Home / Politics & Governance / FORM 17C: THE GREAT INDIAN ELECTION


We have all observed the uproar over the past few weeks over the discrepancy between the percentage of votes declared on polling night and the updates by the Election Commission one week later. If the difference had been little, no one would have noticed, but when it is revealed to be 1.1 cr votes, a few eyebrows are sure to be raised. Opposition parties and a few civil society organizations have been demanding the Election Commission of India (ECI) to upload online, the actual number of votes rather the percentage of votes cast at every booth.

The ECI, unlike in 2019, has not disclosed the total number of votes cast in any constituency in this general election, which has infuriated the opposition. After significant delay in the first two phases, voting percentages are the only information provided. The ECI contends that only the candidate and polling agents—not the general public or even the media—should receive Form 17 C (Part 1), which includes this information concerning the precise number of votes cast among other details.

Let’s understand, what is Form 17C and why it is considered a very crucial document related to elections in India?

Form 17C is a stamped certificate handed out to the polling agent of a candidate by the presiding officer of a booth. It contains essential data related to the absolute number of votes polled in that specific booth on the polling date. Details included are –

⦁ Identification Numbers of EVMs: These are the numbers of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) used in the polling station.

⦁ Total Number of Electors: The count of voters assigned to that specific polling station.

⦁ Total Number of Voters (from Form 17A): The number of voters as entered in the Register for Voters (Form 17A).

⦁ Voters Deciding Not to Record Votes: The count of voters who decided not to record their votes after signing the register

It is this piece of paper (read Form 17C part I) which has become the bone of contention between the Opposition and civil society groups on one hand and the Election Commission of India on the other during the ongoing general elections 2024.

For your information, additionally, Part II of Form 17C contains the counting results, which are entered on the day of counting. This data is considered final and can be used for legal challenges if needed. Candidates use Form 17C data to verify results on the counting day.

The Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to respond to an application filed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). The ADR seeks directions for the ECI to disclose authenticated records of voter turnout. Specifically, they want scanned legible copies of Form 17C Part-I (Account of Votes Recorded) from all polling stations to be uploaded on the ECI’s website after each phase of polling in the ongoing 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

The Supreme Court has asked the Election Commission – Why it is taking so long to upload the turnout data and fixed May 24 as the next date for hearing.

Senior officials in the Election Commission as well as those who have been part of the system, however, dismiss any scope for “tampering” with the data at booth level. The team of polling officers in any booth is randomized and allotted their booths only on the eve of elections. This coupled with the fact that they are drawn from different segments like government schools and public sector banks makes it impossible for any kind of wrong-doing to take place. On the day of counting too the EVMs are first tallied using QR codes and then opened.


1. Logistical and Financial Burden: Deploying polling agents to every booth is a significant logistical and financial challenge, especially for smaller parties or independent candidates.

2. Coordination Difficulties: Given the large number of polling stations in each constituency, coordinating the collection of Form 17C from all booths can be daunting.

3. Transparency Concerns: There is an ongoing debate about making Form 17C publicly available online to increase transparency and trust in the electoral process.

4. Legal Debates: The current legal stance does not allow public access to Form 17C, and this issue is subject to legal debates and demands for reform.

5. Data Discrepancies: Concerns have been raised about discrepancies in voter turnout data, which could lead to suspicions of data tampering or inaccuracies.

6. Public Trust: The lack of transparency in disclosing the absolute number of votes polled can diminish public trust in the electoral outcomes.

7. Judicial Intervention: The matter has reached the judiciary, with the Supreme Court asking the Election Commission to clarify why Form 17C cannot be made publicly available online.

These challenges highlight the complexities involved, thus resolution of these issues is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the democratic system.

Practical Difficulties:

According to ECI, voter turnout is recorded at the polling station level in statutory Form 17 C, which is prepared by the presiding officer and signed by the polling agents of the candidates present. As a result, the organization is not legally required to publish any voter turnout data at the aggregate level of a constituency, a state, or during an election phase.

As the strongest measure of transparency, copies of Form 17 C are immediately distributed to polling agents in attendance. Therefore, even before the ECI has the information, candidates are aware of and in possession of precise voter turnout data in absolute numbers.

The bigger question is – Are all candidates, specially, the Opposition, able to put up polling agents in all booths in their constituencies?

Actually, the response is NO. Assuming that there are at least 1000–1200 booths on average every parliamentary seat (the number varies based on the demographics of the constituency). On the day of voting, a dry run is held at around 5.30 a.m. to verify that the EVMs are working properly and to count the serial numbers on them. Polling agents are required to be present at a booth during this time. The real polling then starts at 7 a.m. and lasts until about 6 p.m (it may further prolong in case of any technical failures / manual issues arising on the spot). At that point, the agent receives a copy of Form 17 C (Part 1), which has been signed by the polling agents for each candidate and stamped by the presiding officer. Thus, a candidate needs at least two agents in each booth — one who will sit through the entire day and one who will relieve him for meals and rest. A candidate therefore needs to have approximately 2400 polling agents in each constituency.

Is there any way to significantly address this issue through AI?

1. Data Entry and Management: AI can automate the entry of data from Form 17C into a centralized system, reducing manual errors and speeding up the process.

2. Pattern Recognition: AI algorithms can analyze the data for patterns and discrepancies, which is crucial for ensuring the accuracy of the electoral process.

3. Predictive Analysis: By analyzing historical data, AI can predict potential issues in the voting process and suggest preventive measures.

4. Legal Document Drafting: AI-powered tools like AdvocAI can assist in creating legal documents and could potentially be adapted to manage Form 17C-related documentation efficiently.

5. Chatbots for Information Dissemination: AI chatbots like NyayGuru can provide information about Form 17C and related legal queries, making the legal aspects more accessible to the public.

6. Transparency and Accessibility: AI can help in making Form 17C data more transparent by providing secure online access to authorized individuals.

By leveraging AI, the Election Commission of India can streamline the collection, analysis, and dissemination of Form 17C data, enhancing the efficiency and transparency of the electoral process.

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