Supreme Court seeks ECI's response in ADR's plea for immediate publication of polling data

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Without the absolute number of voter turnout data, the general public cannot compare the number of votes polled with the number of votes counted as announced in the results and thus, discrepancies in the two sets of data can only be assessed when absolute numbers for each constituency are released by the ECI, court has been told

The Supreme Court of India has directed the Election Commission (ECI) to file a reply to an application seeking a direction to ECI to immediately upload voting data of all polling stations after close of polling of each phase in the on-going 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

This direction is sought for release of data as per Form 17C of Conduct of Election Rules, 1961.

"Direct the Election Commission of India to provide tabulated polling station-wise data in absolute figures of the number of votes polled as recorded in Form 17C Part- I after each phase of polling in the on-going 2024 Lok Sabha elections and also a tabulation of constituency wise figures of voter turnout in absolute numbers in the on-going 2024 Lok Sabha elections..", the application filed by Association for Democratic Reforms states.

A CJI DY Chandrachud led bench took up the application today after an urgent mentioning was done by Advocate Prashant Bhushan appearing for ADR.

Senior Advocate Maninder Singh on behalf of ECI claimed that the application was based on absolutely false allegations. "You can't raise the issue of 17C one after the another..Justice Khanna and Datta have already dealt with this issue..", court was told.

Singh referred to the April 26, 2024 judgment of the Supreme Court whereby the pleas for 100% verification of EVM and VVPAT was refused.

Bhushan responded to this submission saying that the said issue was not raised in the petition.

"At this stage, four phases of the elections have already been completed. The ECI has said they need some time to file a reply. We take that into consideration and grant one week's time...", a bench also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra went on to order.

The matter will now be taken up on May 24.

A further direction has been sought by ADR for ECI to upload on its website scanned legible copies of Form 17C Part- II which contains the candidate-wise result of counting after the compilation of results of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

"The ECI not releasing absolute number of votes polled, coupled with the unreasonable delay in release of votes polled data, has led to apprehensions in the mind of the electorate about the sharp increase between initial data and data released on 30.04.2024....", the application states.

Court has further been told that under the Rules of 1961, polling station is mandated to give Form 17C to the polling agents so this information is readily available by the time of close of poll on the day of polling.