The Supreme Court on Monday passed the buck to the Election Commission for framing guidelines to regulate telecast or publication of exit polls.
A bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan said it hadn’t stopped the poll panel from regulating publication or telecast of exit polls before elections. “The Election Commission is free to frame its guidelines,” the bench said while hearing a public interest litigation seeking a ban on exit polls.
The court said it wouldn’t pass any directions as Parliament was seized of the matter. The Rajya Sabha has passed laws banning publication of exit polls, but the Bill is yet to be ratified by the Lok Sabha.
The court’s clarification came after Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Sharan and poll panel’s advocate Meenakshi Arora explained that in response to the suit, pending since 2004, the court had made critical observation against the election commission’s decision to frame guidelines.
The court had criticised the poll panel for framing guidelines that violated citizens’ fundamental right to speech and expression.
Following the observation, the poll panel had junked guidelines banning the exit and opinion polls and left it to the government and Parliament to frame a law on it.
Arora told the court that publication of exit polls for a limited period — after the poll schedule is announced to the last day of voting — will “only be a reasonable restriction in the larger interest of the democracy”.