The Election Commission of India (ECI) announced the schedule on March 10, 2019 for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, which is scheduled to span April and May in seven phases.
The ECI also said that the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) would come into force immediately.
The MCC is enforced by the ECI with the intention of leveling the field for parties participating in the election. It also bifurcates ministers' and governments' responsibility towards their official capacities and their political activities so as to not use governmental machinery for political advantage.
BOOM tells you all you need to know about the MCC and the effect it has on various stakeholders in the political sphere.
What is the MCC?
The MCC is a multi-partisan document released by the ECI with the consensus of political parties consisting of:
- A basic guidelines of conduct and behavior to be observed by political parties and candidates during the campaign period and on election day
- Restrictions placed upon the government so as to not use legal and executive machinery in an attempt to sway voters
- Guidelines regulating the conduct of ministers of the ruling party
According to the Election Commission:
Model Code applies in relation to all elections to House of People and
State Assemblies. It is also applicable in case of elections to Legislative
Councils from Local Bodies, Graduates’ and Teachers’ Constituencies
Therefore, this MCC thus applies to:
- Elections to the Lok Sabha (House of the People)
- Elections to the Vidhan Sabha (Legislative Assembly) of states
- Election to Vidhan Parishad (Legislative Council)
In the case of a Lok Sabha election, the MCC applies across India, and in the relevant state in the case of Vidhan Sabha elections. In the case of a bypoll, it applies to only the applicable constituencies.
Do's and Don'ts for the Government
- The government cannot transfer bureaucrats and officials. Officials transferred in this period cannot take charge of their new position
- The government cannot announce any new scheme that is to be available publicly
- However, the government can continue the implementation of schemes that have been approved and whose disbursement has started before the election
- However, governments can use funds at will to announce schemes and relief measures in times of natural or man-man
- The government cannot hold auctions for licenses and issue tenders during the MCC
Do's and Don'ts for political parties
According to the MCC, political parties need to:
- Political parties need to inform the police of all campaign and propaganda it wishes to undertake to the local authorities/police
- Organizers of rallies cannot take action against miscreants inhibiting party rallies/campaigns/roadshows. Such actions is to be taken only by the police
- Parties cannot campaign in areas where other parties are organising political events
- No potential contestant can go to file his/her nomination with pomp/celebration
- Loudspeakers cannot be used between 10 PM to 6AM. Even outside this period, police permission is needed for the use of loudspeakers
- Political parties must cease all display of all election matter 48 hours ending with the hour of the conclusion of the polls
Do's and Don'ts for Ministers
The MCC makes certain provision to separate the governmental machinery that ministers use in their ministerial capacity, who will in all likelihood hit the campaign train for their political parties at the time of elections.
- Ministers cannot combine electioneering visits with their political visits. The only exception to this rule is the Prime Minister.
- Ministers cannot use official vehicles for political activity. It can only be used to commute to those venues that the minister is doing as a representative of the government. None of any ministers' cars can have sirens.
- Ministers cannot announce any sop or financial grants under discretionary funds when the MCC is in force.
- No fresh grants of fund to be made under the MP/MLA/MLC Local Area Fund.
- Ministers cannot authorize advertisements depicting the achievements of governments in papers or in electronic media at the expense of public funds. Such information must be at the expense of the minister or the party.
- Ministers cannot lay foundations, or make any ad-hoc appointments. Such undertakings need to be executed by civil servants if and when the need arises, without involving any political functionary.
- Ministers and political functionaries from outside a constituency who came in with the propose to campaign cannot stay there starting 48 hours ending with the hour of the conclusion of the polls.
"Star campaigners" or leaders of political parties have some special provisions for them.
Star campaigners can be found under the header 'political leaders' in Section 77 of the Representation of People's Act, 1951.
- Recognised political parties can have not more than 40 such campaigners
- Non-recognised parties cannot have more than 20 such campaigners
The names of these campaigners needs to be provided to the EC at the time of every election.
For example, Aam Aadmi Party, BJP and Shiromani Akali Dal released such a list here for a by-elections to the Rajouri Garden seat, Delhi.
- Star campaigners have a centrally issued vehicular permission issued to them, who will have to stick it on the vehicle's windshield while on the campaign trail. ECI certification for the party vehicles do not include this.
- Start campaigners, including CMs and ministers have some restrictions on hiring government-owned and public-sector owned aircraft. Although, these restrictions do not apply to the PM.
- Nothing prohibits star campaigners and ministers from flying and chartering flights at their own expense.
The MCC prohibits all exit polls and opinion polls:
- For 48 hours ending with the hour of the conclusion of the polls in a single phase election.
- For 48 hours ending with the hour of the conclusion of the polls in the first phase of the election until the poll closes in the last phase of the election in case of a multi-phase election.
Is the MCC a legal document?
No, the MCC has no statutory authority. Attempts have been made by the government to amend the Representation of People's Act, 1951; adding sections to add punitive teeth to punish infractions listed in the MCC. However, this amendment bill has not been passed.
Therefore, the MCC as of now only stands as a guiding principle with no authority to punish.