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Model Code of Conduct


Model Code of Conduct

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  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) announced) that the country would vote in seven phases in the Lok Sabha elections, from April 19 to June 1 and the results will be announced on June 4.
  • With this, the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) comes into effect.

What is the Model Code of Conduct?

  • The MCC of ECI is a set of guidelines issued to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections.
  • The rules range from issues related to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, the content of election manifestos, processions, and general conduct, so that free and fair elections are conducted.

When does the Model Code of Conduct come into effect?

  • The MCC comes into force from the date the election schedule is announced until the date that results are out.
  • As a result, it will kick in from today evening and will remain in effect until the election process is concluded.

What restrictions does the Model Code of Conduct impose?

  • The MCC contains eight provisions dealing with general conduct, meetings, processions, polling day, polling booths, observers, the party in power, and election manifestos.
  • As soon as the code kicks in, the party in power — whether at the Centre or in the states — should ensure that it does not use its official position for campaigning.
  • Hence, no policy, project or scheme can be announced that can influence the voting behaviour.
  • The party must also avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer or using official mass media for publicity on achievements to improve chances of victory in the elections.
  • The code also says the ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.
  • The ruling party cannot use government transport or machinery for campaigning.
  • It should also ensure that public places such as maidans etc., for holding election meetings, and facilities like the use of helipads are provided to the opposition parties on the same terms and conditions on which they are used by the party in power.
  • The issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in the newspapers and other media is also considered an offence.
  • The ruling government cannot make any ad-hoc appointments in government, public sector undertakings etc., which may influence the voters.
  • Political parties or candidates can be criticised based only on their work record and no caste and communal sentiments can be used to lure voters.
  • Mosques, Churches, Temples or any other places of worship should not be used for election campaigns.
  • Bribing, intimidating or impersonation of voters is also barred.
  • Holding public meetings during the 48-hour period before the hour fixed for the closing of the poll is also prohibited.
  • The 48-hour period is known as “election silence”. The idea is to allow a voter a campaign-free environment to reflect on events before casting her vote.

Is the Model Code of Conduct legally binding?

  • The MCC evolved as part of the ECI’s drive to ensure free and fair elections and was the result of a consensus among major political parties. It has no statutory backing.
  • Simply put, this means anybody breaching the MCC can’t be proceeded against under any clause of the Code. Everything is voluntary. The EC uses moral sanction or censure for its enforcement.
  • The ECI can issue a notice to a politician or a party for an alleged breach of the MCC either on its own or based on a complaint by another party or individual.
  • Once a notice is issued, the person or party must reply in writing — either accepting fault and tendering an unconditional apology or rebutting the allegation.
  • In the latter case, if the person or party is found guilty subsequently, he/it can attract a written censure from the ECI — something that many see as a mere slap on the wrist.

Challenges associated with its implementation include:

  • Legal Enforcement: The MCC lacks statutory backing, making it challenging to enforce legally. This absence of legal teeth often results in limited compliance and instances of violations.
  • Ambiguity in Interpretation: The MCC's guidelines can sometimes be vague or open to interpretation, leading to confusion among political parties, candidates, and election officials regarding what constitutes a breach.
  • Monitoring and Enforcement: Ensuring compliance with the MCC across diverse regions and constituencies is a monumental task for the Election Commission. Monitoring election activities effectively to detect violations requires significant resources and manpower.
  • Timeliness of Action: Addressing MCC violations promptly during the heat of an election campaign can be challenging. Delayed action or lax enforcement may undermine the MCC's effectiveness in maintaining a level playing field for all parties.
  • Evolution of Campaign Tactics: With the advent of technology and social media, new campaign tactics emerge that may not fall explicitly within the purview of traditional MCC guidelines. Adapting the MCC to address these evolving campaign practices is essential.
  • Influence of Money and Muscle Power: Despite MCC provisions, the influence of money and muscle power remains a concern during elections. Candidates or parties may attempt to circumvent the MCC by using illicit means to gain an advantage.
  • Political Will and Accountability: The effectiveness of the MCC relies on the willingness of political actors to adhere to its principles. Lack of political will to uphold ethical standards and the absence of stringent penalties for violations can undermine the MCC's efficacy.
  • Public Awareness and Participation: Many voters may not be fully aware of the MCC's provisions and significance. Enhancing public awareness and encouraging citizen participation in reporting MCC violations can strengthen its enforcement.
  • Interference by State Machinery: Instances of the ruling party misusing state machinery for electoral gains pose a significant challenge to MCC enforcement. Ensuring neutrality and impartiality of state institutions during elections is crucial.

Previous Model Code of Conduct ‘violations’

  • In November 2023, during the campaign for Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, the ECI issued a notice to Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra for a statement made during an election rally, where she asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi why he had given BHEL to his “bade udyogpati mitron (big industrialist friends)”.
  • Citing the MCC provision against making unverified allegations, the ECI asked her to explain her statement.
  • In the run-up to Gujarat polls in 2017, both BJP and Congress accused each other of violating the MCC.
  • The BJP pointed to Rahul Gandhi’s interviews with TV channels during the 48 hours before polling, while the Congress accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of violating the same provisions by holding a ‘roadshow’ in Ahmedabad after casting his vote.
  • Although the ECI rarely resorts to punitive action to enforce MCC, during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it had banned BJP leader and now party president Amit Shah and SP leader Azam Khan from campaigning to prevent them from further vitiating the poll atmosphere with their speeches.
  • The Commission resorted to its extraordinary powers under Article 324 of the Constitution to impose the ban. It was only lifted once the leaders apologised and promised to operate within the Code.

Way Ahead

  • Legislative Backing: Introduce legislation to provide statutory backing to the MCC. This would empower the Election Commission to enforce the code more effectively and impose legal penalties for violations.
  • Clarity and Specificity: Revise and update the MCC guidelines to provide clearer and more specific instructions on permissible and prohibited activities during elections. This would minimize ambiguity and facilitate better compliance.
  • Technology Integration: Leverage technology for real-time monitoring of election activities and MCC compliance. Implementing tools such as social media analytics, surveillance cameras, and mobile apps can help detect violations promptly.
  • Swift Enforcement: Establish dedicated mechanisms within the Election Commission to investigate MCC violations promptly and take swift action against offenders. This may involve setting up special tribunals or fast-track courts to adjudicate cases related to MCC breaches.
  • Capacity Building: Provide comprehensive training and capacity-building programs for election officials, political parties, and candidates on the nuances of the MCC and the importance of adhering to its principles. This would enhance awareness and foster a culture of compliance.
  • Public Awareness Campaigns: Launch extensive public awareness campaigns to educate voters about the MCC, their rights, and the importance of reporting violations. Encourage active citizen participation in monitoring and reporting MCC breaches.
  • Transparency and Accountability: Ensure transparency in the enforcement of the MCC by publicly documenting cases of violations, investigations, and penalties imposed. Hold political parties and candidates accountable for their actions during elections.
  • Strengthening Oversight Mechanisms: Establish independent oversight bodies or committees comprising representatives from diverse stakeholders, including civil society organizations, to monitor MCC enforcement and provide recommendations for improvement.
  • International Best Practices: Study and adopt best practices from other countries with robust electoral frameworks and effective codes of conduct. Drawing on international experiences can offer valuable insights for enhancing the MCC's efficacy.
  • Political Reforms: Undertake broader political reforms to address systemic issues such as the influence of money and muscle power in elections. Implementing campaign finance reforms and promoting transparency in political funding can help mitigate undue influences on the electoral process.


Q. How many of the following statements accurately describe the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) enforced by the Election Commission of India (ECI) during elections?

1.Ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.

2.Advertisement in the newspapers is considered an offence.

3.Anybody breaching the MCC can be proceeded against under any clause of the Code.

Choose the correct code.

A)Only one

B)Only two



Answer: B) Only two

Statement 3 is incorrect.


Q. What are the key challenges faced in the implementation of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC), and what measures can be taken to address them? Provide your insights with relevant examples and suggestions for reform.