Election Commission ban on exit polls overrides right under freedom of press, court told

'If we cannot conduct exit polls during election process, what results do we publish?' asks media house

March 08, 2017 12:36 pm | Updated 03:14 pm IST - Panaji

An affidavit was filed in the Bombay High Court at Goa by the Goa Additional Chief Electoral Officer Narayan Navti on Monday stating that the Election Commission's order curtails the right under Freedom of Press  to conduct exit polls and declare results during the election process. In the affidavit filed in connection with a petition filed by a Goa media house, the ACEO added that it is a reasonable restriction imposed in the interest of public order and morality.

The ACEO in his affidavit reiterated that exit polls are prohibited between February 4 from 7 a.m. and  5.30pm of March 9. The Election Commission of India had earlier stated that that the exit polls can be telecast after 5.30 pm on March 8, 30 minutes after polling ends. But the deadline was later extended to March 9.

Speaking to The Hindu , the petitioner, Pramod Acharya, editor of Prudent Television, asked that since the Election Commission had prohibited them from even conducting exit poll as per its affidavit, "Which exit polls it is allowing [to telecast]by the way?" The Goa-based media house had filed a petition before the High Court pleading to allow them to conduct an exit poll and to publish it after 5.30 p.m. on March 8. High Court did not grant the interim relief to the petitioner to collect the data on the election day, but the court observed that the prayers need to be heard.  ACEO in his affidavit filed before the High Court has contended that in view of the notification dated January 27, 2017 issued by ECI, any media has no right to conduct exit poll data on the election day. CEO has further contended that while seeking the relief to collect data on the election day, the petitioner should have challenged the notification issued by ECI.  During the hearing on Monday, the High Court raised the question as to why it is written that 'publication of Exit Poll result during code of conduct period is not allowed' if the collecting data itself is barred. The High Court has adjourned the hearing for March 15.

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