Elections for selecting Members of Legislative Assembly will be held in five states between March 27 and April 29. These states are under the Model Code of Conduct since the poll dates were announced first on February 26 and will remain under it till the completion of the election process. For those who don’t know much about the Model Code of Conduct, it’s a set of strict rules that evolved over a period of the past six decades and has been laid down by the Election Commission of India.
As per the ECI, the model code of conduct was first observed during the 1960 polls. “Historically, the credit of giving the idea of a model code of conduct for political parties should go to the State of Kerala, which adopted, for the first time, a code of conduct for observance for Political Parties during the general election to the State Legislative Assembly in February 1960,” says the ECI manual.
The Model Code of Conduct consists of a set of guidelines expected to be abiding by the political parties, their campaigners and the candidates. The Election Commission brings the Model Code of Conduct into effect to ensure free and fair elections.
According to the ECI, “The Model Code of Conduct remains in place during the elections in respect of political parties and candidates which remains in force from the date the elections are announced by the Commission till the completion of elections. It is clarified that the provisions of MCC and related instructions of the Commission issued from time to time shall also apply to the content being posted on the internet, including social media websites, by candidates and political parties.”
Notably, the ECI in 2019 had decided to keep social media posts by the political parties and leaders under its vigil for detecting any MCC violation.
The MCC can be classified broadly into three parts. Here are some key highlights of the guidelines:
Model Code of Conduct guidelines on General Conduct
* No party or candidate shall include in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.
* Criticism of other political parties, when made, shall be confined to their policies and programme, past record and work. Parties and Candidates shall refrain from criticism of all aspects of private life.
* Criticism of other parties or their workers based on unverified allegations or distortion shall be avoided.
* There shall be no appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes. Mosques, Churches, Temples or other places of worship shall not be used as a forum for election propaganda.
* All parties and candidates shall avoid scrupulously all activities which are “corrupt practices” and offences under the election law, such as bribing of voters, intimidation of voters, impersonation of voters, canvassing within 100 meters of polling stations, holding public meetings during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the close of the poll, and the transport and conveyance of voters to and from the polling station.
* No political party or candidate shall permit its or his followers to make use of any individual’s land, building, compound wall etc., without his permission for erecting flag-staffs, suspending banners, pasting notices, writing slogans etc.
* Political parties and candidates shall ensure that their supporters do not create obstructions in or break up meetings and processions organized by other parties.
Model Code of Conduct guidelines on Meetings
* The party or candidate shall inform the local police authorities of the venue and time of any proposed meeting well in time.
* A Party or candidate shall ascertain in advance if there is any restrictive or prohibitory order in force in the place proposed for the meeting if such orders exist, they shall be followed strictly.
* If permission or license is to be obtained for the use of loudspeakers or any other facility in connection with any proposed meeting, the party or candidate shall apply to the authority concerned well in advance.
Model Code of Conduct guidelines on Processions
* A Party or candidate organizing a procession shall decide beforehand the time and place of the starting of the procession, the route to be followed and the time and place at which the procession will terminate.
* The organizers shall give advance intimation to the local police authorities of the programme.
* The organizers shall ascertain if any restrictive orders are in force in the localities through which the procession has to pass, and shall comply with the restrictions unless exempted specially by the competent authority.
* If two or more political parties or candidates propose to take processions over the same route or parts thereof at about the same time, the organizers shall establish contact well in advance and decide upon the measures to be taken to see that the processions do not clash or cause hindrance to traffic.
* The political parties or candidates shall exercise control to the maximum extent possible in the matter of processionists carrying articles which may be put to misuse by undesirable elements especially in moments of excitement.
* The carrying of effigies purporting to represent members of other political parties or their leaders, burning such effigies in public and such other forms of demonstration shall not be countenanced by any political party or candidate.
Though the ECI does not have a judicial ability to penalise the violators of the Model Code of Conduct, it generally issues show-cause notice to the violators and in some cases, bars them from the poll campaign.