Model Code of Conduct - All You Need To Know

19 Mar 2024  Read 1839 Views

India runs the world's biggest election with more than 97 crore voters. And just before elections, photos/videos of political candidates distributing cash, liquor, or even saari to influence voters can be seen on the internet. Such incidents challenge the fairness and credibility of democratic elections.

This is precisely where the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) step in, ensuring that India's elections process remains transparent, free and fair with genuine competition among candidates. It lays down a comprehensive list of dos and don'ts for leaders and parties before elections, guiding them towards responsible and ethical conduct.
Let's understand MCC, its importance, and other key details of this critical document.

What is the Model Code of Conduct?

  1. About the MCC: The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is a set of rules created by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to control how political parties and candidates behave before elections.
  2. Aim of MCC: It prohibits political parties and candidates from doing things that could unfairly influence voters' minds or disrupt the peace and orderliness of the election.
  3. EC's Authority under the Constitution: The MCC helps the Election Commission fulfil its responsibilities under Article 324 of the Constitution. This Article gives the EC the power to supervise and organise fair elections for Parliament and State Legislatures.
  4. Applicability: The MCC applies to political parties, candidates, and the government (ruling parties) once the election dates are announced until the results are declared.
  5. Legal Status of MCC: Even though the MCC isn't a law, the Supreme Court has supported its principles in various cases. This means that although it doesn't have legal backing, it carries importance during elections.

Who establishes the Model Code of Conduct?

The Election Commission of India implements the electoral Model Code of Conduct in India. These rules cover how meetings, general conduct, campaigning, etc., should happen during elections. 

What is the purpose of the Model Code of Conduct?

Its main goal is to ensure that campaigns, voting, and counting happen in an orderly, transparent, and peaceful manner. It promotes ethical behaviour and ensures that elections are conducted without malpractices or power misuse. It also stops the ruling party from misusing government resources or money.

How is the Model Code of Conduct enforced during elections?

The MCC comes into effect when the Election Commission announces the election date. These rules ​remain effective until the election process is completed.

History of Model Code of Conduct

  • The MCC started during the Kerala Assembly elections in 1960. Back then, the state government made a set of rules called a 'Code of Conduct' for politicians.
  • Later, during the 1962 Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission of India shared these rules with all political parties and state governments. 
  • The Election Commission issued the first code as the 'Minimum Code of Conduct' in September 1968.
  • The 1991 General Election greatly impacted how the Model Code of Conduct developed. This strengthened and reissued the MCC, with the Election Commission becoming more active and involved.

Which events or activities does the Model Code of Conduct govern?

The MCC is divided into 8 parts and lays down guidelines for general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day dos and don'ts, conduct for polling booths and election observers, conduct guidelines for the party in power, as well as election manifestos. 

Model Code of Conduct

If you are interested in reading about Election laws & how elections are held, then click on the link.

What restrictions does the Model Code of Conduct impose?

A. Political parties/ candidates can only criticise others based on their past actions and accomplishments

B. It's not allowed to use caste or religious sentiments to attract voters.

C. Government officials cannot start new projects or schemes except for civil servants that might change voters' behaviour.

D. The ruling party should not spend public money on advertising in newspapers, etc., or use government media to brag about their achievements just to win elections. 

E. The party in power cannot hire people in government jobs or public sector undertakings, etc., in a way that might change how people vote.

F. Bribing, intimidating, or pretending to be someone else to get votes is restricted.

Provision of Model Code of Conduct

Is the Model Code of Conduct legally binding?

The MCC doesn't have legal support, which means if someone breaks the MCC rules, they can't be punished using the MCC itself. The Election Commission uses moral sanctions to ensure political parties/ candidates follow the rules.

The ECI can issue a notice to a politician or a party for a breach of the MCC either on its own or based on a complaint by another party or individual. 

Can individuals file complaints against violations of the Model Code of Conduct?

Individuals can file their complaints online or in person with the ECI or the Chief Electoral Officer of their state regarding violations of the MCC. 

One can easily raise grievances using the National Grievances Service portal or the c-Vigil mobile app provided by the Election Commission of India.

How to File complaints against violations of the Model Code of Conduct?

a. Register the National Grievances Service portal or the c-Vigil mobile app with user details. 

b. Write your complaint and upload a recent picture or video on the app. 

c. After submitting, you'll get a unique ID to track your complaint and keep your identity confidential. 

d. Alternatively, one can directly complain to the respective area's District Election Officer or Returning Officer. 

e. Also, one can report violations at polling stations to the Booth Level Officer or EC-appointed Observers.

Are there any penalties for violating the Model Code of Conduct?

Any violation of the guidelines set by the ECI in the MCC can lead to penalties such as disqualification of candidates, cancellation of elections, or legal action against the offenders. 

What are the Criticisms of the MCC?

  • Lack of Legal Enforcement: Critics argue that the MCC lacks legal enforceability and relies merely on moral persuasion and public opinion for compliance. 
  • Inability to Prevent Malpractice: Inefficiency in preventing malpractice like fake news, taking over voting booths, scaring voters, etc.
  • Challenges with Technology: The ECI also faces problems with new tech and social media that spread lies and propaganda quickly to more people.

Conclusion

In nutshell, the Model Code of Conduct serves as a guidebook to participants of elections for fair and proper elections. Supported by a strong monitoring system, including flying squads, surveillance teams, and observers, the Election Commission of India stands firm in its commitment to uphold the MCC, make sure everyone follows these rules, and keep the essence of democracy safe during elections

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 29 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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