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EC proposes change in Model Code of Conduct 

Context:

The Election Commission of India recently notified the political parties to spell out ways and means of raising additional resources to finance the promises, and the impact it would have on the fiscal sustainability of the state or the Central government.

Relevance:

GS Paper – 2: Polity and Governance, Government Policies & Interventions

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Key points
  2. Existing guidelines
  3. About Election Commission of India
  4. Structure of the Election Commission
  5. Issues with ECI
  6. Powers of EC
  7. Other powers handled by the Election Commission of India are as follows:

Key points:

  • The EC wrote to all the recognised national and state parties prescribing a standardised disclosure proforma for them to declare quantification of the physical coverage of the schemes promised, financial implications of the promise and availability of the financial resources.
  • This gains significance in the backdrop of raging debate on the financial implication of freebies promised by political parties during elections.
  • This move by the EC will bring in standardisation in the nature of information and help voters compare and make an informed decision.
  • To make these steps mandatory, the EC plans to propose an amendment to the relevant clauses in the Model Code of Conduct.
  • Details looked out for by the EC:
    • The extent and expanse of the coverage of the promised scheme
    • Quantification of physical coverage
    • Financial implications
    • Availability of financial resources
    • Ways and means of raising resources for meeting the additional expenditure to be incurred in fulfilling the promises.
    • The impact of the additional resource raising plan for fulfilling the promises on fiscal sustainability of the State or the Union Government

Existing guidelines:

  • The existing guidelines under the Model Code of Conduct require the political parties and candidates to explain the rationale for promises made as well as possible ways and means to finance such promises.
  • The declaration by the political parties are found to be quite routine, ambiguous and do not provide adequate information to voters to exercise informed choice in an election.
  • These declarations are also not submitted by most of the political parties in time.

About Election Commission of India

  • The Election Commission of India is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering Union and State election processes in India.
  • The body administers elections to the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha, and State Legislative Assemblies in India, and the offices of the President and Vice President in the country.
  • It is the Commission that decides the election schedules for the conduct of elections, whether general elections or by-elections.
  • ECI decides on the location of polling stations, assignment of voters to the polling stations, location of counting centers, arrangements to be made in and around polling stations and counting centres and all allied matters.
  • In the performance of its functions, the Election Commission is insulated from executive interference.
  • Part XV of the Indian constitution deals with elections, and establishes a commission for these matters.
  • The Election Commission was established in accordance with the Constitution on 25th January 1950, hence it is a constitutional body. Article 324 to 329 of the constitution deals with powers, function, tenure, eligibility, etc., of the commission and the member.

Structure of the Election Commission

  • Originally the commission had only one election commissioner but after the Election Commissioner Amendment Act 1989, it has been made a multi-member body.
  • The commission consists of one Chief Election Commissioner and two Election Commissioners.
  • The secretariat of the commission is located in New Delhi.
  • At the state level election commission is helped by Chief Electoral Officer who is an IAS rank Officer.
  • The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners.
  • They have a fixed tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
  • They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The Chief Election Commissioner can be removed from office only through a process of removal similar to that of a Supreme Court judge for by Parliament.

Issues with ECI

  • Flaws in the composition: The Constitution doesn’t prescribe qualifications for members of the EC. They are not debarred from future appointments after retiring or resigning.
  • No security of tenure: Election commissioners aren’t constitutionally protected with security of tenure.
  • Partisan role: The EC has come under the scanner like never before, with increasing incidents of breach of the Model Code of Conduct in the 2019 general elections.
  • Political favor: The opposition alleged that the ECI was favoring the ruling party by giving clean chit to the model code of conduct violations made by the PM.
  • Non-competence: Increased violence and electoral malpractices under influence of money have resulted in political criminalization, which ECI is unable to arrest.

Powers of EC:

  • The Election Commission of India is considered the guardian of free and reasonable elections.
  • It issues the Model Code of Conduct in every election for political parties and candidates so that the decorum of democracy is maintained.
  • It regulates political parties and registers them for being eligible to contest elections.
  • It publishes the allowed limits of campaign expenditure per candidate to all the political parties, and also monitors the same.
  • The political parties must submit their annual reports to the ECI for getting tax benefit on contributions.
  • It guarantees that all the political parties regularly submit their audited financial reports.

Other powers handled by the Election Commission of India are as follows:

  • The Commission can repress the results of opinion polls if it deems such an action fit for the cause of democracy.
  • The Commission can recommend for disqualification of members after the elections if it thinks they have violated certain guidelines.
  • In case, a candidate is found guilty of dishonest practices during the elections, the Supreme Court and High Courts consult the Commission.
  • The Commission can postpone candidates who fail to submit their election expense accounts timely.

-Source: The Indian Express


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