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Report No. 255

E. Approach to Amendments

8.23. The Law Commission believes that any amendments to the RP Act, 1951 with respect to opinion polls must ensure adequate regard to the public's right to access all relevant information concerning elections. Certain principles may be duly considered before recommending statutory amendments to regulate opinion polls. Mr. Ashok Desai's main concern in his opinion referred to in Part 4 was that to what extent a television broadcast about the election could be subject to certain prohibition.

Mr. Desai's opinion assumes importance for the Law Commission because it examines the contours of Section 126(1)(b), currently the only provision regulating opinion polls, and the duration for which a prohibition can be imposed on display of 'election matter'.376

376. Election Commission of India, 'Amendment of Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951', 29th April 2014

8.24. Mr. Desai opines that in considering Section 126, it is necessary to balance two contending principle.- the right to free and fair elections along with the freedom of speech. Since it is a penal provision, it should be strictly construed in light of the reality of elections in India. Mr. Desai concluded his opinion on Section 126 with the view that,

"The increasing changes in the technology of communication make it necessary that the Law Commission should have another look at the Section and clarify its limits."

8.25. To ensure the independence of the agencies conducting such polls, and to ensure that their findings raise confidence among the voters, their credentials should be known to the public. Following the Canadian example, the organisation conducting or sponsoring the opinion poll/survey should also transmit its own details along with the results of the opinion polls. This would facilitate the public to know the source of such findings and would evoke confidence in the results.

8.26. Apart from the details of the organisation conducting the survey, the results should also include other particulars, such as size of the sample surveyed, sampling method adopted, population from which the sample size was chosen, etc. This will ensure robustness of the findings of the opinion polls. It has been established that opinion polls, irrespective of the manner in which they are conducted, will always have a certain margin of error.

This fact should be made known to the public. Whether published in print media or disseminated through electronic media, findings of opinion polls should always carry a disclaimer that such findings are only predictions which would necessarily have a certain margin of error. This would help ensure that the public is not misled by the results of opinion polls.

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