In the wake of allegations that some firms which conducted pre-election surveys were willing to tweak their findings, Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath on Wednesday said the Election Commission has in the past given recommendations on opinion polls and it was now for the government to act.
He said the Election Commission will look into the allegations levelled by a TV news channel after a purported sting operation that “exposed” eleven agencies which conducted opinion polls.
“As far as opinion polls are concerned, Commission has taken a view, not today but ten years back in the year 2004 after they held an all-party meeting. They made their recommendations, subsequently also they collected the views of different political parties which have been given. The ball is in the court of the government,” Mr. Sampath said.
The EC had in its recommendation called for restriction on opinion polls for a specified period during the election process.
He was asked as to what course of action the Election Commission would take on the claims made by a TV channel which did a sting operation on some polling agencies.
“We will certainly look into the matter. Whatever legal action that needs to be taken, that will be duly examined,” Mr. Sampath replied.
He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a workshop organised for the All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan correspondents, where Prasar Bharati CEO Jawhar Sircar and Information and Broadcasting secretary Bimal Julka were also present.
Earlier, speaking at the event Mr. Sampath said that the Indian general elections were the “mother of all election” which amazed people from other countries.
Congress seeks restriction
Taking exception to alleged manipulation of opinion poll results by leading agencies, Congress knocked at the doors of the Election Commission seeking its intervention to register an FIR, invoke criminal charges and debar those involved.
Congress has also demanded that the Commission invokes its powers under Artcile 324 of the Constitution to ensure free and fair polls by issuing instructions banning opinion polls until expiry of 48 hours from the close of polling for the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.
In a letter to Chief Election Commissioner V.S. Sampath and other ECs, AICC Secretary K.C. Mittal has sought the Commission’s immediate intervention and issuance of appropriate instructions to restrict publication of such opinion polls in view of the sting operation.
The Congress also sought the EC’s intervention in registering an FIR and debarring those involved.
A TV news channel on Tuesday claimed that a sting operation conducted by it had shown that some of the agencies which conduct opinion polls before elections are willing to tweak their findings for money.
The channel claimed that its sting operation had “exposed” 11 agencies which conducted opinion polls.
“Since the Lok Sabha elections are due to be held in the near future and the manner in which opinion polls are managed and manipulated and are capable of being managed and manipulated by the vested interest, it is a serious threat and danger to the conduct of fair poll by the Commission, a duty and responsibility cast under article 324 of Constitution of India,” Mr. Mittal said in his letter.
He said the sting operation reveals the manner in which voters are being “duped and cheated in a fraudulent and dishonest manner which is disastrous for democracy and fair polls“.
Congress said the nature of revelation and manner would fully justify the immediate intervention and action by the Commission to invoke its powers under Article 324 of the Constitution and issue necessary instructions so as to ensure free and fair poll.
It also demanded that the matter be also referred to Press Council of India, the Ministry of I&B for their action under their authority.