AA Edit | Why wait for SC? Reveal poll data, silence critics

Election Commission urged to ensure transparency by publishing booth-wise poll data

Update: 2024-05-19 18:59 GMT
Supreme Court. (AP)

The Election Commission of India, which has been facing several uncomfortable questions on its commitment to transparency in the conduct of the ongoing elections to the 18th Lok Sabha, should grab the opportunity provided by the Supreme Court which has raised the question as to what stops the poll body from uploading the details of the booth-wise poll data on its website and silence all accusations of partisan behaviour on its part. In the spirit of the query, it should go ahead and upload these details and thereby answer all questions with the regard to the sanctity of the election data.

The Supreme Court raised the poser while hearing a petition by the Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-governmental organisation, seeking the publication of the scanned legible copies of Form 17C (Part 1) which gives the exact number of votes polled in each polling station. Since the representatives of every authorised political party who was present in the booth would have a copy of the same, they can conduct the verification of the number of votes polled, and the EC can end all the speculation on that count.

It is an indisputable fact that there was an inordinate delay on the part of the EC in publicly releasing the polling data of the first two phases of the election — 11 days in the case of the first phase and four days in the second.

Several political parties and election observers also noticed an unusual spike in the final numbers compared with the preliminary figures. Despite the best efforts of the EC and the conclusion reached by the Supreme Court on the unassailability of the electronic voting machines (EVMs), a section of the population still harbours scepticism about the electro-mechanical device and its infallibility. Many with reasonable expertise on the functioning of such devices even hold that manipulation is possible, but not probable. The EC’s actions have not helped allay such misgivings.
The refusal of the EC to publish the absolute number of votes in each booth and each constituency, instead of the percentage, also defies logic. If the poll body has the total number of votes and the percentage, then publishing the actual numbers is child’s play, but it has not chosen to do so despite political party leaders calling for it. It is unfortunate that the EC is giving rumour mills the grist by refusing to fulfil basic requirements of transparency.

The EC’s contention that the petitions are intended to disturb the elections is untenable. The poll body is mandated by the Constitution and the law to conduct the elections in a free and fair manner and on a level playing field. Its refusal to act against senior politicians, including the Prime Minister who made a series of speeches seeking to pit communities and regions against one another, is regrettable; it is failing in its duty when it forces the voter to make their choice in a vitiated atmosphere. It is all the more inadmissible when it plays hide-and-seek with basic election data. It should not wait for the Supreme Court to come out with an order but instead publish it of its own accord and reassure the people of its commitment to democracy. Transparency in democracy is a work in progress; there are no full stops there. 


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