EC urges parties to maintain decorum

| | New Delhi
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EC urges parties to maintain decorum

Saturday, 02 March 2024 | Rajesh Kumar | New Delhi

EC urges parties to maintain decorum

Taking note of the concerning trends and cases of declining levels of political campaign discourse in recent elections, the Election Commission (EC) has urged political parties and their leaders to refrain from seeking votes based on caste, religion, or language. Additionally, they are warned not to insult the devotee-deity relationship or suggest any divine censure.

The poll watchdog has emphasised the need for maintaining decorum in public campaigning, placing additional responsibility on star campaigners and candidates, particularly those who have been issued notices in the past. This advisory comes just days before the model code is expected to come into effect with the announcement of the Lok Sabha and four State Assembly polls later this month.

In its advisory, the EC has stated that candidates and star campaigners will face stern action for any violation of the Model Code of Conduct, replacing the previous practice of only ‘moral censure’. Furthermore, the EC has prohibited the use of temples, mosques, churches, gurdwaras, or any other place of worship for poll propaganda or electioneering.

The EC’s advisory also emphasises that references ridiculing devotee-deity relations or suggesting divine censure should not be made. Any surrogate or indirect violation of the Model Code of Conduct will be dealt with sternly by the Commission.

Star campaigners and candidates have been put on notice by the EC regarding violations, following previously known methodologies during elections to avoid breaches of the Model Code of Conduct.

The commission will assess any indirect violations of the Model Code of Conduct as per the advisory to ensure fair and appropriate notices are issued in terms of timing and content for the forthcoming elections.

For the General Election to Lok Sabha and to four State Legislative Assemblies, all phases and geographical areas of elections shall be considered for determining “repeat” offenses.

Acknowledging the need to balance freedom of expression with a level playing field, the advisory noted that the commission has been adopting a self-restrained approach in recent rounds of elections, assuming that its notice would serve as moral censure to the candidate or star campaigner.

The commission’s advisory has formally set the stage for ethical political discourse and aims to reduce clutter in the 2024 General Elections. A methodical approach to MCC violations has been adopted, preparing the ground for civilised campaigning.

It urged parties to elevate the level of election campaign to issue-based debate and cautioned against making statements without factual basis or misleading voters.

Regarding social media engagement, the advisory emphasised that posts vilifying or insulting rivals, or those of bad taste or below dignity, should not be made or shared.

The advisory also covered the use of inappropriate language against star campaigners of other political parties, false allegations, and unverified advertisements masquerading as news items.

Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar recently emphasised that political parties should promote ethical and respectful political discourse that inspires rather than divides, promoting ideas instead of personal attacks.

The advisory said political party leaders designated as “star campaigners” under Section 77 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, deliver speeches during significant political rallies.

It is essential to interpret this within the framework of harmonious and purposive construction, as the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) and statutory provisions of the Act complement each other.

Therefore, while enjoying the privileges granted by Section 77, star campaigners also bear the responsibility of upholding the highest ethical standards during election campaigns.

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