Holding that opinion polls that have published results of the 111 Lok Sabha constituencies that have already voted were, in effect, exit polls, the Election Commission Wednesday asked all media organisations not to publish opinion polls that were exit polls for all practical purposes.
This, the commission said, was required to maintain a level playing field, and to ensure free and fair elections.
Noting that “certain news channels have broadcast what they call opinion polls” on April 14 even as multi-phase polls are in progress and that “certain newspapers have also published the so-called ‘opinion polls’”, the EC said that “in view of the fact that the results of the aforesaid ‘opinion poll’ also included results in respect of various polls which have already been concluded in 111 parliamentary constituencies”, this dissemination of result of opinion poll “in effect becomes dissemination of result of exit polls in respect of the said constituencies”.
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The EC said it had noticed that the results of this opinion poll “indeed included the number of seats expected to be won by political parties where polls have already been held”, and added that the “telecast by certain television channels and publishing of the same by some newspapers amounts to violation of Section 126A of RP Act, 1951”.
Section 126 A of the Representation of the People Act prohibits “publication and dissemination of results of exit poll”. It says that “no person shall conduct any exit poll and publish or publicise by means of the print or electronic media or disseminate in any other manner, whatsoever the result of any exit poll during such period”.
The prohibited period for this purpose has been defined as the period commencing “from the beginning of the hours fixed for poll on the first day of poll” and continuing “till half an hour after closing of the polling in all the states and union territories”.
Senior EC officials told The Indian Express that “an opinion or projection of result of constituencies that have already voted while the polling process is still on is considered an exit poll as per the RP Act”.
“As many as 111 seats have already voted on April 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Projecting results for these seats can potentially impact the polling on the remaining five polling days,” an EC official said.