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SC notice to EC over ADR plea on immediate release of voter turnout data

The court fixed the matter for consideration on May 24.
shish Tripathi
Last Updated : 17 May 2024, 14:44 IST
Last Updated : 17 May 2024, 14:44 IST

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Election Commission on a plea by ADR to upload account of votes recorded of all polling stations 48 hours after the polling ends for each phase in the ongoing 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

A bench of Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud, Justices J B Pardiwala and Sanjiv Khanna sought a response within a week from the EC on the application filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

The court fixed the matter for consideration on May 24.

During the hearing, the bench asked senior advocate Maninder Singh and Amit Sharma, representing the ECI, "What is the reservation in not disclosing the form 17C data and the poll body must disclose the data."

The counsel replied that there is no difficulty in that but the entire process, which includes the compilation of "form 17 C," takes time.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan for the NGO said a sudden spurt in actual voter turnout has been recorded in all the phases of the polls.

The EC counsel said that the petition has been filed in 2019 and the poll panel filed its detailed response but the petitioner chose not to file any rejoinder.

The counsel also said the compilation of data required time and the polling agent of each booth is handed over the copy of the data on close of elections. If at all anybody has to be aggrieved, it is election candidate who can always file an election petition in case of any discrepancy of data, he said.

In the midst of polls, such kind of pleas dissuade a large number of voters, particularly first time voters from casting their votes, he contended.

"Since the petition has been pending before the court for years, the opportunity to respond be given to EC, we accordingly grant the EC time," the bench said.

The plea sought a direction to the Election Commission to provide tabulated polling station-wise data in absolute figures of the number of votes polled as recorded in Form 17C Part- I after each phase of polling in the ongoing 2024 Lok Sabha elections and also a tabulation of constituency wise figures of voter turnout in absolute numbers in the on-going 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The plea also prayed for uploading on EC website the scanned legible copies of Form 17C Part- II, which contained the candidate-wise result of counting after the compilation of results of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

It contended without the absolute number of voter turnout data, the general public cannot compare the number of votes polled with the number of votes counted as announced in the results and thus, discrepancies, if any, in the two sets of data (number of votes polled at polling booths and number of votes counted by EVM) can only be assessed when absolute numbers, and not merely percentages, for each constituency are released by the EC.

The NGO contended unless the exact figures are brought in the public domain, percentage figures are meaningless for the voter.

It pointed out the data published in the press release by the EC on April 30, 2024 (Phase I voter turnout- 66.14 per cent and Phase II voter turnout - 66.71 per cent) when compared with the initial data of April 19, 2024 and April 26, 2024, respectively, showed an increase of nearly 6 per cent in the Phase I data and increase of approximately 5.75 per cent in the Phase II data.

It said the Trinamool Congress has written a letter on May 06, 2024, to the EC calling upon it to publish the total number of electors in each Parliamentary Constituency, total number of voters as noted in register of voters and number of voters as per EVM for all PCs that have already gone to polls in Phases I and II.

Similarly, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge has also written to other political parties questioning the increase in voter turnout percentage and non-disclosure of number of votes polled in numbers.

On May 3, Sitaram Yechury, General Secretary of CPI(M), also wrote a letter to the EC raising concerns over delays and discrepancies in the release of voting figures.

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Published 17 May 2024, 14:44 IST

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