Model Code of Conduct

About Model Code of Conduct

  • The Model Code of Conduct for guidance of political parties and candidates is a set of norms which has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code and also binds them to respect and observe it in its letter and spirit. 
  • The Model Code of Conduct is enforced from the date of announcement of election schedule by the Election Commission and is operational till the process of elections are completed. 

Applicability of the Code 

  • During general elections to House of People (Lok Sabha), the code is applicable throughout the country. 
  • During general elections to the Legislative Assembly (Vidhan Sabha), the code is applicable in the entire State. 
  • During bye-elections, in case the constituency is comprised in State Capital/Metropolitan Cities/Municipal Corporations, then the code would be applicable in the area of concerned Constituency only. In all other cases the MCC would be enforced in the entire district(s) covering the Constituency going for bye-election(s). 

Salient features of the Model code of conduct 

  • The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc. 
  • The Code’s main purpose is to ensure that ruling parties, at the Centre and in the states, do not misuse their position of advantage to gain an unfair edge. 
  • The code is designed to avert practices that are deemed corrupt, one of the rule under the Code prohibits parties from making promises about new projects that may sway a voter. 

How has the MCC evolved over the years?

  • Kerala was the first state to adopt a code of conduct for elections.
    • In 1960, ahead of the Assembly elections, the state administration prepared a draft code that covered important aspects of electioneering such as processions, political rallies, and speeches.
    • The experiment was successful, and the Election Commission decided to emulate Kerala’s example and circulate the draft among all recognised parties and state governments for the Lok Sabha elections of 1962.
  • However, it was only in 1974, just before the mid-term general elections, that the EC released a formal Model Code of Conduct. This Code was also circulated during the parliamentary elections of 1977. Until this time, the MCC was meant to guide the conduct of political parties and candidates only. However, on September 12, 1979, at a meeting of all political parties, the Commission was apprised of the misuse of official machinery by parties in power.
  • The Commission was told that ruling parties monopolised public spaces, making it difficult for others to hold meetings. There were also examples of the party in power publishing advertisements at the cost of the public exchequer to influence voters. At this meeting, political parties urged the Commission to change the Code.
  • EC just before the 1979 Lok Sabha elections, released a revised Model Code with seven parts, with one part devoted to the party in power and what it could and could not do once elections were announced.
  • The MCC has been revised on several occasions since then. The last time this happened was in 2014, when the Commission introduced Part VIII on manifestos, pursuant to the directions of the Supreme Court.
    • Part I deals with general precepts of good behaviour expected from candidates and political parties.
    • Parts II and III focus on public meetings and processions.
    • Parts IV and V describe how political parties and candidates should conduct themselves on the day of polling and at the polling booths.
    • Part VI is about the authority appointed by the EC to receive complaints on violations of the MCC.
    • Part VII is on the party in power.

What is permitted and what is not under the MCC for the party in power?

  • The MCC forbids ministers (of state and central governments) from using official machinery for election work and from combining official visits with electioneering.
  • Advertisements extolling the work of the incumbent government using public money are to be avoided.
  • The government cannot announce any financial grants, promise construction of roads or other facilities, and make any ad hoc appointments in government or public undertaking during the time the Code is in force.
  • Ministers cannot enter any polling station or counting centre except in their capacity as a voter or a candidate.
  • However, the Commission is conscious that the MCC must not lead to governance grinding to a complete halt. It has clarified that the Code does not stand in the way of ongoing schemes of development work or welfare, relief and rehabilitation measures meant for people suffering from drought, floods, and other natural calamities. However, the EC forbids the use of these works for election propaganda.
  • The Election Commission decided that the MCC will also apply to content posted by political parties and candidates on the Internet, including on social media sites.

Is the MCC legally enforceable?

  • It is not a legally enforceable document, and the Commission usually uses moral sanction to get political parties and candidates to fall in line.
  • Governments have in the past attempted to amend The Representation of the People Act, 1951, to make some violations of the MCC illegal and punishable.
  • Although the EC’s stand in the mid-1980s was that Part VII of the MCC (dealing with the party in power) should have statutory backing, it changed its position after the conduct of Lok Sabha elections in the 1990s.
  • The EC is now of the opinion that making the Code legally enforceable would be self-defeating because any violation must be responded to quickly — and this will not be possible if the matter goes to court

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