EC seeks parties' views on banning opinion polls

EC seeks parties' views on banning opinion polls

Opinions have to be submitted by October 21

EC seeks parties' views on banning opinion polls

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has sought the views of political parties on the issue of banning the airing of opinion polls between the post-election schedule announcement and last phase of polling.

“Political parties have to submit their views by October 21. After studying their views, if required an all-party meeting will be convened,” sources in the ECI told the Deccan Herald.

The ECI has launched a fresh initiative on the demand for banning the opinion polls after the Ministry of Law recently gave its nod for the same.  The Law Ministry has also asked the ECI to take the views from the political parties before taking any decision.

On June 13, Attorney General G E Vahanvati had supported the commission's proposal to ban the publication and broadcast of opinion polls between the announcement of the election schedule and the final phase of polling. The existing law allows the ECI to ban opinion polls just 48 hours prior to voting.

The poll panel has now proposed that there should be a prohibition on the publication and broadcast of the results of opinion polls starting from the date of notification of elections till the completion of the last phase of polls to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

"As rightly pointed out by the ECI, what is paramount is the necessity to have free and fair elections. One cannot disagree with the view of the ECI that such opinion polls often tend to cause a prejudicial effect on the minds of the electors," the AG had said.

He said, "One must also take into consideration the views of the political parties at the meeting held on April 6, 2004 and the unanimous view expressed therein." He had added that he was of the opinion that there is no "real basis" to distinguish between opinion polls and exit polls since the exit polls have already been restricted.

It may be noted that in 2004 when an all-party meeting was convened, the parties demanded a ban on opinion polls. However, the issue was put in cold storage after the Law Ministry said that banning opinion poll would lead to the curbing of the freedom of expression and speech.

Though there is a ban on exit polls, there is no ban on conducting and disseminating the results of opinion polls during phased elections. Earlier the Commission, in its  recommendation to the Law Commission on ushering in reforms in conducting polls, had stated that there should indeed be a ban on opinion polls.

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