May 26, 2024

General Studies Paper -2

Context: Election Commission of India (ECI) issued  notices over Model Code of Conduct (MCC) violation complaints against top leaders of the country .

Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

  • It is a set of guidelines published by the Election Commission of India (EC) for political parties and candidates to set standards of conduct during the election campaign and polling.
  • It also explains how parties can lodge complaints to the EC observers in case of dispute and instructs how the Ministers of the parties in power must conduct themselves when the MCC is in force.
  • In 2019, a new addition regarding election manifestos was added, instructing parties to not issue promises which were ‘repugnant to the ideals of the Constitution’.
  • The MCC is not a statutory document – not enforceable by any laws passed by the Parliament .
    • Violating many of its guidelines may not attract punitive action.
      • However ,several actions are listed as ‘electoral offences’ and ‘corrupt practices’ under the Indian Penal Code (now known as Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita) and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
      • These actions will attract appropriate punishment as per these laws.

Features

  • The MCC comes into force immediately when the election schedule is announced by the Election Commission and remains in operation till the election process is complete, i.e. results are announced.
  • It is applicable to all elections to the Lok Sabha, State Assemblies. It is also applicable for State Legislative Council elections from Local Bodies, and Graduates’ and Teachers’ Constituencies.
  • It is enforced throughout India in case of General elections, and the State up for polls in case of Legislative Assembly elections.
  • All organisations, committees, corporations, commissions (for e.g. Transport authorities, Jal boards) funded wholly or partially by the Centre or State are bound by the MCC.
  • While listed political parties and candidates are bound to follow the MCC, even non-political organisations which hold campaigns favouring a political party or candidate are bound to follow specific guidelines mentioned by the EC.

Concern

  • The political environment in the country has sharpened, blunting the efficacy of the MCC.
  • Instances of violations are rising, becoming rampant and rabid.
  • Political leaders are deploying their prestige, firepower and demagoguery like never before and finding ingenious ways to remain in the shadow zone between the letter and the spirit of MCC.
  • Money has replaced muscle; technology has provided a shining armour.
  • MCC has not clearly spelt out the consequences of defaults, thus diluting its deterrent effect.
    • Delayed responses dilute the impact of penalties and diminish public confidence in the credibility of the EC.

Conclusion and Way Forward

  • The MCC draws its strength and sanctity from the strict, prompt and non-discriminatory enforcement by EC, there is a need to remodel it by imposing more reasonable restrictions in a non-discriminatory manner.
  • This is essential to restore a certain degree of decorum and discipline in public discourse.
  • It is necessary to specify punitive measures in a fair, transparent and predictable manner, especially with respect to serious violations such as hate speech invoking communal and caste feelings to secure votes, offering inducements for garnering votes, using foul, filthy and abusive language against political opponents, indulging in political propaganda by invoking, praising, questioning or criticising the Indian armed forces, etc.
    • Such violations should attract severe consequences that could be graded and made known publicly.
  • A list of all cases of reported violations should be compiled, a statement of their disposal/pendency should be displayed on the EC website and a database needs to be created for public information.
  • The time has come for MCC to initiate punitive action against political parties if its functionaries or star campaigners are involved in proven cases of MCC violation.
    • This action could be a fine and/or action under The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, if warranted.
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