SC declines plea seeking directions to ECI to publish data of votes polled in every booth

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Public TV English
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NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Friday declined to pass any direction on a plea seeking the uploading of Form 17C data on the Election Commission of India (ECI) website and publication of booth-wise voter turnout data.

A bench of Justices Dipankar Dutta and Satish Chandra Sharma refused to grant any interim relief to petitioners and said it could not interrupt the polls. The bench said that of the seven-phase elections, five phases are over, and the sixth phase is scheduled for Saturday.

A “hands off” approach is needed in the middle of the election process, observed the apex court while adjourning the application. The bench told the petitioner that the interim prayer raised in the present application was the same as of the petition pending before it since 2019.

“Prima facie, we are not inclined to grant any interim relief since prayer A of the 2019 petition is similar to prayer B of the 2024 application. List the interim plea after (summer) vacation,” ordered the bench. The apex court clarified that it has not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case apart from the prima facie view.

The apex court was hearing an application filed by the NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking disclosure of final authenticated data of voter turnout in all polling stations including the number of votes polled in the Lok Sabha Elections 2024 within 48 hours of the polling.

During the hearing today, senior advocate Maninder Singh, representing the Election Commission of India (ECI), said that ADR’s application was based on “unfounded suspicions” and “false”. Petitions like these are responsible for reducing the voter turnout because of the “continuous questioning of the process”, said Singh. He said such kind of attitude is causing damage to the public interest by always putting a question mark on the sanctity of the elections.

Earlier, ECI had filed an affidavit before the top court and said that voter turnout data based on Form 17C (records of votes polled in each polling station) will cause confusion among voters as it will also include postal ballot counts. The ECI had contended that there is no legal right that can be claimed towards publishing final authenticated data of voter turnout in all polling stations.

On May 17, the Supreme Court asked ECI to file its response to the application seeking direction to immediately upload accounts of votes recorded at all polling stations after the close of polling of each phase.

The NGO ADR alleged an inordinate delay in the publication of voter turnout data for the first two phases of polling in the elections. The application, besides the delay in publishing the voter turnout details, said there was a sharp spike in figures from the initial voter turnout percentages released by the Election Commission.

It 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.

It further asked for uploading on the ECI 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.

The application said the voter turnout data for the first two phases of the Lok Sabha elections were published by the ECI on April 30, after 11 days of the first phase of polling held on April 19 and four days after the second phase of polling held on April 26.

It said that the data published by the ECI in its April 30 press release showed a sharp increase (by about 5-6 per cent) from the initial percentages announced by it on the polling day.

The NGO pointed out the data published in the press release by the ECI 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 date 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. (ANI)

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