The Election Commission (EC) on Tuesday sought an explanation from three media outlets for allegedly violating the provision related to exit polls under the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
According to EC spokesperson Sheyphali B Sharan, Indo-Asian News Service, Economic Times and Swaraj Mass Media have been asked to present their defence within 48 hours.
According to Section 126A of the RP Act, 1951, prediction of poll results is banned from the first day of voting till elections ends. In case of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, media houses have been advised to not carry any article or programme related to “dissemination of results” from 7 am on April 11 to 6.30 pm on May 19.
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On April 8, the Commission had clarified that even prediction of results even through astrologers, tarot card readers, political analysts or any other person is prohibited under Section 126A. Contravention of this provision is punishable with imprisonment “for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both”.
Officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the Commission had objected to IANS carrying calculations by independent psephologists this week that indicate possible post-poll result scenarios. Similarly, an online piece by an analyst carried on the Economic Times website on May 10 and a show aired on Swaraj Mass Media on May 6 was found violative of Section 126A.
FIR lodged in previous instance
The last time EC had acted against media houses for violating Section 126A of the RP Act was during the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in 2017. At that time, the Commission had objected to Dainik Jagran running a piece on its website predicting results of the first phase of elections. An FIR was lodged against Dainik Jagran for the same.
When contacted, Sandeep Bamzai, CEO and Editor-in-chief of IANS, told The Indian Express, “We have just received an email from the Election Commission and we are taking a view on it. If the EC believes there is a contravention of the law as it stands, then we will do whatever is necessary. We are very clear that these are an amalgam of calculations from various independent sources, but we will comply with the law and do whatever is required.”
The Indian Express could not reach Swaraj Mass Media for comment and is still awaiting a reaction from the Economic Times website.