Law Minister asks EC to consult parties afresh on opinion poll ban

Government has thrown the ball back into the court of the Election Commission on the issue of banning opinion polls.

Updated: Oct 02, 2013, 22:28 PM IST

New Delhi: Government has thrown the ball back into the court of the Election Commission on the issue of banning opinion polls, asking it to hold fresh consultations with political parties on the issue.

The Law Ministry has written back to the Commission and asked it to seek the views of various parties again on the issue of opinion poll ban, it is learnt.

Highly-placed sources said Law Minister Kapil Sibal has returned the file on banning opinion polls, despite Attorney General G E Vahanvati`s opinion favouring the EC proposal.

The Law Ministry had sought the AG`s opinion on the issue and the Attorney General had supported the Commission`s proposal to ban publication and broadcast of opinion polls between the announcement of election schedule and the final phase of polling. At present, there is a ban on opinion polls starting from 48 hours before voting.

However, Sibal sent the file back to EC asking it to consult the parties again and seek their views afresh on the issue.

Sibal had earlier said "no government should ban opinion polls without consulting political parties".
The EC had sought a ban on publication and broadcast of the results of opinion polls starting from the date of notification of elections till the completion of the last phase of polls to Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

The ban was sought on the lines of the one in place for exit polls, which cannot be published or broadcast till the last phase of polling is over.

The EC had sought the views of various political parties in 2004 when they unanimously sought a ban on opinion polls and the poll body based its proposal on these consultations.

After the Law Ministry`s suggestion, EC will again convene a meeting with representatives of various political parties shortly for holding consultations on the issue.

In his opinion, the AG had said, "As rightly pointed out
by the EC, what is paramount is the necessity to have free and fair elections. One cannot disagree with the view of the EC that such opinion polls often tend to cause a prejudicial effect on the minds of the electors."

He had said "one must also take into consideration the views of the political parties at the meeting held on April 6, 2004 and the unanimous view expressed therein" in favour of banning opinion poll.

The government`s top law officer had said he is of the opinion that there is no "real basis" to distinguish between opinion polls and exit polls since the exit polls have already been restricted.

The Congress has also said it has "not taken a decision" on the issue of banning opinion polls as there are "too contradictory views" on the proposal of the Election Commission in this regard.

"We have not taken a decision. There are too contradictory views on it. Election Commission`s proposal is more strict and wider. May be a decision has to be taken," Congress spokesperson P C Chacko had said.