Model Code of Conduct

Model Code of Conduct

What is Model Code of Conduct?

  • Model Code of Conduct is
    • Set of norms ie dos and don’ts for any political party during the elections
    • Evolved with the consensus of political parties 
    • Comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission

How has the Model Code of Conduct evolved over time?

  • Commission issued Model Code of Conduct for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time.
  • In 2013, guidelines regarding election manifestos were added on the orders of Supreme Court

What are the key provisions of the Model Code of Conduct?

Model Code of Conduct contains eight provisions dealing with 

  1. General Conduct 
  2. Meetings: Parties must inform the local police authorities of the venue and time of any meeting 
  3. Processions
  4. Polling day
  5. Polling booths
  6. Observers
  7. Party in power: Regulates the conduct of the party in power barring them official machinery for the same.
  8. Election manifestos: Added in 2013, these guidelines prohibit parties from making promises that exert an undue influence on voters, and  that manifestos should also indicate the means to achieve promises. Eg freebies.

Making Model Code of Conduct legal

  • Statutory shape for the model code would mean violations being tried in court; but at the same time , the Election Commission’s practice of using the code to restrain parties and candidates might be jeopardised. Code’s true power springs from the Election Commission’s active, interventionist role in real time during electioneering and polling, and not from successful prosecution in cases of violation
  • In India, Courts take years to decide, and often their rulings come well after the term of the legislature is over.
  • Even now moral authority of the model code is very strong and leaders are afraid of getting a notice under the model code.
  • This is why the Election Commission itself, which once favoured making the code statutory is today apprehensive about it.

Analysis of its working

  • Led to relatively free and fairer elections.
  • Election Commission of India has achieved considerable success in containing the role of muscle power
  • Model Code of Conduct bars the candidates from making hate speeches . This provision has  averted communal and caste riots  (Current 2019 : Yogi Adityanath, Mayavati, Azam Khan etc censured by Election Commission of India for Hate Speeches)
  • Model Code of Conduct has ensured level playing field by barring the political party in power from using the state machinery in elections. 
  • It has helped in keeping the campaign fair and healthy and avoid clashes 
  • Freebies and manifesto guidelines has empowered Election Commission of India to cancel elections in case of evidence of use of money and gifts by candidates to influence voting pattern of voters.   Eg : 2019 Lok Sabha Elections –  polls in Vellore constituency in Tamil Nadu were cancelled due to evidence of use of money .

Criticism of Model Code of Conduct

  • Large number of cases are filed for violation of Model Code of Conduct but they are not taken to logical end mainly because  Model Code of Conduct doesn’t have legal backing
  • Model Code of Conduct comes into force from the time immediately on announcement of the election schedule . In 2019, the Model Code of Conduct lasted from March to May. This long implementation brings government work to standstill 
  • Not able to contain money power effectively .
  • Emergence of new forms of electoral malpractices eg – Manipulation through the media which is difficult to trace to specific political parties and candidates.

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