ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA - MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT
What is the Model Code of Conduct?
- Election Commission of India's Model Code of Conduct(MCC) is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for the conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, election manifestos, processions, and general conduct.
- This set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the MCC.
Aim of MCC
- Its main purpose is to conduct free and fair elections by ensuring that ruling parties, at the Centre and in the States, do not misuse their position of advantage to gain an unfair edge.
- It is designed to avert practices that are deemed corrupt under the model code of conduct.
When does it come into force?
- The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on the announcement of the election schedule by the commission.
- It remains in force till the declaration of poll results.
What is its constitutional legality?
- This is based on Article 324 of the Constitution, which mandates EC to conduct free and fair elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
When was MCC first issued?
- The origins of the MCC lie in the Assembly elections of Kerala in 1960 when the State administration prepared a ‘Code of Conduct for political actors.
- Subsequently, in the Lok Sabha elections in 1962, the ECI circulated the code to all recognized political parties and State governments and it was wholeheartedly followed.
- Since then it is revised from time to time.
What happens if MCC is violated?:
- Though MCC does not have any statutory backing, it has come to acquire strength in the past decade because of its strict enforcement by the EC by suspending campaigns etc.
- Certain provisions of the MCC may be enforced through invoking corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, and Representation of the People Act 1951.
- In 2013, the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, recommended making the MCC legally binding and recommended that the MCC be made a part of the RPA 1951.
- However, the EC argues against making it legally binding, because according to it, elections must be completed within a relatively short time or close to 45 days and judicial proceedings typically take longer, therefore it is not feasible to make it enforceable by law.
There are a total of eight key provisions which have been mentioned under the Model Code of Conduct.
- Religious or communal sentiments must not be hampered during any activity
- Criticism of the opposition political party must only be limited to their previous policies or work and not personally related to them
- Places of worship (temples, mosques, church, etc.) must not be used for election propaganda
- The right of every citizen for peaceful and undisturbed home-life shall be respected, and any area used for campaigning purpose and even loudspeakers for poll campaigning must be only be used after having permission from the concerned local authorities.
- The party or candidate shall inform the local police authorities of the venue and time proposed for a meeting well in time so that law, order and peace can be maintained by the police
- The local police or the concerned authorities must be informed well in advance of the time, venue and route of the procession so that road traffic is not hindered and the required arrangements can be made
- The party or candidate must cooperate with the electoral authorities at the polling camps for peaceful elections. No eatables or liquor must be served outside the polling camps
- Except the voters, no one without a valid pass from the Election Commission shall enter the polling booths. Candidates should not display their election symbols near and around the poll booths on the polling day.
- The Election Commission appoints Observers. If the candidates or their agents have any specific complaint or problem regarding the conduct of elections they may bring the same to the notice of the Observer
Party in Power
- The government may not lay any new ground for projects or public initiatives once the Model Code of Conduct comes into force.
- Government bodies are not to participate in any recruitment process during the electoral process.
- The election code in force hinders the government or ruling party leaders from launching new welfare programs like the construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities, etc., or any ribbon-cutting ceremonies.
- The ruling party should not use its seat of power for campaign purposes.
- The ruling party ministers should not make any ad-hoc appointment of officials, which may influence the voters to vote in favor of the party in power.
- The Supreme Court in its judgment dated 5th July 2013 had directed the Election Commission to frame guidelines with regard to the contents of election manifestos in consultation with all the recognized political parties
- The EC has devised several mechanisms to take note of the violation of the code, which include joint task forces of enforcement agencies and flying squads. The latest is the introduction of the e-VIGIL mobile app through which audio-visual evidence of malpractices can be reported.
Written by Shankha Shubhra Dutta
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