Source: 
Deccan Herald
https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/editorial/absolute-numbers-please-ec-not-excuses-3031341
Author: 
DHNS
Date: 
21.05.2024
City: 

NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has petitioned the Supreme Court to direct the ECI to upload the account of votes recorded in all polling stations 48 hours after the polling ends for each phase in the ongoing elections.

It is unfortunate that the Election Commission of India (ECI) has not provided detailed voting data of the past rounds of elections, even after demands for such data by opposition parties and others, and has instead given unconvincing reasons for its failure to do so. In previous elections, the ECI put up the data, with absolute numbers and percentages of votes polled, as a matter of standard practice of transparency to ensure free and fair elections.

NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has petitioned the Supreme Court to direct the ECI to upload the account of votes recorded in all polling stations 48 hours after the polling ends for each phase in the ongoing elections.

The petition also sought absolute figures of the number of votes polled, as recorded in Form 17C Part-I, and a tabulation of constituency-wise figures of voter turn-out in absolute numbers. It was pointed out that there was a mismatch in the voting percentage data in the first two rounds.

The ADR said the final voting figures showed an abnormal increase of 6 per cent over the preliminary data. It said there was a sudden spurt in actual voter turn-out in all the phases of the polls and questioned the delay in releasing the final figures.

The petition also sought uploading on the EC website scanned legible copies of Form 17C Part-II, which contain the candidate-wise result of counting after the compilation of results.

When the court queried the EC on these matters, it said that the entire process, including the compilation of Form 17C, takes time. This is a  familiar excuse and is not tenable in the time of fast computing. It also said that an aggrieved candidate can file an election petition if there is discrepancy in data.

This is a wrong and insensitive response from the Election Commission, not least because an election petition usually takes years to be settled. It also said that petitions such as the one filed by ADR would dissuade voters from casting votes. These responses are not worthy of the Election Commission which has the mandate to conduct free and fair elections.

The court has issued notice to the Election Commission on the matter. The contention that absolute numbers of voter turn-out are necessary to compare the number of votes polled with the number of votes counted is correct, and the demand is legitimate.

The EC has the data, and there is no reason for it to withhold it. Transparency in functioning is key to the credibility of the EC and of the election itself.

The EC has attracted much criticism for what it did and did not do during the election campaign. The court has given it a week’s time to file its response and will take up the matter on May 24. But the EC should not wait for the court’s direction and should publish on its own all the data that it has and remove the doubts that have been raised about the matter.

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