The Election Commission has barred astrologers and tarot readers from predicting election results, calling it a violation of the law. In an advisory to the Press Council of India and News Broadcasters’ Association on Thursday, the poll monitoring body said that no such programme/article can be aired or published before all rounds of voting are over.

The commission cited Section 126A of the Representation of the People Act that states that no one can conduct any exit poll in any manner during the period when exit polls are banned. Any type of political analysis that predicts either the margin or the number of seats likely to be won will be considered as exit poll.

“The Commission is of the view that prediction of result of elections in any form or manner by way of predictions by astrologers, tarot readers, political analysts or by any person during the prohibited period is violation of the spirit of Section 126A,” said the poll monitoring body.

The advisory comes after a Hindi newspaper published results of what appeared to be an exit poll conducted after the first phase of Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh. The Commission had ordered an FIR be filed against the management of Dainik Jagran.

Another TV channel also flouted the EC’s rules during the last round of Assembly elections in Goa, Manipur, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. The commission said that it had found programmes that predicted the number of seats likely to be won by political parties were being aired before the elections got over. “This was done during the period exit polls were prohibited,” read the advisory. The “prohibited” period was effective from 7 am on February 4 till 5.30 pm on March 9.

The Congress has praised the new rule. “It is a forward step. The EC must also take cognisance of so-called surveys conducted by parties during elections,” party spokesperson Tom Vadakkan told Hindustan Times.

A member of the Press Council of India, Rajeev Ranjan Nag told the daily that the rules should also apply to politicians. “This seems to violate the freedom of speech and expression, under Section 19(1) of the Constitution, if it applies only to journalists and analysts; even politicians and pollsters should be barred from making projections,” he told Hindustan Times.