voter turnout

1. The Supreme Court declined a plea directing the Election Commission to publish polling station voter turnout data.
2. The court suggested addressing the matter after the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
3. Justices emphasized a hands-off approach during the election process.

New Delhi, May 24: The Supreme Court declined to consider a plea that sought to direct the Election Commission of India (ECI) to publish final voter turnout data for all polling stations on its website.

The Court indicated that this matter should be addressed after the conclusion of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

A vacation bench comprising Justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma emphasized the necessity of maintaining a hands-off approach during the election process. “Tomorrow is the sixth phase of elections. We feel that this case should be heard after the elections,” the bench noted, underscoring the importance of non-interference at this critical juncture.

The plea, filed by the NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), requested a directive compelling the ECI to upload polling station-wise voter turnout data on its website within 48 hours of the conclusion of voting for each phase of the Lok Sabha elections.

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During the hearing, the Election Commission argued against the plea, asserting that such actions might instigate unnecessary suspicion among voters.

“The petition is only founded on suspicion and apprehension. Conducting elections is a herculean task being performed and should not let such vested interests interfere,” the poll body stated, defending its current procedures and highlighting the complexity of managing elections in a country as large and diverse as India.

The ADR’s plea pointed out that voter turnout data for the first two phases of the Lok Sabha elections was published with significant delays, specifically 11 and 14 days after polling, respectively.

This delay, coupled with substantial revisions of over five per cent in the reported data, has raised public concerns and suspicions regarding the accuracy and transparency of the voter turnout figures.

“In order to ensure easy accessibility of the data, a tabulation of the constituency and polling station wise figures of voter turnout in absolute numbers and in percentage must also be disclosed,” the plea stated.

The NGO contended that the timely publication of detailed voter turnout data is crucial for maintaining public trust in the electoral process.

On May 17, the Supreme Court had given the Election Commission one week to file its response to the plea challenging the delay in releasing voter turnout data.

The ADR had also filed an interim application within its 2019 Public Interest Litigation (PIL) requesting that “scanned legible copies of Form 17C Part-I (Account of Votes Recorded)” for all polling stations be uploaded immediately after the polls.

Form 17C Part-I is a critical document in the election process, as it records the account of votes cast at each polling station.

The ADR argued that making these forms publicly accessible would enhance transparency and allow for independent verification of the reported voter turnout figures.

The Supreme Court’s decision to postpone the hearing reflects a careful consideration of the electoral process’s integrity, prioritizing the smooth conduct of the remaining election phases over immediate judicial intervention.

The Court’s approach underscores the importance of maintaining stability and public confidence during elections, suggesting that any potential issues with data transparency should be addressed comprehensively once the electoral process is complete.