Source: 
TNIE
https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2024/May/24/plea-seeking-directions-to-ec-to-release-total-voter-turnout-data-sc-prefers-hands-off-approach
Author: 
Suchitra Kalyan Mohanty
Date: 
24.05.2024
City: 
New Delhi

The interim application was filed by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in a writ petiton filed by it in 2019.

The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned an application seeking directions to the Election Commission of India to publish the booth-wise absolute numbers of voter turnout and upload the form 17C records of votes polled on its website.

While declining to pass any order on the plea of ADR and Mahua Moitra, a Vacation Bench of the top court, led by Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Satish Chandra Sharma said, "We did not find any merit in the prayers to issue any direction to the ECI."

Noting that the interim plea raised by the petitioners in the present plea was the same as the one that was already raised in the main petition pending before the Court since 2019, and thereby we were not inclined to entertain it.

"Granting the interim relief (to the petitioners) would mean allowing the final relief," the apex court held.

The ADR had moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Commission to upload polling station-wise voter turnout data in figures on its website within 48 hours of polling for each phase of ongoing Lok Sabha polls.

Refusing to pass any interim order, the court said, a hands off approach is needed in the midst of polls. "We are also responsible citizens and we must have a hands off approach," the bench of the top court opined and added that the matter might be listed for hearing, after the ongoing Lok Sabha polls.

"Prima facie we are not inclined to grant any interim relief since prayer A (of the petitioners) of the 2019 petition is similar to prayer B of the 2024 application. List the interim plea after (summer) vacation," the Court said without fixing any exact date for hearing the case.

Days ahead before the hearing in the case, the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that uploading of Form 17C (record of votes polled) on website can lead to mischief, that there are possibilities of images being morphed, which can create “widespread discomfort and mistrust”.

The EC in the affidavit, after complying with the apex court's last order, of May 17, filed a reply on the issue on the plea filed by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

The ECI submitted to the apex court that a wholesome disclosure of Form 17C is amenable to mischief and vitiation of entire electoral space.

"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 ECI told the top court.

The ECI further submitted in its affidavit in the top court that indiscriminate disclosure, 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 processes.

The Supreme Court on Friday had sought a detailed response from the ECI after hearing the plea from the ADR, seeking a direction to the Commission to upload polling station-wise voter turnout data in figures on its website within 48 hours of polling for each phase of ongoing Lok Sabha polls.

The main plea was rejected by the top court on April 26.

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