EC reiterates call to ban pre-election opinion polls

EC reiterates call to ban pre-election opinion polls

With credibility of pre-election surveys coming under question, the Election Commission on Wednesday reiterated its suggestion to prohibit or restrict opinion polls and said it was now up to the Union Government to take a call.

“As far as opinion polls are concerned, the (Election) Commission has taken a view, not today, but 10 years back in the year 2004, after they held an all-party meeting. They made their recommendations and subsequently also collected the views of different political parties,” Chief Election Commissioner V S Sampath told reporters here. “The ball is in the court of the Government,” he added. The CEC’s remark came after a TV news channel claimed to have exposed readiness of certain companies to tweak the findings of the poll-surveys conducted by them.

The EC had on April 6, 2004 convened a meeting of all recognised national and state political parties, which had unanimously opined that the result of the exit polls should not be published before the close of polls in all the phases of the elections and the findings of opinion polls should not be made public from the date of notification of elections till the completion of the elections. The poll panel too proposed the same in a letter to the Union Government subsequently. 

The Government in 2009 amended the Representation of the People Act 1951, prohibiting publishing or airing results of the exit polls from commencement of the polls till half-an-hour after conclusion of polls in all constituencies. The EC, however, has been seeking similar prohibition or restriction on opinion polls, arguing that publication or broadcast of outcomes of such exercises “could impact voting pattern”.

After the Ministry of Law and Justice asked the EC to have yet another round of consultations with the political parties, the EC last year once again sought opinions from all the political parties on the issue of banning opinion polls. While Congress and several other parties favoured a ban, the Bharatiya Janata Party shifted from its 2004 stand and opposed any such restriction or prohibition.

“We will certainly look into the matter. Whatever legal action that needs to be taken, will be duly examined,” Sampath said in response to a query on the  “sting operation” by a TV channel purportedly revealing that many of the companies, carrying out opinion polls on behalf of media groups, were ready to tweak the findings in favour or against particular political parties.

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