TOI News Desk
New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Friday declined Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR)'s request to direct the Election Commission (EC) to upload polling station-wise voter turnout data during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections. The ADR, an NGO, sought this data within 48 hours of each polling phase to enhance transparency.

However, the Supreme Court cited practical challenges and the ongoing election process as reasons for its decision.

The EC had opposed the ADR plea, arguing that such a directive could disrupt the electoral process, cause chaos, and lead to misuse of data. The EC's affidavit highlighted the statutory limitations and potential risks of publicizing detailed voter turnout data. The court adjourned the matter for a regular bench hearing after the elections.

Here is all you need to know:

Why did the Supreme Court refuse the NGO's plea to upload voter turnout data?

The Supreme Court refused the plea because issuing such a directive during the ongoing election process would be challenging. It noted, "Granting any relief in IA will amount to granting relief in the main petition which is pending." The court emphasized that five phases of polling had already concluded, and mobilizing the necessary manpower for this task would be difficult.

What were the main concerns of the Election Commission regarding the plea?

The Election Commission raised several concerns, including potential chaos and disruption of the electoral process. The EC argued that "indiscriminate disclosure" of polling station-wise data could "vitiate" the electoral space and increase the risk of data misuse. It stated that there is no legal mandate to provide Form 17C to any person other than the candidate or their agent and that public posting of such data is not provided in the statutory framework.

What is Form 17C, and why is it significant in this context?

Form 17C contains the account of votes recorded at each polling station. Form 17C contains following data

  • Total No. of electors assigned to the Polling Station
  • Total No. of voters as entered in the Register for Voters (Form 17A)
  • No. of voters deciding not to record votes under rule 49-O
  • No. of voters not allowed to vote under rule 49M
  • Total No. of votes recorded as per voting machine
  • Whether the total No. of votes as shown against item 5 tallies with the total No. of voters as shown against item 2 minus Nos. of voters deciding not to record votes as against item 3 minus No. of Voters as against item 4 (2-3-4) or any discrepancy noticed.
  • No. of voters to whom tendered ballot papers were issued under rule 49P.
  • No. of tendered ballot papers.

The EC's affidavit explained that Form 17C is given to polling agents as required by law, but general public disclosure is not mandated. The EC warned that public posting of Form 17C could lead to "mischief and vitiation of the entire electoral space" and increase the possibility of data being morphed.

What does the ADR claim about the voter turnout data released by the EC?

The ADR claimed that there was a "5-6 percent" discrepancy between the initial voter turnout data released on the day of polling and the final data published later. The NGO argued that the delay in publishing accurate voter turnout data raises concerns about the transparency and integrity of the election process.

How did the Election Commission respond to the allegations of discrepancies in voter turnout data?

The EC dismissed the allegations as "misleading, false, and based on mere suspicion." It said that the voter turnout data is published in accordance with statutory requirements and that any discrepancies are due to the natural updating process of the data. The EC also noted that no candidates or voters had filed election petitions based on these allegations, indicating that the claims of discrepancies were unfounded.

What is the next step in this legal matter?

The Supreme Court has adjourned the interlocutory application filed by ADR to be listed before a regular bench after the elections. This means the matter will be revisited once the election process is complete, allowing for a more detailed examination of the issues raised by the NGO.

(With inputs from agencies)

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