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Violation of Model Code of Conduct

Context:

During the recently concluded Karnataka Assembly elections, there were potential instances of violations of the model code of conduct, particularly in relation to Sections 171(E) and 171(F) of the Indian Penal Code.

Relevance:

GS II: Polity and Governance

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Details
  2. Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
  3. MCC (Model Code of Conduct) for political parties and candidates
  4. Criticisms of the MCC

Details:

Section 171(E): Punishment for Bribery in Elections

  • This section focuses on the consequences of bribery during elections and emphasizes the seriousness of such actions. By using illegal means, bribery undermines the principles of fairness and equality, aiming to sway the election outcome.

Section 171(F): Undue Influence and Personation in Elections

  • Section 171(F) addresses the issues of undue influence and personation in elections. It prohibits any unlawful attempt to influence voters or impersonate someone else with the intention of influencing their voting decision. Such violations undermine the democratic process and erode public trust in the electoral system.

Disqualification of Candidates under the Representation of the People Act, 1951

  • If a candidate is found guilty of offenses described in sections 171(E) or 171(F), they can face disqualification according to the Representation of the People Act, 1951.

 Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

  • The MCC refers to a set of guidelines created by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
  • It serves as a regulatory tool for political parties and candidates in the run-up to elections.
  • The primary objective of the MCC is to enable the EC to fulfill its constitutional mandate of supervising and conducting free and fair elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.

Duration and applicability:

  • The MCC becomes operational from the date on which the election schedule is announced.
  • It remains in effect until the date of the result announcement.

MCC (Model Code of Conduct) for political parties and candidates:

Campaign Conduct

  • Political parties can criticize opponents based on policies, programs, past records, and work only.
  • Prohibited activities include using caste or communal feelings, criticizing candidates based on unverified reports, bribing or intimidating voters, etc.
  • Political parties must inform local police authorities of the time and venue of any meetings to allow for adequate security arrangements.
  • Parties should establish contact to avoid clashes between processions of multiple candidates.
  • Carrying and burning effigies representing members of other political parties is not allowed.

Polling Booth and Identity

  • Only voters and those with a valid pass from the EC can enter polling booths.
  • Authorized party workers at polling booths should wear suitable badges or identity cards.
  • Identity slips provided to voters by party workers should be on plain paper without symbols, candidate names, or party names.

Conduct of Party in Power

  • Ministers cannot combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.
  • The party in power cannot advertise at the cost of the public exchequer or use official mass media for publicity to improve election chances.
  • The party in power cannot announce financial grants, promise construction of roads or provision of drinking water from the time of election announcement until the end of the election process.
  • Public spaces and rest houses cannot be monopolized by the party in power.

Election Manifesto

  • Manifestos should not contain anything against the ideals and principles of the Constitution.
  • Political parties should avoid making promises that may influence voters or vitiate the purity of the election process.
  • Manifestos should indicate the rationale and ways to meet financial requirements for promises.
  • Manifestos cannot be released during the prohibitory period prescribed under Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act 1951.
Recent Additions to the MCC:
  • Regulation of opinion polls and exit polls during the period notified by the ECI.
  • Prohibition of unapproved print media advertisements on polling day and one day prior to it.
  • Restriction on government advertisements featuring political functionaries during the election period.
Legally Enforceable MCC:
  • The MCC does not have statutory backing but is strictly enforced by the EC.
  • Certain MCC provisions can be enforced through corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the IPC 1860, CrPC 1973, and RPA 1951.
  • The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice recommended making the MCC legally binding in 2013.
  • The ECI is against making the MCC legally binding, citing the short duration of elections and the length of judicial proceedings.

Criticisms of the MCC

Limitations and Failures of the MCC:

  • The MCC has not been effective in preventing various forms of electoral malpractices such as hate speech, fake news, money power, booth capturing, voter intimidation, and violence.

Challenges with New Technologies and Social Media:

  • The ECI faces difficulties in dealing with new technologies and social media platforms, which enable the rapid and extensive spread of misinformation and propaganda during elections.

Non-Binding Nature of the MCC:

  • The MCC is not a legally binding document, and its implementation depends on moral persuasion and public opinion, which makes it less effective in preventing electoral malpractices.

Implications on Policy Decisions and Public Interest:

  • The MCC places certain limitations on policy decisions, public spending, welfare schemes, transfers, and appointments, which can have implications for development activities and public interest.

Criticism of Application Timing:

  • The ECI has been criticized for applying the MCC too early or too late, which affects the timing of development activities and public interest.

Lack of Awareness:

  • The MCC is not widely known or understood by voters, candidates, parties, and government officials, which may lead to non-compliance with its provisions.

-Source: The Hindu


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