The MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections, to ensure free and fair elections which is in keeping with Article 324 of the Constitution, which gives the Election Commission the power to supervise elections to the Parliament and state legislatures.
- The MCC is operational from the date that the election schedule is announced till the date that results are announced.
- Thus, for the general elections this year, the MCC came into force on March 10, 2019, when the election schedule was announced, and operated till May 23, 2019, when the final results will be announced.
Need of MCC:
- To maintain equality between ruling party and not in power party by providing them equality in election period.
- To maintain the sanctity of the election process and stop misuse of money power, muscle power and media power.
- Act as moral force to stop all wrong doing in the electoral process.
Key provisions of the Model Code of Conduct
The MCC contains eight provisions dealing with general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, party in power, and election manifestos. Major provisions of the MCC are outlined below.
- General Conduct: Criticism of political parties must be limited to their policies and programmes, past record and work. Activities such as:
- using caste and communal feelings to secure votes,
- criticising candidates on the basis of unverified reports,
- bribing or intimidation of voters, and
- organising demonstrations or picketing outside houses of persons to protest against their opinions, are prohibited.
- Meetings: Parties must inform the local police authorities of the venue and time of any meeting in time to enable the police to make adequate security arrangements.
- Processions: If two or more candidates plan processions along the same route, organisers must establish contact in advance to ensure that the processions do not Carrying and burning effigies representing members of other political parties is not allowed.
- Polling day: All authorised party workers at polling booths should be given identity badges. These should not contain the party name, symbol or name of the candidate.
- Polling booths: Only voters, and those with a valid pass from the Election Commission, will be allowed to enter polling booths.
- Observers: The Election Commission will appoint observers to whom any candidates may report problems regarding the conduct of the election.
- Party in power:
- The MCC incorporated certain restrictions in 1979, regulating the conduct of the party in power. Ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.
- The party must avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer or using official mass media for publicity on achievements to improve chances of victory in the elections.
- Ministers and other authorities must not announce any financial grants, or promise any construction of roads, provision of drinking water, etc.
- Other parties must be allowed to use public spaces and rest houses and these must not be monopolised by the party in power.
- Election manifestos: These guidelines were added in 2013, prohibit parties from making promises that exert an undue influence on voters, and suggest that manifestos also indicate the means to achieve promises.
Changes recommended in MCC since 2014:
- In 2015, the Law Commission in its report on Electoral Reforms noted that the MCC prohibits the issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in newspapers/media during the election period.
- However, it observed that since the MCC comes into operation only from the date on which the Commission announces elections, the government can release advertisements prior to the announcement of elections.
- It noted that this gives an advantage to the ruling party to issue government sponsored advertisements that highlights its achievements, which gives it an undue advantage over other parties and candidates
- Therefore, the Commission recommended that a restriction should be imposed on government sponsored advertisements for up to six months prior to the date of expiry of the House/Assembly.
- However, it stated that an exception may be carved out for advertisements highlighting the government’s poverty alleviation programmes or any health-related schemes.
Legal Status for Model Code: Views of the Election Commission
- The Election Commission has, taken a stand against granting of such status to MCC. According to the Commission bringing the MCC on the statute book will only be counterproductive.
- In our country, elections are conducted within a very limited time span according to a well laid down schedule.
- Normally, a general election in a State is completed in about 45 days, from the day of announcement of the election schedule by the Commission. Thus, the expedition and promptness in dealing with the cases of violation of the model code of conduct is of the essence.
- If no timely action is taken to curb the violations and against the violators of the model code during the limited period when the election process is on, the whole significance of the MCC would be lost and the violator would be able to reap the benefit of such violation.
- If the model code of conduct is converted into a law, this would mean that a complaint would lie to the police/Magistrate.
- The procedures involved in judicial proceedings being what they are, a decision on such complaints would most likely come only long after the election is completed.
- On the other hand, in 2013, the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, recommended making the MCC legally binding.
- In a report on electoral reforms, the Standing Committee observed that most provisions of the MCC are already enforceable through corresponding provisions in other statutes; it recommended that the MCC be made a part of the Representation of the People Act, 1951