The Supreme Court today dismissed a PIL which urged that the Election Commission of India be directed to prohibit publication of exit and opinion polls.
"What kind of PIL is this? Exit polls, opinion polls..how are we concerned with all this? We decline to interfere", Chief Justice Dipak Misra who heads a bench also comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud told advocate Gopal Shankaranarayanan who represented the petitioner Ashwini Upadhyaya, SC lawyer and BJP leader.
The PIL had stressed that unregulated exit poll and opinion poll disseminate false and inaccurate predictions about upcoming elections which influences the behaviour of voters and is against the idea of free and fair elections
Unregulated exit and opinion polls are damaging to both the freedom to receive information under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and democratic ideal of free and fair elections, he said.
“…Sections 126, 126A and 126B were inserted in the Representation of Peoples Act (RPA), to ensure that electors have sufficient time to think independently and exercise their right of vote without influenced by any person or survey. However, it is difficult to achieve the said object because there is no restriction on conducting ‘Opinion Poll’ or disseminating its results in electronic and print media and other similar apparatus,” Upadhyay said.
‘Opinion poll’ and ‘exit poll’ are surveys based on public opinion on upcoming elections conducted by gathering views of a particular group or community aimed at predicting poll results.
While opinion poll is conducted before the election, exit poll is post-poll survey.
Upadhyay said, “Section 126 of the RPA (Prohibition of public meetings during the period of forty-eight hours ending with hour fixed for conclusion of poll) came into effect from 1.8.1996. It prohibits display of any election matter by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus during the period of 48 hours before the conclusion of poll. However, it is silent on ‘Opinion Poll’.