In view of a Judgment passed by the Supreme Court of India in S. Subramaniam Balaji vs. State of Tamil Nadu and Others 2013, the Election Commission of India (ECI) has recently issued a Model Code of Conduct (MCC) in March 2019 to guide political parties and candidates and also govern their conduct during the election period.
The Supreme Court had observed in S. Subramaniam Balaji case (supra) that political parties, vide election manifestoes, promise to give gifts, freebies, etc to public if they come to power, which indirectly influences voters and to a large extent, also disturbs the idea of free and fair elections. Thus, the Supreme Court in this case directed the ECI to frame guidelines in consultation with all the recognized political parties for general conduct of the candidates, meetings, processions, polling day, party in power, election manifesto, etc.
In case of a general election to the House of the People or to a state Legislative Assembly, the MCC is applicable throughout India or, the state, as the case may be and remains in operation from the date of announcement of election date till the completion of election process.
The MCC broadly lays down the following guidelines to govern the conduct of political parties/candidates during the election period:
- A political party/candidate cannot indulge in any activity that causes or aggravates existing differences, hatred, criticism about other party/candidate’s private life not connected to their public activities, bribing of voters, protest against individual’s opinions, disturbances to public meetings organized by other political parties, hindrance to traffic during public procession/meeting, etc;
- A political party/candidate has to inform and provide details to the local police authorities before conducting a public meeting;
- A political party/candidate has to cooperate with officers on election duty to ensure that there is peaceful and orderly polling;
- The party in power or its officials cannot use their official position or use public exchequer for their electioneering work including publication of advertisements, conduct of public meetings, etc;
- From the time elections are announced, a political party/candidate cannot announce any financial grants or promises to construct roads and bridges, etc;
- The election manifestos should not contain promises of welfare measures that may exert undue influence on voters, etc.
As per the ECI, although the Model Code of Conduct is not a statutory document, but many of its provisions have enabling laws in the Indian Penal Code 1860 as amended thereof and the Representation of the People Act, 1951 as amended thereof, and therefore, any person aggrieved of violation of any such provision may take legal recourse under the said laws.
Senior Legal Associate
The Indian Lawyer