Recently, the Election Commission ordered that social media posts of a poster showing Wing-commander Abhinandan, shared by a BJP leader, be taken down as it was in violation of the MCC on social media.
- What is it? Model Code of Conduct (MCC) for political parties and candidates is a set of norms evolved with the consensus of political parties and enforced by the Election Commission of India.
- To help the Election commission of India to conduct free and fair elections and maintain high standards of public morality.
- To provide a level playing field between contestants so that ruling party doesn’t misuse its position to gain an unfair advantage by taking decisions that can help them in the elections.
- To ensure that parties and candidates show respect for their opponents, criticise their policies and programmes constructively, and not resort to mudslinging and personal attacks.
- Government’s Covered: At the time of the Lok Sabha elections, both the Union and state governments are covered under the MCC.
- Duration of enforcement:
- The code is enforced from the date of announcement of election schedule till announcement of election result.
- However, the Commission can’t make its announcement more than three weeks ahead of issuing the formal notification of elections.
Evolution of MCC:
- The Model Code of Conduct for election was for the first time adopted for Assembly Election of Kerala way back in 1960.
- The Election Commission decided to emulate Kerala’s example and circulate the draft among all recognised parties and state governments for the Lok Sabha elections of 1962.
- However, it was only in 1974, just before the mid-term general elections, that the EC released a formal Model Code of Conduct. This Code was also circulated during parliamentary elections of 1977.
- Until this time, the MCC was meant to guide the conduct of political parties and candidates only. However, just before the 1979 Lok Sabha elections, released a revised Model Code with one part devoted to restrictions on the party in power once elections were announced.
- The MCC has been revised on several occasions since then.
Contents of MCC:
- Part I deals with general precepts of good behaviour expected from candidates and political parties.
- Parts II and III focus on public meetings and processions. Parts IV and V describe how political parties and candidates should conduct themselves on the day of polling and at the polling booths.
- Part VI is about the authority appointed by the EC to receive complaints on violations of the MCC.
- Part VII is on the party in power.
- In 2014, the Commission introduced Part VIII on manifestos, pursuant to the directions of the Supreme Court.
Restrictions for the party in power:
- The MCC forbids ministers (of state and central governments) from using official machinery for election work and from combining official visits with electioneering.
- Advertisements praising the work of the incumbent government using public money are to be avoided.
- The government cannot announce any financial grants, promise construction of roads or other facilities, and make any ad hoc appointments in government or public undertaking during the time the Code is in force.
- Ministers cannot enter any polling station or counting centre except in their capacity as a voter or a candidate.
- However, the Code does not halt the ongoing schemes of development work or welfare, relief and rehabilitation measures meant for people suffering from natural calamities. However, the EC forbids the use of these works for election propaganda.
Social Media and MCC:
- According to the Election Commission, MCC will also apply to content posted by political parties and candidates on the Internet, including on social media sites.
- In 2013, the Commission laid down guidelines to regulate the use of social media by parties and candidates.
- Candidates have to provide their email address and details of accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., and add the expenditure on advertisements posted on social media to their overall expenditure for the election.
- Recently, the Election Commission ordered that social media posts of a poster showing Wing-commander Abhinandan, shared by a BJP leader, be taken down as it was in violation of the MCC on social media.
- This is probably because the EC did not have a mechanism to coordinate with Internet companies to take down impermissible content. However, these firms have now assured that they would cooperate with the EC during the coming Lok Sabha elections.
- It is not under a law, it is not even under conduct rules in short it has no statutory backing.
- Governments have in the past attempted to amend The Representation of the People Act, 1951, to make some violations of the MCC illegal and punishable.
- However, the commission is of the opinion that making the Code legally enforceable would be self-defeating because any violation must be responded to quickly — and this will not be possible if the matter goes to court.
Enforcing the MCC:
- It is not a legally enforceable document, and the Commission usually uses moral sanction to get political parties and candidates to fall in line.
- There are examples of the EC taking punitive action against violators.
- For instance, during the Lok Sabha elections of 2014, it banned BJP leader Amit Shah from campaigning in Uttar Pradesh, and ordered criminal proceedings for making “provocative” statements while canvassing. The ban was lifted after he apologised and promised to not violate the MCC again.