the commission has taken a serious view. If anyone conducts it, it will be a punishable offence.
Advt SR Rivankar, Lawyer of the EC

The EC has argued that conducting and publishing polls during voting affects voting in the remaining phases. When asked how merely conducting a poll – without publishing it – affects the voting, the lawyer representing the EC said that the commission is simply implementing the law.

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