Abhishek Manu Singhvi castigates ECI for opposing the plea to publicly disclose Form 17C data

Speaking at INC press conference, Singhvi also questioned ECI integrity over toothless response of the polling body against BJP’s “gutter-level” speeches


In the press conference given on May 23 at All India Congress Committee headquarter, Abhishek Manu Singhvi strongly took on the Election Commission of India (ECI) over its response in the form of directives issued to BJP and Congress on May 22 following the parties’ response to the MCC violation notices. Another issue that was highlighted by Singhvi was regarding ECI’s stand in the court that it cannot allow public disclosure of Form 17C, as the disclosed data might be prone to misuse.

He said that the ECI response was “false equivalence” as the directive issued to BJP in response to the party’s complaint to the Commission over “gutter-level” speeches given by BJP’s campaigners was seen as toothless. Singhvi said the party had submitted its complaint in April and it took ECI one month to issue a weak and generic response to the serious allegations raised by it, and comes at a time when elections are almost over. Furthermore, he also highlighted that the directive does not put any restrict or give warning to the ruling party.

Singhhvi said ECI issued a “farmaan” saying that no one should be communal, but it does not name Prime Minister or Home Minister, even by designation, who gave such communal speeches. He went to suggest that ECI is fearful of the ruling regime, and said that it is also a test of ECI as a constitutional body, and it cannot afford to lose in this. He said that ECI should not become an election agent of BJP, and continue to follow the mandate of the Constitution. Critiquing the poll body as it served no notice to the speakers of the complained speeches, he said that the “directions” are mere delightful avoidance statements and sermons. As Singhvi attacked ECI as “supine” over the weak directives, he said that such conduct looks insincere and funny, and only sends message to such speakers that they may continue with such conduct.

He also questioned ECI over the directive issued to INC asking it to avoid making statements that suggest that the Constitution is in danger or maybe abolished. Expressing his surprise, Singhvi asked, “how can saying that the Constitution is in danger violate the MCC?” He said, it astonishes him that such things are happening in our constitutional democracy. Singhvi strongly expressed that ECI as a constitutional body should never become “eager” and “compliant” institution, and “we” wish it never becomes one.

Speaking on the second point about the reluctance of ECI to publicly disclose absolute number of voters in a polling station and other details of Form 17C, Singhvi said that the ECI seems to be engaging in “voter scam” and “decimation” of electoral democracy. He ridiculed ECI for its stand in the Supreme Court opposing the public disclosure of Form 17C data on the ground that the uploaded data is prone to misuse and therefore undesirable and unfeasible. It said how can uploading electoral data be undesirable and unfeasible? If anything, they only strengthen the trust in electoral process.

On ECI’s argument that somebody might take a picture of the online data and morph the image to spread confusion and distrust, Singhvi responded that this can happen to any data or photo, and going by this standard no data can be uploaded. He pointed out that when the Rule 93 of the Conduct of Election Rules itself provides for disclosure of data, including details of Form 17C, on the condition of payment of certain amount, why should ECI not disclose the Form 17C data on its own? Singhvi observed that we are not talking about EVMs right now, but only asking the poll body to disclose the data from Form 17C so that distrust of voters can be addressed. He said ECI as an institution has been nurtured over the last 75 years, and it would be sad if it loses its character as a constitutional electoral body.


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