Lok Sabha Elections 2019: What is Model Code of Conduct?
The Election Commission on March 10, 2019 imposed ‘model code of conduct’ in the entire nation with immediate effect for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, following its announcement of the complete election schedule.
The commission also announced that ‘voter-verifiable paper audit trail’ will be used in all polling stations this time. According to Article 324 of the Constitution, the Election Commission of India has the power to monitor the Centre, all the state governments, all the candidates and their respective political parties.
The Election Commission’s Model Code of Conduct is primarily a manual that features a set of guidelines for the conduct of political parties and candidates during elections. The guidelines mainly aim to ensure that the polls are free and fair.
The manual deals with eight key provisions – general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, the party in power and election manifestos.
General conduct: Under the provision, while political parties can criticise the other candidates based on policies and programmes and their work record, they are not allowed to use caste and communal sentiments to lure voters.
The manual also bars political parties from bribing or intimidating voters and most importantly, criticising them based on unverified reports.
Meetings/ Rallies/ Processions: Under the provision, the guidelines make it mandatory for the political parties to inform the local police about their rallies and public meetings and provide them time to make adequate security arrangements.
They also bar political parties and candidates from carrying or burning the effigies of their opponents. They also state that in case two rival parties plan a road show in the same area, then their routes must not clash.
Polling Day: During the polling day, all those workers who are working for their parties in the polling booth will be required to wear a badge with party name and symbol.
Polling Booths: Besides voters, only those individuals with a permit from the Election Commission will be allowed to enter polling booths.
The manual bars political parties from campaigning for votes within a distance of 100 metres of the polling booth on the day of voting.
Advertisement: Under the code of conduct, all political advertisements on social media will need pre-certification.
Restrictions on Ruling Party
• The model code of conduct bars the ruling government from announcing any policy move that may impact voters’ decision.
• It also bars the ruling party from advertising at the cost of the public exchequer or use official mass media for publicity on achievements.
• Under the code of conduct, no Member of Parliament or minister can combine their official visit with campaigning or party work.
• The guidelines also state that Ministers and other authorities must not announce any financial grants, or promise any construction of roads, provision of drinking water and so on.
• Further, the guidelines restrict the ruling party from monopolising public places, paving way for them to be used by other parties as well.
What happens in case of violation of MCC?
If a party violates the MCC, they cannot be charged for violating a section of the code as it has no statutory backing.
However, the EC can file a case under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) or the Income Tax Act.
The EC’s Model Code of Conduct comes into force as soon as the election schedule to either state assemblies or the Lok Sabha is announced by the Election Commission of India.
The 2019 Lok Sabha Elections polls will be held in seven phases beginning from April 11. According to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, 10 lakh polling stations would be set up this time as against about nine lakh in 2014.
In total, 91 constituencies will go for polls in the first phase on April 11, followed by 97 constituencies in the second phase on April 18.
In 2014, the Lok Sabha elections were held across nine phases, beginning on April 7 and ending on May 9. The counting of votes had then taken place on May 16. A total of over 55 crore voters (66.3 per cent) had exercised their vote then and there were nearly 60 lakh ‘NOTA’ votes.