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UPSC Sansad TV: Model Code of Conduct

 

Authority of ECI vis-à-vis MCC:

  • Model code of conductis the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct. It aims to ensure free and fair elections.
  • It helps the EC in keeping with the mandate it has been given under Article 324of the Constitution, which gives it the power to supervise and conduct free and fair elections to the Parliament and State Legislatures.
  • Article 324 says the superintendence, direction and control of all elections to Parliament, the State legislatures, and the offices of the President and Vice-President shall be vested in the EC.
  • The Article has been interpreted by courts and by orders of the EC from time to time to mean that the power vested in it is plenary in nature.
  • In other words, the EC can take any action it deems fit to ensure that elections and the election process are free and fair.
  • The EC monitors the adherence of political parties and candidates to the ‘Model Code of Conduct’.
  • If the violations are also offences under election law and the criminal law of the land, the EC has the power to recommend registration of cases against the offenders.
  • However, for some violations — such as canvassing for votes during a period when electioneering is barred, making official announcements while the MCC is in force, and making appeal to voters on sectarian grounds — the EC has the power to advise or censure candidates, in addition to directing registration of cases.
  • In some cases, as recent incidents would show, the EC may bar candidates or leaders from campaigning for specified periods.
  • Asking individuals to leave a constituency or barring entry into certain areas are other powers that the EC may exercise.
  • These powers are not necessarily traceable to any provision in law, but are generally considered inherent because of the sweeping and plenary nature of the EC’s responsibility under the Constitution to ensure free and fair elections.
  • Its powers extend to postponing elections to any constituency, cancelling an election already notified, and even to abrogate or annul an election already held.

Why MCC needs to be under statute:

  • The EC does not have the power to disqualify candidates who commit electoral malpractices. At best, it may direct the registration of a case.
  • The EC also does not have the power to deregister any political party. However, the Constitution empowers the EC to decide whether a candidate has incurred disqualification by holding an office of profit under the appropriate government, or has been declared an insolvent, or acquired the citizenship of a foreign state.
  • When a question arises whether a candidate has incurred any of these disqualifications, the President of India or Governor has to refer it to the EC. The poll panel’s decision on this is binding.

Way Forward:

  • Under Chief Election Commissioners like T.N. Seshan and J.M. Lyngdoh, the commission has in the past shown the capacity to come up with creative solutions that adhere to both the spirit and the letter of the law.
  • MCC should be provided with statutory backing. It should be made a part of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 to make the MCC more powerful.
  • Establishment of special fast track courts to solve the MCC violation cases at a faster rate.
  • The law commission recommendations should be implemented to save the unnecessary spending of public money during elections.
  • Public awareness about MCC needs to be developed. The use of app like cVIGIL should be encouraged to reduce violations during polls.
  • Stakeholders including Internet companies should come up with a code for Social Media and Internet.

Conclusion:

MCC has an indisputable legitimacy and parties across the political spectrum have generally adhered to its letter and spirit. The immaculate independence of the EC and its uncompromising attitude towards enforcing the code, combined with the perception among parties that following the code far outweighs the costs accrued if violated by other parties, especially the ruling one, have led to the success of the MCC since its inception.