Saturday, July 19, 2014

Model Code of Conduct in Indian Elections

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 code has served to ensure a level playing field for political parties and keep campaigns fair and healthy. Its 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 Model Code of Conduct is enforced from the date of announcement of elections schedule by the Election Commission and is operational till the process of elections are completed. The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party 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.

There shall be a total ban on transfer and posting of all official/officials directly or indirectly connected with the conduct of the elections. If any transfer or posting of a officer is considered necessary, prior approval of the Election Commission would be required.

It is also ensured that electoral offences, malpractices and corrupt practices such as impersonation, bribing and inducement of voters,threat and intimidation of the voters are prevented by all means. In case of violation, appropriate measures are taken.

The advertisement regarding the achievements of the political parties at the cost of the funds obtained from the public through taxation in the print and electronic media and the misuse of official mass media during the period of election is prohibited.

Often we get to hear that Model Code of Conduct in Indian Elections is stopping/hindering the way for developmental activities. However even during the short period when the Model Code of Conduct in Indian Elections is in operation,the ongoing developmental activities do not stop and are allowed to proceed unhindered, and only new projects etc. which have not taken off on the ground that have to be deferred till the completion of elections. If there are circumstances which are unavoidable such as disasters, calamity etc then the matter can be referred to the Election Commission for its permission for starting the project.
Legal Status for Model Code of Conduct - Views of the Election Commission of India

There is an opinion from many quarters for providing legal teeth to the Model Code of Conduct in Indian Elections, but when it comes to the views of the Election Commission of India towards the idea, the response is negative. According to the Election Commission bringing the Model Code of Conduct on the statute book will only be counter productive. In India, elections are completed in a very limited time frame according to a pre defined well laid down strict schedule. Normally, a General Election in a State is completed in about 45 days, from the day of announcement of the Election Schedule by the Election Commission. Thus, the expedition and promptness in dealing with the cases of violation of the Model Code of Conduct is of essence. If no timely action is taken to curb the violations and against the violators of the model code during the limited time frame of the elections, the whole significance of the idea of Model Code of Conduct in Indian Elections would be lost and the violator would be able to take undue advantage of this flaw in the Election process. If the Model Code of Conduct is converted into a law, it would result in the lying of cases in front of authorities for weeks and going by the pace of decision making by Judiciary in India the culprit would be punished very long after the elections are over thereby undermining the authenticity of the Elections held.

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