- India needs a law to protect Internet: Rahul on Net Neutrality
- A father-daughter angle in latest IPL conflict of interest
- Pak Army announces special force for protecting Chinese citizens
- Modi govt clears projects but where are the orders?
- Crew have ‘verbally’ admitted they are Pak nationals: Coast Guard
A ban on opinion polls during elections is unnecessary. It would also be unreasonably restrictive.
It is attorney general versus attorney general on the propriety of opinion polls during elections. The serving AG, Goolam E. Vahanvati, argues that opinion polls are in the same category as exit polls, which are already banned. He opines that the government can ban them as undesirable influencers of voter choice. But in 2004, Soli Sorabjee, the then AG, had advised the government that a ban would infringe upon the constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech. As the government seeks a way out from between a rock and a hard place, it would do well to remember that this argument trumps all else.
Another way out would be to lighten up. Opinion polls only speculate on how voters may behave in the future. Given the methodology and sample sizes that some use, they are frequently and spectacularly wrong. In fact, they could even be regarded as entertainment rather than news. They do not have the compelling force of exit polls, which could arguably encourage herd behaviour in multi-phase elections by revealing how voters have actually behaved elsewhere. But the question also is: if opinion polls are to be banned, would that argument be stretched to curbs on the media next? After all, doesn't the media try to influence the public with opinion and speculation? Persuasion is the basis of all democratic processes, so it is best not to embark on this path at all. Whether or not opinion pollsters are reliable, the bottom line is that they have a right to be heard.