SC refuses to direct ECI to upload voter turnout data

NEW DELHI, 24 May: The Supreme Court on Friday refused an NGO’s plea to issue the Election Commission of India (ECI) directions to upload polling station-wise voter turnout data on its website during the Lok Sabha polls, saying that a “hands-off approach” needs to be adopted during the elections.
A vacation bench of Justices Dipankar Datta and Satish Chandra Sharma said that it cannot issue any such directions at the moment as five phases of polling have concluded and two remain and it would be difficult for the poll panel to mobilise manpower.
The top court adjourned the interlocutory application (IA) filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) to be listed before the regular bench after the elections, and pointed out that prima facie it appears that the prayers in the application are similar to the main petition pending since 2019 on the issue.
“This (IA) has to be taken with the pending writ petition because in between the elections, a hands-off approach has to be adopted,” it said, and pointed out that it would be difficult for the ECI to mobilise manpower for uploading the voter turnout data on its website.
“Granting any relief in IA will amount to granting relief in the main petition which is pending,” the bench said.
It said that it needs to understand the ground reality and not overburden the poll panel by changing the process midway.
On 17 May, the top court had sought within a week the ECI’s response on the NGO’s plea seeking a direction to upload polling station-wise voter turnout data on its website within 48 hours of the conclusion of polling for each phase of the Lok Sabha elections.
The ADR has filed an interim application in its 2019 PIL, seeking directions to the poll panel that “scanned legible copies of Form 17C Part-I (Account of Votes Recorded)” of all polling stations be uploaded immediately after the polls.
In its affidavit, the poll panel opposed the NGO’s demand, stating that it will “vitiate” the electoral space and cause “chaos” in the poll machinery in the midst of the general elections.
The poll panel has said that there is no legal mandate to provide Form 17C to any person other than the candidate or their agent. (PTI)