Thursday, Nov 27, 2014

EC seeks opinion of political parties on the ban on opinion polls

New Delhi | Posted: October 16, 2013 7:28 pm | Updated: March 14, 2014 11:32 am

The Election Commission has sought views of various political parties on the issue of banning opinion polls after the government asked it to hold fresh consultations on the issue.

The government had thrown the ball back into the court of Election Commission on the issue after it did not approve the EC proposal on banning opinion polls and instead asked it to hold fresh consultations.

The poll body has asked various recognised national and state political parties to give their views on the issue by October 21.

“The Commission desires that the views of your political party on the proposal to prohibit conducting opinion polls and disseminating results thereof during the election period may be communicated to the Commission. This may kindly be done latest by October 21,2013,” said an EC letter to presidents general secretaries/chairpersons of all recognised parties.

The EC had submitted a proposal to the government to ban opinion polls which was turned down on the plea that the poll body should hold fresh consultations with parties on the issue.

“The Commission has been suggesting to the government that there should be a similar prohibition or restriction on opinion polls also as there could be several manipulated opinion polls which could impact the voting pattern,” it said.

The last time the EC had convened a meeting of political parties to elicit their views on prohibiting or restricting publishing results of opinion polls and exit polls during elections on April 6,2004,when the parties unanimously expressed the view that results of exit polls should not be published before close of poll in all phases of elections.

Political parties had also unanimously agreed that results of opinion polls should not be disseminated during the period starting from date of notification to poll completion. While exit polls have been banned,opinion poll is yet to be banned. At present,there is a ban on opinion polls starting from 48 hours before voting.

The Law Ministry wrote back to EC last month asking it to seek views of various parties again on the issue of opinion poll ban.

The file was returned despite Attorney General G E Vahanvati’s opinion favouring the EC proposal. The Attorney General said,”As rightly pointed out by the EC,what is paramount is the necessity to have free and fair elections. One cannot disagree with the view of the EC that such opinion polls often tend to cause a prejudicial effect on the minds of the electors.”

He had said “one must also take into consideration the views of the political parties at the meeting held on April 6,2004 and the unanimous view expressed therein” in favour of banning opinion poll.

The government’s top law officer had said he is of the view that there is no “real basis” to distinguish between opinion polls and exit polls since the exit polls have already been restricted.

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