Model code of conduct

Model code of conduct

News: The Model code of conduct (MCC) was imposed in Karnataka due to upcoming state elections and instances of violation of MCC have been observed.

What is Model code of conduct?
 The model code refers to a set of norms laid down by the Election Commission of India, with the consensus of political parties. It helps Election Commission in keeping with the mandate it has been given under Article 324 of the Constitution
 MCC bears no statutory backing and remains unenforceable.
 It spells out the dos and don’ts for elections. Political parties, candidates and polling agents are expected to observe the norms, on matters ranging from the content of election manifestos, speeches and processions, to general conduct, so that free and fair elections take place.
 The MCC is operational from the date that the election schedule is announced till the date that results are announced.

Evolution of MCC: 

1960 - Kerala 1st state to adopt Model Code of Conduct 

1974 - EC released a formal Model Code of Conduct. 

1979 - The MCC incorporated certain restrictions to regulate conduct of party in power

2014 - The ECI prohibited parties from making promises that exert undue influence on voters

Key provisions of MCC:
Prohibition - Criticism of political parties must be limited to their policies and programmes, past record and work.
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.
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 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
Election manifestos - Added in 2013, EC issued guidelines to rationalize manifesto of political parties. The election manifesto shall not contain anything against the ideals and principles enshrined in the Constitution. Political parties should avoid making promises that are likely to vitiate the purity of the election process (S.Subramaniam Balaji vs Govt of Tamil Nadu). Manifestos should reflect the rationale for promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirements for it.
Other additions to MCC - The regulation of opinion polls and exit polls during the period notified by the ECI. The prohibition of advertisements in print media on polling day and one day prior to it. The restriction on government advertisements featuring political functionaries during the election period.

Is MCC legally enforceable?
 Under Article 324 the election commission issues Model Code of Conduct at the time of the announcement of the dates of the elections. Though the MCC does not have any statutory backing, it has acquired prominence in the past decade because of its strict enforcement by the EC.
 In 2013, the Standing Committee on Electoral reforms recommended making the MCC legally binding. However, the ECI refused against making it legally binding because elections need to be completed within a time frame and judicial proceedings will make the process longer.

Criticism of MCC:
 It has failed to prevent electoral malpractices such as hate speech, fake news, money power, booth capturing, voter intimidation, and violence.
 MCC prohibits the issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer but the government can release advertisements prior to the announcement of elections giving an advantage to the ruling party.
 As MCC is not a legally binding document, it relies primarily on moral persuasion and public opinion for compliance.
 It imposes restrictions on policy decision, welfare schemes, transfers and appointments thus impacting the development activities.
 The model code applies to all social media content, but closed systems such as WhatsApp, where users connect individually, are not covered by the election commission’s guidelines.

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