Describe the Rules and Regulations regarding Election Campaign in India
The main purpose of elections is to enable the people to choose their preferred policies and representatives for the future government during the election campaign through free and open debate. Democratic elections require a free vote by the people and a fair chance for contestants to win and for that they must motivate supporters to seek office. Conducting genuine elections should provide competitive equal opportunities for contestants to convey their thoughts and ideas to citizens and compete for votes throughout the election campaign.
We have a constitutional body Election Commission which is an independent and autonomous authority to regulate election campaigns. And it lays down a Model Code of Conduct for the guidance of candidates and others relating to elections. The dates of the official election campaign period are determined by the Election Commission and the usual period is one month or several months before the election day or a few days before the election day.
We passed certain laws in parliament to regulate elections in India and those are the below :
- Representation of the People Act, 1950.
- Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- The Registration of Electors Rules, 1960,
- Conduct of Election Rules, 1961,
- Election Symbols order, 1968,
- Anti Defection Law, 1985,
- Delimitation Act, 2002.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court laid down the basic principle of the election campaign in the landmark judgment of People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs Union of India.
The Election Commission was established on January 25, 1950, to conduct free and fair elections in India and control violations of the Model Code of Conduct. Part XV of the Constitution of India through Articles 324 to 329 deals with the powers and functions of the Election Commission. The Election Commission is chaired by a Chief Election Commissioner appointed by the President for a fixed term. Some other Election Commissioners and Regional Election Commissioners appointed by the President to assist him are also present here.
The Election Commissioner has powers to take immediate action to stop violations of the Model Code of Conduct and the units covered under the Model Code of Conduct of the Election Commission are below ones :
- Representative Candidates who contest in the election.
- All political parties.
- All Corporations.
- All Organizations.
- All Commissions.
- All Committees.
The Importance of Election Campaign
Election campaigns are the pathways of the Contestants and political parties to prepare and present their ideas on current issues in front of voters during a given period preceding election day. During election campaigns, contestants and political parties use various methods to reach voters and deliver their messages through media, public events, written pamphlets, or any other innovative way.
In election campaigns, contestants or political parties have the opportunity to make voters educate and help them to take genuine decisions on election day. Contestants and political parties have a chance to design their activities to make people understand how they allocate resources to be transparent in the state. Civil society can take the opportunity during election campaigns to examine whether contestants have been unfair or biased to conduct their activities in the future.
During this period of election campaigns, the contestants and political parties have good contact with the public for their support and political leaders address political ethnic, and same ideological groups to prepare their allies.
Rules and Regulations of Election Campaign
- During the time of election campaigns, no political party or Contestant should take a chance to secure votes based on caste and religion.
- Temples, Mosques, Churches, and any other Religious places should not be used for election-related meetings/campaigning/propaganda. and no political party or Contestant is involved in any such type of activities as it may a chance to create hatred speeches and tension among the people of different castes and religions.
- Giving bribes to voters, Threatening voters, and creating violence to scare the voters in the opposition party meetings and campaigns are prohibited.
- It is prohibited to give bribes to voters, threaten voters, or engage in violent acts to terrorize voters in opposition party meetings and campaigns.
- Campaigning within 100 meters of polling booths, holding public meetings 48 hours before polling day, and arranging transport facilities for voters to polling booths are also prohibited.
- Political parties and contestants have no right to criticize and comment on the personal life and family of any candidate while participating in the election campaign.
- Political parties and contestants should ensure that their supporters should not obstruct the meeting and rally conducted by the opposition parties as well as they should not distribute written materials like pamphlets where the meeting is organized by the opposition parties.
- Political parties and contestants should ensure that they take prior permission from the police or concerned authorities of the area before holding a meeting at any place to divert traffic and make other necessary security arrangements.
- Ministers of the ruling party have no right to use government machinery such as government officials, government buildings, and government vehicles during the election campaign.
- The ruling party should not misuse the cost of the public exchequer for advertisement in the mainstream media and newspapers to make publicity of previous achievements of the government.
- Political parties and contestants shall not allow their supporters to use any land, building, compound wall, or vehicle for pasting banners, party flags, or slogans without permission from the property owner.
- Political parties and contestants shall not paste advertisement posters or banners or flags or display cut-outs/hoardings on the walls of government properties like railway stations, airports, bridges, metro pillars, government buildings, government hospitals, and post offices as part of the election campaign.
- If any political party or contestant is going to organize a procession, they should inform the police and concerned authorities about the time, route, starting point, and ending point of the procession.
- The permission and license should take from the concerned departments to use loudspeakers or any other facilities in connection with the proposed meeting.
- No political party or individual can spend more than Rs 25 lakh on campaigning for a Lok Sabha election, nor spend more than Rs 10 lakh on an Assembly political race.
- Ministers or any other department shall not make any grant or payment out of discretionary funds from the time of promulgation of the Model Code of Conduct by the Election Commission.
- The ruling party should not monopolize public spaces such as grounds and helipads while holding public meetings for campaigning, as other contestants or political parties should also have equal access to such spaces for campaigning.
- The armed forces should not be used as political tools in election campaigns i.e. photographs of the army chief or functions attended by defense personnel are prohibited.
Action is taken for the violation of MCC regarding the Election Campaign
- Any person who violates the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) cannot be punished until the violation becomes an offense under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the Representation of the People Act, 1951.
- If a person only violates the rules of MCC, a warning will be issued but if the same person repeats the violation, it will be sent to the Election Commission officials who will take necessary actions which may even disqualify their candidature.
- If violation becomes an offense under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and the Representation of the People Act, 1951, for that scenario who commits those crimes might be faced a fine and sometimes even go to jail for imprisonment.
- If a candidate is given a bribe or threatens or intimidates voters to vote for or against a candidate or party it becomes an offense under section 171B, 171C, 171E, 171F, of the Indian penal code, 1860, and that candidate may be imprisoned with jail time up to one year or a fine amount or both.
- If anyone encroaches on a person’s property for election campaigning without permission, they are punishable under Sections 425, 426, 427, and 431 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
- The election commission has the powers to take immediate action to stop violations of the provisions of MCC concerning the Election Campaign, some of which are below :
- The Election Commission can Stop candidates or political parties from engaging in any activity that creates mutual hatred or creates tension between castes and communications.
- The Election Commission can stop government advertisements supporting the ruling party from being shown to the public through television or radio or short films using political influence.
- District Election Officers may order the registration of an FIR against any person who indulges in communal tension and malpractice activities during the election campaign and on polling day.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question 1: Briefly describe the Model Code of Conduct?
- The Model Code of Conduct has its origins in the Kerala Assembly elections of 1960 when the state administration drafted a Model Code of Conduct for election contestants.
- These guidelines provide an overview of the do’s and don’ts before elections while the Model Code of Conduct is in place for all recognized political parties and candidates.
- The Model Code of Conduct is a set of guidelines and instructions on Election Campaigning, General Conduct, Meetings, Processions, Polling Day, Polling Booths, etc. during elections and it will remain effective until the announcement of the election results.
Question 2: Explore the importance of the election campaign?
- Election campaigns are the pathways of the Contestants and political parties to prepare and present their ideas on current issues in front of voters during a given period preceding election day.
- In election campaigns, contestants or political parties have the opportunity to make voters educate and help them to take genuine decisions on election day.
- Civil society can take the opportunity during election campaigns to examine whether contestants have been unfair or biased to conduct their activities in the future.
- During this period of election campaigns, the contestants and political parties have good contact with the public for their support and political leaders address political ethnic, and same ideological groups to prepare their allies.
Question 3: What were the challenges faced by the Election Commission to control violations of the Model Code of Conduct?
- Fake news can be circulated very easily on social media for political propaganda to win elections.
- Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, prohibits advertising and campaigning in mainstream media 48 hours before the polling day, but MCC violations on social media platforms are difficult to track.
- A major challenge for India is how to achieve political equality when society is deeply Stuck with economic inequality that affects the roots of free and fair elections in India.
- An opponent or ruling party contestants are likely to use violence strategically in identifying areas where they are concerned about losing their seats in upcoming elections.
- Artificial intelligence technologies have been systematically misused to manipulate citizens through false propaganda election campaigns. which were done by political bots used to spread fake news on social media.
- Encouraging the creation of bogus voters’ names in the elector’s list while doing election campaigns in the respected constituency.
- Political parties or contestants may distribute household items as gifts and heavy liquor distribution during election campaigns.