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Editorial of the day (30th Apr): Reforms in MCC

Context: The MCC, a unique consensual arrangement that evolved over many years, comes under stress as soon as it comes into force with the announcement of elections.

About Model Code of Conduct

  • Evolution:
    • 1960: It has a small set of guidelines for the Assembly election in Kerala.
      • It covered the conduct of election meetings/processions, speeches, slogans, posters and placards.
    • 1968: The EC consulted with political parties and circulated the Code to observe minimum standards of behaviour to ensure free and fair elections.
    • 1979: It became a practice for the EC to circulate the Code before every General Election.
      • The EC in consultation with the political parties further amplified the code, adding a new section placing restrictions on the “party in power” to prevent abuse of position to get undue advantage over other parties and candidates.
    • 1991: It became a robust tool to prevent abuses of power, especially by the ruling parties during elections.
An Overview of Model Code of Conduct (MCC)
●        Nature of the MCC: The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) was created by the Election Commission of India (ECI) as a part of efforts to ensure free and fair elections, based on a consensus among major political parties.

○        It lacks statutory backing, making compliance voluntary rather than legally enforceable.

●       Enforcement Authority: The Election Commission of India enforces the MCC to ensure free and fair elections, as mandated by Article 324 of the Constitution of India.

●        Enforcement Mechanism: The ECI enforces the MCC through moral persuasion and censure, rather than legal penalties.

●        Objective: The MCC aims to prevent the misuse of official machinery for electoral purposes, electoral offences, malpractices, and corrupt practices.

●        Effective Period: It becomes effective from the announcement of the election schedule by the Election Commission and remains in force until the election process is concluded.

●        Geographical Applicability:

○        During Lok Sabha elections, the MCC applies nationwide.

○        In the case of state Legislative Assembly elections, it applies across the concerned state.

○        For bye-elections, the MCC is applicable only within the constituency undergoing the election.

●        Process for Alleged Breaches:

○        The ECI can issue notices for alleged MCC breaches, either suo motu or based on complaints.

○        Accused individuals or parties must respond in writing, acknowledging fault with an apology or contesting the allegations.

○        Guilty parties may receive a written censure, considered by some as a minimal reprimand.

What are the Restrictions Imposed during MCC?●        General Conduct:

○        Political parties and candidates must base their criticism on the work record of their opponents, avoiding caste or communal sentiments.

○        The use of places of worship such as Mosques, Churches, Temples, etc., for election campaigning is strictly prohibited.

○        Practices such as bribing, intimidating, or impersonating voters are forbidden.

○        A 48-hour “election silence” period before the polling closes is mandated to provide a campaign-free environment for voters to reflect.

●        Meetings: All political parties and candidates are to conduct their meetings in a manner that does not disturb public order or violate the MCC guidelines.

●        Processions: The MCC dictates that processions must adhere to predefined routes and times to avoid clashes and ensure public safety.

●        Polling Day: Specific behaviours and actions are regulated on polling day to ensure orderly and fair voting.

●        Polling Booths: The conduct within and in the vicinity of polling booths is closely monitored to prevent any form of influence or disruption.

●        Observers: The MCC outlines the role of observers in ensuring the integrity of the electoral process, requiring them to report any violations of the code.

●        Party in Power: The party in power is prohibited from using its official position for campaign purposes. This includes:

○        No announcements of policies, projects, or schemes that could influence voter behaviour.

○        Avoiding the use of public funds for campaign advertisements.

○        Not using official government transport or machinery for campaigning.

○        Ensuring that public spaces and facilities like helipads are available to opposition parties under the same terms as the ruling party.

○        The ruling government is barred from making any ad-hoc appointments that could influence voters.

●        Election Manifestos: Election manifestos must be drafted and presented in a manner that does not exploit communal or caste sentiments and adheres to the overall ethical guidelines of the MCC.

Need for Strengthening the MCC

  • Escalating Political Manoeuvring: The political landscape has intensified, leading to increased and more inventive violations of the MCC.
    • Leaders are using their influence and technology in unprecedented ways, often staying within legal boundaries but violating the spirit of the MCC.
    • This has made the enforcement of the MCC more challenging.
  • Call for Enhanced Enforcement: The MCC’s effectiveness relies on its strict and impartial enforcement by the Election Commission (EC).
    • There’s a pressing need to update the MCC with more precise and equitable restrictions to maintain decorum in public discourse.
  • Lack of Clear Penalties: The current MCC framework does not clearly define the consequences for violations, weakening its deterrent effect.

Proposed Consequences for Violations

  • Punitive Measures: To strengthen enforcement, the following graded consequences are proposed:
    • First Violation: A temporary campaign ban for a defined period.
    • Second Violation: An extended campaign ban.
    • Repeated Violations: A complete campaign ban for the duration of the MCC, prohibiting all public interactions and media appearances. Repeat offenders would also be barred from being designated as star campaigners in future elections.
  • Enhanced Accountability for Political Parties: In a notable shift, the EC has begun holding political parties responsible for violations committed by their members, akin to vicarious liability.
  • Punitive Actions Against Parties: It’s suggested that the MCC should allow for fines or other penalties under The Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order for parties whose members repeatedly violate the MCC.
  • Procedure Optimization: There should be a standardised procedure for handling violations, ensuring that punitive actions are executed within 72 hours to maintain the MCC’s integrity and public trust.
    • Transparency and Public Information:
    • A comprehensive list of all reported violations should be compiled.
    • Details regarding the resolution or pending status of each case should be made accessible on the EC’s website.
    • A public database of violations should be established for greater transparency.
  • Mandatory Legal Action: When MCC violations coincide with legal infractions, it should be mandatory for law enforcement to initiate legal proceedings, even without direct instructions from the EC, to ensure a cohesive enforcement strategy.


  • While tougher rules may encourage self-regulation among political parties, the ultimate impact depends on the integrity of political leaders.
  • Enhancing the MCC could also reduce accusations of bias within the EC, as stricter guidelines would limit discretionary decisions.
  • Strengthening the MCC and its enforcement could foster greater public trust in electoral processes.
  • However, as noted by Demosthenes, true leadership integrity remains critical, transcending any regulatory framework.

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