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Thou shalt not: EC to poll contestants

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New Delhi: With the announcement of elections to the Assemblies of 5 States, the Election Commission of India’s model code of conduct has come into force with immediate effect. Until these elections are over, the following restrictions will apply.

Restrictions on Local Area Development money

Members of Parliament, including Rajya Sabha members, cannot release funds from their MPLAD funds for constituencies in the States facing these elections. Similarly, no fresh release of funds is allowed under the MLAs’ and MLCs’ LAD funds even if such a scheme on LAD money is in operation, till the completion of election process.

No work shall start in which work orders have been issued before the issue of [pdf_attachment file=”1″ name=”this letter”] of the EC to cabinet secretaries, secretary to the Union government, chief secretaries of the 5 States concerned and the chief electoral officers, but the work has actually not started in the field. These works can start only after the completion of the election process. However, if a work has actually started, it can continue.

A legislator can release payments for completed works, subject to the satisfaction of the officials concerned. He or she can also release the money for schemes that have been cleared and funds are provided or released and materials procured and reached the site such scheme may be executed as per programme.

Restrictions on ruling parties

According to [pdf_attachment file=”2″ name=”another letter from the EC”], the party in power whether at the Centre or in the State(s) concerned shall ensure that there is no complaint that it has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign.

The ministers shall not combine their official visit with electioneering work and shall not also make use of official machinery or personnel during the electioneering work.

model code of conduct
Representative image

Government transport including official aircraft, vehicles, machinery and personnel shall not be used to further interests of the party in power.

The ruling party cannot monopolise public places such as open fields for rallies and helipads. Other parties and candidates shall be allowed the use of such places and facilities on the same terms and conditions on which they are used by the party in power.

Rest houses, dak bungalows and other government accommodation facilities where elections have been announced or are taking place can be given to the political functionaries who are provided security by the state in Z scale or above or equivalent by various state Governments or the central government under provisions of their laws on an equitable basis. This shall be subject to the condition that such an accommodation has not already been allotted or occupied by election officials or observers. Such political functionaries shall not carry out any political activity while staying there.

The issue of advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in newspapers and other media and the misuse of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided.

Ministers and other authorities cannot sanction grants or payments out of discretionary funds from the elections have been announced. During this period, ministers and other authorities cannot announce financial grants in any form or promises thereof. They cannot lay stones of projects or schemes of any kind either, though civil servants are allowed to do so.

The politicians cannot make any promise of construction of roads, provision of drinking facilities etc or make ad hoc appointments in government, public undertakings etc, which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the party in power.

Further instructions of the commission are contained in its letter 437/6/200g-ccBE dated 5 March 2009. One may look for it in the EC’s website under the heading “Election Laws and ECI — instructions”. Other instructions of the EC are available in this link, too.

The commission has ordered a total ban on the transfer of all officers and officials connected with the conduct of the election. These include — but are not restricted to — the chief electoral officer and additional/joint/deputy chief electoral officers, divisional commissioners, district Election Officers, returning officers, assistant returning officers and other revenue officers connected with the conduct of these elections.

Officers of the Police Department connected with the management of election like range IGs and DIGs, senior superintendents of police and superintendents of police, sub-divisional police officers like deputy superintendents of police and other police officers who are deputed to the commission under section 28A of the Representation of the People’s Act, 1951 cannot be transferred either.

Any transfer order issued to one of the officers above prior to the date of announcement of these elections but not implemented till date should not be given effect to without obtaining specific permission from the commission in this regard.

This ban shall be effective till the completion of the election. The commission further directs that the State governments should refrain from making transfers of senior officers who have a role in the management of election in the state.

In those cases where the transfer of an officer is necessary on account of administrative exigencies, the State government concerned may, with full justification, approach the commission for prior clearance.

Restrictions on advertisements

model code of conduct

No advertisements can be issued in electronic and print media highlighting the achievements of the government at the cost of the public exchequer. If any advertisement has already been released for telecasting, broadcasting or publication in the print media, it must be ensured that the ads are stopped from further broadcasting or publishing forthwith. The ad(s) should be immediately withdrawn.

Another [pdf_attachment file=”3″ name=”letter from the EC”] says if the candidate(s) or their sponsoring parties utilize television, a cable channel or newspaper owned by them for promoting one’s electoral prospects, the expenses for the same as per standard rate cards of the channel or newspaper have to be included by the candidate concerned in his election expenditure statement in the column made for this purpose. This will apply even if they actually do not pay any amount to the channel or newspaper.

The Media Certification and Monitoring Committee (MCMC) shall keep a close watch on the contents telecast on such channels to identify contents of the nature mentioned above. After following all due procedures, the notional expenses as per standard rate cards of the channel shall be added in the election expenditure account of the candidate appropriately.

This instruction should be read together with the commission’s earlier instruction 491/Media/2011 (Advt) dated 16 August 2011.

The EC will monitor paid news with the help of the Press Council of India. If a party or candidate is found to have paid a media house or more to write favourably about them, the market price of the column centimetres occupied in print and seconds occupied on television will be included in their election expense budget. When this makes a candidate or party’s expense cross the sanctioned limit, the guilty will be interrogated.

Restrictions on campaigning

The permission for video vans to be used by a political party for its campaign across the State must be given by the chief electoral officer taking in view the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act and also the judgments dated 23 June 2006 and 14 February 2007 of the Allahabad High Court in Writ Petition No. 3648 (MB) of 2006.

No authority below that of the chief electoral officer can grant the permission to use video vans for the purpose of campaign. The transport nodal officer must submit the certificate to the chief electoral officer that the video van is in conformity with the Motor Vehicle Act II.

The contents of material for election publicity on the video van shall be pre-certified from MCMCs. The video van of the political party should be used to propagate its programme and policies to seek votes. Votes or support for of any particular candidate should not be solicited.

However, if it is used for seeking votes or support for a candidate or candidates, the expenditure of video van shall be accounted for by such candidate or candidates appropriately.

For further codes of conduct that apply to campaigning, one may refer to [pdf_attachment file=”4″ name=”this letter from the EC”].

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