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EC asks media to exercise caution over dissemination of opinion polls

MUMBAI: The Election Commission has advised news channels and newspapers not to show or publish exit polls masquerading as opinion polls. The EC has banned the publication or telecast of exit polls from 7 April, when the first phase of polling began, till 12 May, the last phase of the polling.

The EC advisory came after some news channels aired opinion polls on 14 April even for constituencies which have already gone to polls. As many as 111 constituencies had gone to polls in the first four phases of election, the result for which will be announced on 16 May.

“In view of the fact the results of the aforesaid ‘opinion poll’ also included results in respect of various polls which have already been concluded in 111 parliamentary constituencies held on 7, 9, 10, 11 and 12 April 2014, this dissemination of results of opinion polls in effect become the dissemination of results of exit polls in respect of the said constituencies,” EC said in a communication to editors and heads of news channels and newspapers.

“Commission has noticed that the results of the aforesaid ‘opinion poll’ indeed included the number of seats expected to be won by political parties where polls have already been held.”

While the EC refused to name the media houses, the opinion poll was telecast by NDTV and was published by several leading newspapers.

The EC said that the telecast and publishing of the opinion polls amounts to violation of Section 126A of Representation of Peoples Act, 1951 that prohibits publication and dissemination of exit polls.

The commission pointed out that the prohibited ‘period may commence from the beginning of the hours fixed for poll on the first day of poll and continues till half an hour after closing of the polling in all the states and union territories’.

“In order to maintain a level playing field and to ensure free and fair elections, the Commission advises all print and electronic media not to resort to the type of practice as mentioned… which, for all practical purposes, mean publication of exit polls while claiming that the same is only an opinion poll,” the EC concluded.