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Model Code of Conduct in India

Courtesy/By: PARAM SAKET SARANG | 2024-03-23 00:14     Views : 62

Model Code of Conduct in India

 

Introduction

The Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the voting dates today, bringing the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) into effect as India gets ready for the next Lok Sabha elections in 2024. This is a major step towards improving electoral governance. The Election Commission of India (ECI) claims that the MCC, which has its roots in the Kerala assembly elections of 1960, has developed into its current state over the previous 60 years.

About MCC

The MCC is a document of consensus. The political parties themselves have committed to abiding by the Code and monitoring their behaviour during elections.

It supports the EC by the authority granted to it by Article 324 of the Constitution, which grants it the authority to oversee and manage free and fair elections for the State Legislatures and the Parliament.

From the day the election schedule is released until the day the results are made public, the MCC is in operation.

During the duration of the Code, the government is not permitted to make any announcements on grants, pledge to build roads or other infrastructure or appoint people on an as-needed basis to positions in government or public projects.

Enforceability of MCC

Despite lacking legislative support, the MCC has gained traction in the last ten years due to the EC's stringent implementation of it.

By using analogous provisions included in other statutes, such as the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) 1973, and the Representation of Peoples's Act (RPA) 1951, certain aspects of the MCC may be enforced.

Evolution of MCC

The history of MCC is firmly ingrained in India's electoral system. Its origins can be found in Kerala, where an early version called the "Code of Conduct" was initially implemented in 1960 during the state's Assembly elections.

  • Origin and The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) has its roots in Kerala's election history and has since undergone significant changes to become its current version.

  • Early Development:- The "Code of Conduct," which served as a model for the Model Code of Conduct, was developed by the State Administration for political leaders in the run-up to the 1960 Kerala Assembly elections.

  • Widespread Implementation:- The Election Commission of India (ECI) sent this code to all state governments and recognized political parties in time for the subsequent 1962 Lok Sabha elections. It was widely followed throughout the country.

  • Improvements to Fight Corruption:- From 1962 to 1991, the ECI realized that it was necessary to deal with unethical election practices that involved the abuse of authority and funds. As a result, the code was improved, and provisions were added to control the behaviour of the "party in power" and stop undue advantages during elections.

  • Rebranding and Strictness:- To increase its efficacy, the code was strengthened and renamed the Model Code of Conduct (MCC). There were requests for legislative merger, but no official enactment took place.

  • Enhanced Implementation:- Following 1991, the ECI implemented innovative measures to uphold the Model Code of Conduct.

  • Notably, Chief Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan used his authority under Article 324 of the Constitution to postpone elections when there were infractions.

  • Judicial Intervention:- The Election Commission was instructed by the Supreme Court to include election manifesto requirements in the MCC framework after the court interfered in 2013.

  • The integration of these instructions improved the MCC's relevance and applicability in succeeding elections, such as the general elections of 2014.

The Election Commission's Vital Role in Protecting the Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

The Model Code of Conduct is by the authority granted to the EC by Article 324 of the Constitution to oversee elections to the state legislatures and the Parliament.

  • Ensure MCC Application:- ECI guarantees free, fair, and peaceful elections to the State Legislatures and the Parliament as well as the observance of the code by political parties, including those in power in the states and at the federal level.

  • Preventing Misuse:- It makes sure that official machinery for election purposes is not misused.

  • Prohibit Malpractices:- It makes sure that voter intimidation and threats, as well as electoral offences such as impersonation, bribery, and inducement, are avoided.

  • Violation of Model Code of Conduct:- Based on a complaint from another party or an individual, the EC notifies the political party or a politician of a purported violation of the code.

  • The party or individual must subsequently provide a written response to the EC, denying the allegation or acknowledging that the MCC was broken.

  • The MCC is not, however, legally enforceable.

  • By using analogous provisions included in other legislation, such as the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Representation of the People Act, etc., certain sections of the MCC may be enforced.

 

The Model Code of Conduct's (MCC) Restrictions

 

  • Ministerial Conduct During Elections:- Ministers are not permitted to mix electioneering and official visits.  Additionally, they are not permitted to use any government equipment or employees when campaigning.

  • Transportation Restrictions:- No government aircraft or vehicle, or any portion of it, may be used to further the political agenda of any party or candidate.

  • Protocol for Transfer and Posting:- All officers and officials who are directly or indirectly involved in the way the election is conducted are prohibited from being transferred or posted. The ECI's prior consent is required if an officer transfer or posting is determined to be necessary.

  • Ministerial Communications with Election Officials:- No minister, federal or state, has the authority to call any election-related state or constituency officer for an official meeting anywhere.

  • Official Travel Protocol:- A letter attesting to this needs to be sent from the concerned Secretary of the Ministry/Department to the Chief Secretary of the concerned state, with a copy to the ECI, if a Union minister is obliged to travel outside of Delhi for strictly official reasons that cannot be avoided in the interest of the public.

  • Prohibition on Misuse of Media:- It is forbidden to misuse official mass media or publish advertisements in print or electronic media that highlight the party's accomplishments at the expense of public coffers.

  • Implementation of Government Schemes:- No work shall be initiated in this respect until the Model Code of Conduct is in force, even if a state or federal government order has been issued in connection with the scheme. On the other hand, work in the field can continue if it has already started.

  • Funding Restrictions:- Until the election is over, no additional money may be issued under the MPs/MLAs/MLCs Local Region Development Fund of any scheme in any region where an election is being held.

  • Financial Protocol for Government-Funded Institutions:- Financial institutions that receive full or partial government funding are not permitted to write off loans that have been extended to any particular person, business, organization, etc.

 

Key Provisions of MCC

General Conduct

  • No political party or candidate may engage in any activities that could exacerbate already-existing conflicts or lead to hostility between various castes and communities, whether they be linguistic or religious.

  • Similar to this, it is forbidden to use language, race, caste, religion, or community to incite hatred or animosity among people or to utilize it as a political weapon under Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

  • It is appropriate to limit criticisms of rival political parties to assess their programs, records, and policies; personal assaults should be avoided.

 

Meetings and Processions

  • For the police to arrange proper security, parties must notify the local police authority of the meeting's location and time.

  • To prevent clashes between processions, political parties organizing more than one candidate's route must get in touch ahead of time.

  • It is prohibited to carry and burn effigies of members of other political parties.

 

Polling Day

  • The only people permitted entry into polling places are voters and those in possession of a valid EC pass.

  • Appropriate badges or identity cards should be provided to all authorized party workers at voting places.

  • Voters will receive identity slips from them that are made of plain, white paper and devoid of any symbols, party names, or candidate names.

  • The electoral commission will designate observers to whom contenders may report issues with the way the election is being conducted.

 

Party in Power

In 1979, the MCC added some limitations that controlled the behaviour of the ruling party. Ministers are not allowed to use official apparatus or mix official visits with election work.

  • It is forbidden for ministers to combine official visits with election-related activity or to use government resources for that purpose.

  • The ruling party should not use public funding to tout its accomplishments or official mass media to further its electoral agenda.

  • Ministers and other authorities are prohibited from declaring financial awards or making promises about infrastructure development, such as building roads or providing drinking water, beginning with the Commission's announcement of the elections.

  • Rest areas and public areas ought to be open to all groups equally and not exclusively controlled by the ruling party.

 

Conclusion

The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) stands as a cornerstone of democratic governance, guiding the conduct of political parties and candidates during electoral processes. However, its efficacy is increasingly threatened by waning commitment and rising violations. Legalizing the MCC could provide the Election Commission with enhanced authority to combat corruption and enforce fair electoral practices, crucial for safeguarding the integrity and credibility of democratic institutions.

By institutionalising the MCC, governments can strengthen electoral oversight mechanisms, promote transparency, and mitigate the influence of money and power in elections. Additionally, legal recognition would empower the Election Commission to enforce stricter penalties for violations, thereby deterring malpractices and promoting a level playing field for all participants.

Furthermore, legalizing the MCC would signify a commitment to upholding democratic principles and fostering public trust in the electoral process. It would demonstrate a collective dedication to ensuring free, fair, and transparent elections, essential for the vibrancy and resilience of democratic societies.

In conclusion, legalizing the Model Code of Conduct represents a crucial step towards strengthening electoral integrity, combating corruption, and preserving the foundational values of democracy. Governments must prioritize this initiative to uphold the sanctity of democratic processes and safeguard the rights and aspirations of citizens.

 

References

 

Courtesy/By: PARAM SAKET SARANG | 2024-03-23 00:14