The Election Commission of India on Sunday imposed 'Model Code of Conduct' (MCC) with immediate effect for the Lok Sabha elections 2019. What is a model code of conduct and when does it kick in? The Code comes into play as soon as the EC announces an Assembly election in a state or the Lok Sabha polls. Article 324 of the Constitution gives the Election Commission the power to monitor Central and state governments, all the candidates and political parties.
In the context of the Lok Sabha elections 2019, the Model Code of Conduct will be in force until after May 19, the last phase of polling. The Lok Sabha poll 2019 results and Assembly election results in four states — Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim — will be declared on May 23. According to the PRS Legislative Research, the Code deals with eight provisions – general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, the party in power, and election manifestos.
Here's what you must know about the Model Code of Conduct:
What is the Model Code of Conduct (MCC)?
This is a set of guidelines issued to regulate political parties and candidates before any elections.
When does it come into effect?
The MCC comes into force as soon as the election schedule is announced. The Code remains in force till election results are declared.
What restrictions does the Model Code of Conduct impose on government and political parties?
The moment MCC is imposed, the party in power at the Centre (in this case, the BJP-led NDA government) and those in states have to ensure that they do not use their position for campaigning. Thus, no project, scheme or policy can be announced by the government. Any campaign by the government cannot be done at the cost of the public exchequer. It cannot use official mass media for publicity to give its party an edge over others in the elections.
Politicians who hold portfolios cannot combine official visits with campaigns. They cannot use government transport for campaigning. The issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in newspapers and other media is also considered an offence. Holding public meetings during the 48-hour period before the hour fixed for the closing of the poll is also prohibited to allow a voter a campaign-free environment before casting his vote. In polling booths, apart from voters, only those individuals with a permit from the EC are allowed to enter. Political parties must not campaign for votes within a distance of 100 metres of polling booths on the day of voting.
Read the full Manual on Model Code of Conduct, 2019 HERE
The do's and don'ts
— No announcement of projects, schemes
— No campaign at the cost of public money
— No use of mass media for publicity
— No combining of official visits with campaigns
— No using of government machinery for campaigns
— The ruling government cannot make any ad-hoc appointments in Government, Public Undertakings etc.
— No caste and communal sentiments can be used to lure voters
— No bribing of voters
— No intimidation of voters
— No carrying or burning effigies of the opponents
— Political parties can criticise the other candidates based on policies and programmes and their work record.
— The government must ensure public place, facility like helipads are provided to Opposition parties on which terms they use for their party.
— During the polling day, all booth-workers of political parties must wear a badge with party name and symbol.
What leaders of religious organisations must keep in mind
The Model Code of Conduct is also applied to places of worship like Mosques, Churches, Temples and Gurudwaras. They cannot be used for election propaganda.
When was Model Code of Conduct introduced?
MCC was first introduced at the time of the Kerala Assembly election 1960 and continued to be followed in subsequent general elections. In October 1979, the EC added a section to regulate the ‘party in power’.
Does MCC have statutory backing?
No. The Election Commission simply uses moral sanction or censure for its enforcement.
If a party violates Model Code of Conduct, EC can issue a notice to the party. The offender must respond to EC in writing explaining its actions. The offender can tender an unconditional apology, accept its mistake or rebut the allegations. If the accused rebuts, the party or person can attract a written censure from the ECI.
Breach of Model Code of Conduct - History
Every time there is an election, ECI has to deal with parties and politicians who violate Model Code of Conduct or are accused of doing so. During the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the EC had banned BJP leader and now party president Amit Shah and SP leader Azam Khan from campaigning in order to prevent them from further vitiating the poll atmosphere with their speeches. The ban was lifted only once the leaders apologised. In 2013, the EC issued a notice to Balram Naik of the Congress party for announcing a Rs 20-crore scheme for the construction of hostels specifically for OBC students in Madhya Pradesh. Naik was asked to reply explaining why his action should not be taken against him. In Delhi, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leads in the number of EC code violations, with 97 FIRs registered. The BJP follows with 79 and Congress with 67 FIRs.
How do ruling parties escape ECI's wrath?
The ruling parties often announce sops, schemes and project days before the Election Commission announces the election schedule and imposes the Model Code of Conduct.
For instance, in the past few weeks, the Modi government at the Centre has made a flurry of decisions at the meetings of the Union Cabinet and the CCEA. Over the past month, more than 100 decisions have been taken. Read to know more.