Supreme Court today issued notice to the Election Commission of India on a plea by TMC MP Mahua Moitra seeking directions to the poll body to publish details of voter turnout and final vote counts on their website.
Senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan appearing for Moitra informed the court that Form 17C part I, 17C part II and Form 20 are prepared under the Conduct of Election Rules 1961 to record information regarding total votes recorded, result of counting and final result sheet respectively. It was also submitted that the practice of publishing Form 20 has been around since 2004, but was discontinued during the 2019 general elections. The allegation levied is that Form 20 was being published till the first four phases, but the poll body stopped doing so for the fifth, sixth and seventh phases in the wake of discrepancies emerging between the total votes polled and total votes counted on EVMs. Upon being questioned by the bench, comprising of CJI SA Bobde and Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant, whether this was only the case only in Bengal, Sankaranarayanan informed that the petitioner was an MP from West Bengal, but that should not be confused with the plea which is regarding all of India.
CJI Bobde also asked if the publishing of the Forms was mandated by the Election Manual.
With regard to this aspect, the petition invokes Article 19(1)(a) to state that the right to know and receive information about the integrity of the electoral process mandates a direction from court to the poll body to formulate a protocol for publishing this information. It has further been submitted that these are statutory forms which the poll body is under no legal obligation to publish, however it does have a Constitutional duty under Article 324 to ensure the credibility of the election process is upheld and democracy is allowed to thrive. Accountability and transparency of the election process has been cited to urge the court to direct the ECI to come up with a protocol for publishing these forms, which in turn are used to tally information during elections. It has further been prayed that information regarding Form 17C part I and 17C part II (total voter turnout and total votes cast) in every subsequent parliamentary and assembly election must be published on the ECI website within 48 hours of them being created, and Form 20 (the final result sheet) must be published in 7 days after it's readied.