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Making Form 17C Data Public Will Cause Confusion Among Voters: Poll Body

It said uploading of Form 17C on the website can lead to mischief.

New Delhi:

The Election Commission of India on Wednesday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court saying disclosure of voter turnout data based on Form 17C (records of votes polled in each polling station) will cause confusion among voters as it will also include postal ballot counts.

The ECI in an affidavit filed before the top court contended that there is no legal right that can be claimed towards publishing final authenticated data of voter turnout in all polling stations.

It said uploading of Form 17C on the website can lead to mischief and that there are possibilities of images being morphed, which can create “widespread discomfort and mistrust”.

“In any electoral contest, the margin of victory may be very close. In such cases, disclosure of Form 17C in public domain may cause confusion in the minds of the voters with regard to the total votes polled as the latter figure would include the number of votes polled as per Form 17C as well as the votes received through postal ballots. However, such difference may not be easily understood by the voters and may be used by persons with motivated interests to cast aspersion on the whole electoral process… cause chaos in the election machinery which is already in motion,” the affidavit stated.

If further stated that as per rules, Form 17C needs to be given only to the polling agent and rules do not permit the giving of Form 17C to any other entity. General disclosure of Form 17C to public is not contemplated by Rules, ECI told the top court.

The poll panel filed the affidavit on an application by NGO Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) seeking disclosure of final authenticated data of voter turnout in all polling stations including the number of votes polled in the Lok Sabha Elections 2024 within 48 hours of the polling.

The ECI sought dismissal of application filed by ADR saying that certain “vested interests” keep on throwing false allegations at it to discredit its working.

Last week, the Supreme Court asked ECI to file its response on the application seeking direction to immediately upload account of votes recorded of all polling stations after the close of polling of each phase in the ongoing 2024 Lok Sabha election.

The NGO ADR alleged inordinate delay in the publication of voter turnout data of the first two phases of polling in the elections.

The application, besides delay in publishing the voter-turnout details, said there was a sharp spike in figures from the initial voter turnout percentages released by the Election Commission.

It sought a direction to the Election Commission 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 ongoing 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.

It further asked for uploading on the ECI website the scanned legible copies of Form 17C Part- II which contained the candidate-wise result of counting after the compilation of results of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The application said the voter turnout data for the first two phases of the Lok Sabha elections were published by the ECI on April 30, after 11 days of the first phase of polling held on April 19 and four days after the second phase of polling held on April 26.

It said that the data published by the ECI in its April 30 press release showed a sharp increase (by about 5-6 per cent) from the initial percentages announced by it on the polling day.

The NGO pointed out the data published in the press release by the ECI on April 30, 2024 (Phase I voter turnout- 66.14 per cent and Phase II voter turnout – 66.71 per cent) when compared with the initial data of April 19, 2024 and April 26, 2024 respectively showed an increase of nearly 6 per cent in the Phase I data and increase of approximately 5.75 per cent in the Phase II data.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)