With less than a month for the Lok Sabha polls to begin, the political parties across the country are on overdrive. In between finalising candidates for the constituencies, releasing election manifestos and scheduling poll campaigns, the political leaders are also duty-bound to keep an eye on whether they are violating certain guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India.
Known as the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), this set of guidelines are to be followed by political parties, leaders, election candidates, government machinery and officials, in the run-up to the elections. The MCC comes into force when the Chief Election Commissioner announces the schedule of the elections. It will be in force till the election process is complete.
The important rules in MCC
The MCC prescribes detailed guidelines on what to do and what not to do once the schedule of elections is announced. It takes help of previous landmark judgments made by the Supreme Court to drive home the point on certain rules. The MCC has extensive rules on using the national flag, guest houses of government and government-owned enterprises, official vehicles and public funds, among others.
Official work of candidates must not be combined with campaigning or electioneering. For example, an incumbent MP/MLA should not participate in an event in the capacity of an MP/MLA and then use the stage to campaign for polls.
Places of worship shall not be used for election propaganda, in the form of speeches, songs or posters.
Once MCC is in place, restrictions to announce financial grants/relief, laying the foundation stone of projects and promising any welfare scheme come into force. However, schemes that are in the final stage of commissioning can be inaugurated without involving political leaders and celebrations.
No advertisements shall be published in print and electronic media publicising the achievements of the government at the cost of the public exchequer, from the date of the announcement.
All hoardings and advertisements projecting the achievements of any living political leader or political party and which carry his/her photo, name or party symbol at the cost of public exchequer should be removed immediately once the election is announced.
During MCC, photos of the Chief Minister, Prime Minister and other party functionaries who are active in public life and maybe contesting elections must not be displayed in government buildings or premises.
MCC is applicable to organisations and associations that are not political in nature, yet promote a particular political party or a candidate. If any such programme involves promotional content, then the organisation should obtain prior written permission for such a programme with the details of the expenses incurred on such event and submit the same to the District Electoral Officer.
Use of loudspeakers between 10 pm and 6 am is banned.
Prohibition of electoral offences such as bribery, canvassing, intimidation of voters within 100 metres of the polling booth, holding public meetings within the 48 hours from the end of polling time and picking up and dropping off voters from polling booths.
No propaganda materials should be used in places where identity slips are distributed on polling day or near polling booths. Propaganda materials include posters, flyers, notices, wall paintings, pictures, audio/video content, artefacts having pictures of the party or candidate etc.
Liquor shops are to be shut during the last 48 hours nearing the poll date and on the counting day. Distribution of liquor during elections is prohibited.
Where is it implemented?
In the case of general elections, the MCC will be enforced throughout the country. However, when it comes to bye-polls to the State Assembly and local body election, the MCC will be in force only in the constituency that is going to polls, not the entire district or state.
Who is it applicable for?
MCC is applicable to political parties, political leaders, electoral candidates, government machinery, which includes departments and offices, government officers and any institution that run on public funds.
When MCC is violated, not followed
If a political party, a candidate or a government official is found violating or not adhering to the rules prescribed under the MCC, the citizens can apprise the Election Commission of India (ECI) of such violation through specified means.
The ECI will deliberate on the issue and can take a range of actions: Impose a fine, file an FIR that leads to imprisonment or even cancel the polls in that constituency.
Citizens can complain about the violations using the cVIGIL mobile app introduced by the ECI. The GIS-based app allows one to upload photos and videos of the MCC violation as proof. The identity and other details of the complainant will be kept anonymous in the app.