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No legal ground to ban opinion, exit polls: Govt

08-April-2004
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No legal ground to ban opinion, exit polls: Govt

All political parties and the Election Commission want a ban on opinion and exit polls. But the government may not oblige them, for there is hardly any legal ground available to ban such polls.

Speaking to FE, official sources said that it would be extremely difficult to justify such a ban. The Article 19 of the Constitution, which is about the freedom of speech and expression, imposes “reasonable restrictions” on this freedom. But these restrictions can only be imposed on the grounds of the “sovereignty and integrity of India or public order, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.”

None of these grounds can be used to ban opinion or exit polls, said official sources, adding that a final decision is yet to be taken. At an all-party meet on Tuesday, consensus emerged regarding such a ban.

It may be recalled that opinion and exit polls have always been a contentious issue. There was controversy on them in 1997 and again in 1999.

Even today, political parties are divided on the issue. The Congress, which is said to be losing in the two major opinion polls, sees them as “opinion-making polls.”

The BJP is not against but has reservations about exit polls. The results of the latter should not be made public before the last phase of the elections, according to the BJP.

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