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The Election Commission had released the voter turnout percentage after more than 10 days of the first phase and four days after the second phase of polling.

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a petition on May 17 seeking immediate release of absolute voter turnout numbers by the Election Commission after there was a delay in publication of the data for the first two polling phases of the Lok Sabha elections, The Hindu reported.

The petition was moved by Association for Democratic Reforms, a non-governmental organisation, for an urgent hearing following which a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta listed the matter for hearing.

On April 30, the Election Commission published the final voter turnout percentage for the first two phases of the general election. While the first phase recorded a turnout of 66.14%, the second phase recorded a figure of 66.71%. However, the panel did not release the total number of voters in each constituency.

The final figures were substantially higher than the provisional polling estimates for the two phases released by the Election Commission earlier. The data was also released after more than 10 days of the first phase and four days after the second phase of polling.

Subsequently, the election watchdog filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking it to direct the Election Commission to immediately publish the absolute figures of the votes polled, Live Law reported.

The petition also contended that there was a discrepancy of more than 5% in the final voter turnout figure as compared to the initial data released on the polling day.

“The data as published by the ECI [Election Commission] in its press release dated April 30, 2024 shows a sharp increase [by about 5%-6%] as compared to the initial percentages announced by ECI as of 7 pm on the day of polling,” the petition said.

The delay in the release of final voter turnout data, coupled with the unusually high revision and the absence of disaggregated constituency and polling station figures in absolute numbers, has raised concerns and public suspicion regarding the correctness of the data, the plea said.

The apprehensions of the public had to be addressed “in order to uphold the voter’s confidence”, the Association for Democratic Reforms said.

The petition sought a direction from the Supreme Court asking the Election Commission to upload copies of Form 17C (Part I) from all polling stations immediately after the voting concludes in each phase of the elections.

The Conduct of Election Rules, 1961, requires presiding officers to prepare an account of votes recorded in Form 17C (Part I) and record the number of votes in favour of each candidate.

The non-governmental organisation has sought tabulated voter turnout data from each constituency and polling station in absolute numbers.

It also sought a direction to the poll panel to “upload on its website scanned legible copies of Form 17C (Part- II), which contains the candidate-wise result of counting after the compilation of results of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections”.

The Opposition had questioned the Election Commission for the delay after the release of the final voter turnout data in April. Party leaders had also flagged the alleged discrepancy in the figures as compared to what was reported on the voting days.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the final turnout of the first phase was shared two days after the voting. The voter turnout for the first phase in 2019 was 69.43% and for the second phase was 69.44%.

On May 10, the Election Commission in a letter to Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge dismissed the allegations of discrepancy in voter turnout data. It said that the voter turnout data was not delayed as it was available on the Voter Turnout App.

“The very premise that voter turnout data was released late is devoid of facts as it has always been available on the Voter Turnout application,” the poll body said. “…Needless to add that polling station wise data of electors and voters is given to agent of the candidate on the day of poll itself at close of poll.”

The poll panel had also said that it is not legally bound to publish voter turnout data at the aggregate level of a constituency, state or phase “because voter turnout is recorded at polling station level in statutory Form 17C, which is prepared by the Presiding Officer and signed by polling agents of candidates present”.

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