THE JOURNEY OF THE MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT

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INTRODUCTION:

The Election Commission of India has issued a set of parameters which are to be mandatorily followed by the political parties and their representatives during the elections. These guidelines regulate the speeches, date of polling, the polling booths, portfolios, general conduct, election manifesto and all the other things and activities which are incidental to and with elections. These norms have grown over the years with the consent of all the existing political parties who have agreed to abide by the principles embodied in the said code in its letter and spirit.

With the advent of the general assembly elections in India, in the coming days, the Election Commission of India had announced its Model Code of Conduct,2019 which was to be obligatorily followed by all the prevailing political parties.

 

HISTORY OF MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT:

The Model Code of Conduct was adopted for the first time during the general elections to the State Legislative of Kerala in February 1960. All the political parties together had drafted a code which incorporated all the pivotal provisions related to electioneering, slogans etc. This code was then communicated to all the States during the assembly and Lok-Sabha elections which were conducted in the year 1962, these norms acted as guidelines for conducting a fair election. In 1968-69, the duration when the mid-term elections were held the Election Commission itself had formulated a document which contained minimal standards of conduct and behaviour. By virtue of this document the Election Commission had appealed the Political Parties to observe minimum code of conduct while campaigning and propagating for elections. The said Model Code of Conduct was revised in the year 1974, and by this revision the Election Commission directed the Chief Electoral Officer to establish a standing committee at all District Level which would be governed under the chairmanship of the District collector who would look into the implementation of the rules laid down by the Code and he would also keep a check of any violations in the code.

During the General Elections of 1991, the Election Commission again introduced new provisions in the Code after which the Election Commission took charge and upper hand in certifying and checking that all the provisions and norms set down by the Code are duly followed.

 

It should be remembered that Election Commission is entitled to take care the Elections in the Country are conducted fairly and peacefully. However, it should be taken into consideration that Model Code of Conduct have no statutory backing and thus they lack enforceability factor.

The Constitution of India empowers the Election Commission by virtue of Article 324 to direct, superintend and control all the Elections that take place in the Country. Simultaneously, Article 327 to 329 permits the Central Legislature and the State Legislature to make laws in relation to the matters which are incidental and connected to the Elections. The Representation of People Act, 1950 and the Representation of People Act, 1951 which has been enacted under Article 327 deals with all the pre-post elections controversies. And based on the power rendered under Article 324 the Election Commission issues the Model Code of Conduct which stays in existence from the date of announcement of election dates till the final results.

It has always been argued that the Model Code of Conduct should have a statutory backing which would make its provisions enforceable, with regards to this argument the “Parliamentary Standing Committee On Personnel, Public Grievances, Law And Justice” had adviced that Election Commission to make certain provisions of the Code mandatory by incorporating them in the Representation Peoples Act or the rules framed thereunder. Based on their recommendations some specific provisions of the Code which acquire enforceability from certain Acts such as section 123(3A), 123, section 133 Section 133 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, Section 171B of the Indian Penal Code etc. have been made enforceable leaving behind the rest.

 

MAJOR PROVISIONS OF THE MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT:

  1. The Code is small document which states the rules and regulations which are required to be followed during the Election tenure. It lays down details briefly and precisely. The document which contains the Code is divided into 8 major parts:

Part I: It lays down the minimal standards of good and decent behaviour of political parties which includes the behaviour of their candidates, workers, supporters while campaigning for elections:

Part II and III: It provides the guidelines which deal with conducting public meeting and taking out processions by political parties.

Part IV and V: This part governs the behaviour and conduct of the parties as well as their candidates on the day of election at the place of poll.

Part VI: This part urges the parties and their candidates to highlight the complaints to the notice of the viewers appointed by the Election Commission which would enable the person so designated to take the necessary steps.

Part VII: This part is the most important part of the entire Code. It basically deals with the ruling party or the party in power. It takes into consideration issues and matters relating to Government and its Ministers.

Part VIII: This part was attached to the Code as addition. It lays down that the Election manifestos are restricted to such an extent that they do not contain anything which is contradictory or violative of the Constitution and further it also states that the conduct of the parties shall be in line with the letter and spirit of the other parts of the Code.

  1. The Code further speaks of the appointment of District Media Certification and Monitoring Committee for availing pre-certification of advertisements dealing with the elections on all media platforms inclusive of bulk SMS/Voice messages through phone.

  2. After the Apex Court’s Judgement in S. Subramaniam Balaji Vs Govt. of Tamil Nadu and Others case, the Election Commission prepared new guidelines for the Political parties by virtue of which they were directed to refrain from making promises which have the tendency of invalidating or damaging the sanctity of election process or which would make an effort to exercise undue influence on the prospective voters in exercising their right.

  3. Further, the Code also prohibits the declaration or pronouncement of any new schemes/projects. Not only this it also restricts the grant of new reliefs post announcement of dates of elections.

  4. The Code also lays down that no advertisement shall be issued in electronic and print media in such a manner that it would focus on the achievements of the ruling Government at the cost of public exchequer. In situation where such advertisements have been already issued and published then necessary steps should be taken to withdraw the same at the earliest.

  5. The Election Commission had further put down other standing orders/instructions time and again to secure the interest of the voters by regulating the proper conduct and behaviour of the political parties.

 

CONCLUSION:

Taking into consideration the present situation in the country and chaos that surrounds the elections, it would be best if all the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct are made mandatory. The Indian political parties in the race to win the election have gone overboard by doing acts which are in-disciplinary and morally unacceptable. This behaviour and conduct should be stopped at the earliest to ensure transparency in the election process. It should be remembered that the ‘Right to Vote is the Essence of Democracy’.