Explained: What is Form 17C, which keeps track of votes, why is the Election Commission shying away from making it public?

Ronit Kawale
Ronit Kawale - Senior Editor
7 Min Read

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has stopped the hearing related to the release of final voting figures by the Election Commission (ECI). The Supreme Court refused to order the Election Commission to publish the figures. In fact, the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) had demanded in its petition that the Election Commission release the data of votes cast at every polling booth within 48 hours of voting. In its petition, ADR had also demanded to upload the scanned copy of Form 17C on the Election Commission's website. Actually this controversy started because the figures released by the Commission after the voting are quite different from the final voter percentage which was released much later.

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What argument did the Election Commission give in the Supreme Court?

In an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Election Commission said that making the voting data of every polling station public on the website can create confusion in the election machinery. This machinery is already working for the Lok Sabha elections. Opposition parties also raised questions on the delay in providing information about the voting percentage. The Election Commission has also rejected such allegations.

How vote percentage increased after polling, Election Commission told Supreme Court

What did the Commission say on not making Form 17C public?

Regarding not disclosing Form 17C, the Election Commission told the Supreme Court that giving complete information and making Form 17C public is not part of the statutory framework. This can lead to confusion in the entire electoral area. The images of these data can be morphed, that is, they can be tampered with.

If needed, we will sit for the whole night for the hearing… 'Supreme' hearing on increasing the voting percentage, know what arguments were given

Congress leader Singhvi said- then no data will be uploaded

Congress leader and senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said in a press conference on May 23 that the Election Commission's response is strange and in a way illogical. The Commission is being protected. This is unfortunate and shows that the Election Commission is one-sided. The Election Commission says that the data will be tampered with. Someone can morph the photo, so no data can be uploaded.

What is Form 17C, on which there is a dispute

Under the Election Act, 1961, the data of voters is filled in two forms during elections. The first is called Form 17A. In which the polling officer at every booth records every detail of every voter and also signs the register. After this, Form 17C is filled at the end of the voting. Form 17C contains information such as the name and number of the polling station, the ID number of the EVM used, the total number of eligible voters for that particular polling station and the votes recorded in each voting machine.

Form 17C

How are votes counted?

According to Rule 49S and 56C of the Representation of the People Act, 1961, at the end of voting, the presiding officer prepares an account of the votes recorded in Form 17C. This work has to be done immediately after the voting process is over. Form 17C has two parts. In the first part, the number of votes cast is counted. In the second part, the number of voters and how many of them voted is calculated. Since the first part is filled only on the day of voting, the opposition is demanding to make it public.

Why is the Election Commission hesitating?

Actually, the Election Commission is hesitant to publish Form 17C online because publishing the data of all the booths across the country separately can cause a lot of problems. Let us understand from the graphic given below what information is there in it.

Form 17C

It is difficult for agents to collect Form 17C at every booth

There are about 2,000 to 3,000 booths in a constituency. It is not possible for a candidate to have agents at so many booths. To get a copy of Form 17C, a candidate will have to have 2,000 polling agents in his constituency. It will be very difficult for small parties and many independent candidates to have polling agents at all the booths.

Navbharat TimesWhen there was an uproar over the difference in voting percentage, the Election Commission explained the entire mathematics.

Why is Form 17C considered necessary?

The data in Form 17C is used by the candidates to verify the results by matching it with the EVM count on the counting day. If any discrepancy is found in the data, a petition can also be filed in the court.

election commission of india

Questions are being raised on the credibility of the Election Commission

Complete voting data of previous elections released

In the last election, the total number of votes cast in any constituency is released. No questions were raised on this then. This time questions are being raised on releasing the final voting percentage after several days.

Kapil Sibal said- why are the votes cast not uploaded?
Now Rajya Sabha MP and Supreme Court Bar Association President Kapil Sibal has said that if the counted votes can be uploaded then why not the cast votes? How can we trust such a commission! Kapil Sibal quipped that now we will have to go to God, Modi is God.

Navbharat TimesElections are going on, there is no interference in between… Supreme Court gives a blow to the petitioner who sought voting data.
How did the matter reach the Supreme Court?
Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and Common Cause had filed a petition in the Supreme Court regarding uploading the scanned copy of Form 17C related to the number of votes cast at the booths. In this petition, it was demanded that the Election Commission should release the total number of votes cast on the website immediately after the voting ends.

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