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SC declines stay on exit polls
Notices to govt, TV channels
Our Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, April 26
The Supreme Court today declined to stay the telecast of exit polls by various TV channels but issued notices to them, the Union Government and the Election Commission on a petition seeking a ban on the opinion and exit polls till the election process was over.

A Bench consisting of Mr Justice S. Rajendra Babu, Mr Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Mr Justice G.P. Mathur also issued notice to the Press Council of India and Attorney General Soli J. Sorabjee.

When senior advocate P.P. Rao, appearing for petitioner, sought stay on the telecast and publication of exit poll results, at least during the last two phases, the court said the time was too short for issuing such an order.

As counsel for news channels — NDTV and Aajtak — and Attorney General said that the public interest litigation (PIL) seeking ban on exit polls, could not be heard unless the affected networks were made parties, the court also issued notices to them and three other channels — Zee TV, Star TV and Sahara TV, seeking their replies.

All these channels are scheduled to telecast exit poll results soon after the casting of votes today.

The PIL filed by advocate D.K. Thakur had sought ban on the opinion and exit polls on the ground that the political parties projected to be doing well in the elections, would use their results for its advantage, which were bound to “influence” electorate decision in favour of that party.

“These polls do not have any positive contribution for the conduct of free and fair elections,” senior advocate P.P. Rao, appearing for the petitioner said.

Since there was no law to regulate these polls, the unrestricted and uncontrolled publication and telecast of the same was “unfortunately destroying the very foundation of democracy as free and fair voting is its basic essence,” he argued.

“This is nothing but undue influence which directly affects the psyche of voters who are yet to cast their votes,” Mr Rao said, adding even the Press Council in its guidelines had laid down that no newspaper should publish exit poll surveys till the election process was over.

As the court pointed out that under which provision the exit polls could be banned as Article 19 (2) protects the citizen’s right of free speech, Mr Rao said it was subject to certain restrictions under Article 19 (1).

The exit polls had no scientific basis and had, most of the time, proved wrong, Mr Rao said giving the example of last Rajasthan Assembly polls where the Congress was projected to be sweeping the election but the actual results were quite contrary as the BJP emerged victorious.


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