New Delhi: In a rare instance, the Election Commission (EC) has directed electoral officers in 15 districts of Uttar Pradesh, which went to the polls in the first phase of the state assembly election on Saturday, to file first information reports (FIRs) with the police against the editorial leadership of Hindi newspaper Dainik Jagran for publishing an exit poll.
The model code of conduct explicitly prohibits publication of exit polls before the completion of all phases of voting. FIRs will also be filed against the management of Resource Development International (I) Pvt. Ltd, the agency which conducted the exit poll. Lucknow district’s poll officer too has been asked to file an FIR.
Jagran Prakashan Ltd publishes Dainik Jagran, the country’s most-read newspaper.
Calls and text messages to Sanjay Gupta, chief executive and editor of the newspaper, remained unanswered. Calls to the telephone number listed on Resource Development International’s website remained unanswered.
The poll watchdog, in a letter to the Uttar Pradesh chief electoral Officer, said the conduct of the exit poll and its dissemination through Dainik Jagran’s website was a violation of tenets of Representation of People’s Act (RPA) as well as those of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
A senior editor at Dainik Jagran, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed the exit polls were not published in any of the print editions of the newspaper. The same person said some representatives of the newspaper met with the Lucknow officials of the EC to explain their point of view.
An official from the EC, however, said that the “conduct and dissemination” of the exit polls itself is an offence and covers all print and electronic media. The violation of this section of RPA is punishable by imprisonment for a term up to two years or with fine or both.
On 27 January, the EC had issued a notification stating that exit polls were banned between 4 February and 8 March—the last date of voting.
Hindustan, published by Hindustan Media Ventures Ltd, a subsidiary of HT Media Ltd, which publishes Mint and Hindustan Times, competes with Dainik Jagran.