Source: 
Financial Express
https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/allegation-of-discrepancies-in-voter-turnout-data-by-adr-misleading-false-eci-to-supreme-court/3499319/
Author: 
India News Desk
Date: 
23.05.2024
City: 

The apex poll body also dismissed as false and misleading the allegation that there was “5-6” per cent difference between the voter turnout data.

The Election Commission has opposed a demand in the Supreme Court by an NGO to upload polling station-wise voter turnout data on its website within 48 hours of the conclusion of polling for each phase of the Lok Sabha elections, arguing it could “vitiate” the electoral space and cause “chaos” in the poll machinery during the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

A vacation bench of Justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma is set to hear the plea of the NGO ‘Association for Democratic Reforms,’ which has also sought direction for the poll panel to upload scanned legible copies of Form 17C Part-I (Account of Votes Recorded) of all polling stations immediately after the polls.

In its counter affidavit, the poll panel said there is no legal mandate to provide Form 17C to any person other than the candidate or his agent.

It said that public posting of Form 17C — which provides the number of votes polled in a polling station — is not provided in the statutory framework and could lead to mischief and vitiation of the entire electoral space as it increases the possibility of the images being morphed.

The apex poll body also dismissed as false and misleading the allegation that there was “5-6” per cent difference between the voter turnout data released on the day of the polling for the first two phases of the Lok Sabha elections and the press releases issued subsequently.

The Election Commission’s 225-page affidavit said that the petitioner NGO ‘Association of Democratic Reforms’ has failed to mention a single instance where candidates or voters had filed an election petition on the basis of the allegations raised by the petitioner with respect to the Lok Sabha election in 2019.

“This indicates that the allegation of discrepancies in voter turnout data made by the petitioner in the main petition as well as the present application is misleading, false and based on mere suspicion,” it said.

The poll panel said there are certain elements and vested interests who keep on throwing baseless and false allegations, creating an unwarranted atmosphere of suspicion in the close proximity of time of conduct of every election by the Election Commission of India, to somehow discredit the same.

“It is most humbly submitted that there is a consistent malafide campaign/ design/efforts to keep on raising suspicion and doubt in every possible manner and by misleading assertions and baseless allegations regarding the conduct of elections by the Election Commission of India,” the poll panel said, as it sought dismissal of the NGO’s plea.

On Form 17C, the EC said, “At the moment, the original Form 17C is only available in the Strong Room and a copy only with the polling agents whose signature it bears. Therefore, there is a one-to-one relationship between each Form 17C and its possessor.”

The poll panel added that “indiscriminate disclosure” and public posting on the website increases the possibility of the images being morphed, including the counting results which then can create widespread public discomfort and mistrust in the entire electoral process.

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