The Election Commission has "urgently" asked the Law Ministry to issue an ordinance to ban opinion polls so that elections in Bihar are conducted in a "free and fair" manner, officials said in New Delhi onWednesday.
In a letter to secretary, law and justice, D.R. Meena, Election Commission Secretary K.F. Wilfred said it is "extremely desirable" that the law on dissemination of opinion polls allowed under the Representation of the People Act, 1951 should be amended urgently.
"It has been observed that various agencies connected with electronic and print media are presently conducting opinion polls in the context of current general election to the Bihar legislative assembly and some of them have even published the results of such opinion polls quite recently," Wilfred said in the letter.
"It is, therefore, extremely desirable that the law on the subject is amended urgently by issuing an ordinance," it said.
A month-long six-phased election for the 243-member assembly in Bihar is beginning Thursday. Voting will be conducted in 47 assembly seats Thursday.
"Such a restriction would be in the wider interests of free and fair elections as such opinion polls often tend to cause prejudicial effect on the minds of electors," he added.
In his letter, he said that in April 2004, the poll panel had discussed exit polls and opinion polls with recognised national and state political parties and had found that there was a "unanimous view" for prohibition on publishing the results of opinion polls. Also, politicians asked that the exit polls should be shown only when elections are over.
The poll panel said it had made a similar recommendation to them April 6, 2004.
"The recent (2010) amendment to the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to prohibit conduct of exit polls is a follow up action on the above mentioned recommendation of the political parties and the commission," said Wilfred, adding that only exit polls were banned.
The commission also stressed that they have issued an order to both print and electronic media for not conducting any exit polls from the first phase of the Bihar elections to the final phase. The ban is effective from 7 a.m. Oct 21 to 5.30 p.m. Nov 20.
Wilfred said although there are restrictions on exit polls, it is "permissible to conduct opinion polls at all times and there will be no restriction even on the dissemination of results of such opinion polls."
"It may be possible to prohibit the dissemination of results of opinion polls during the period of 48 hours ending with the close of poll in any polling area under section 126(1)(b) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951," he urged.
"The publication or dissemination of results of opinion polls when the election process is still on, will defeat the very purpose and object underlying the prohibition imposed on the conduct and dissemination of results of exit polls by the above referred sections 126A and 126B of the Representation of the People Act, 1951," he stressed in his letter.