[Model Answer QP2022 GS2] Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in the light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct.

Model Code of Conduct is a non-statutory framework issued by the Election Commission ensuring free and fair elections as implied under Article 324 of the Indian Constitution.
  1. The Code provides for a comprehensive set of guidelines and instructions monitoring the general conduct of the political parties and the contesting candidates. 
  2. It regulates the functioning of all such meetings, campaignings and processions performed by the contesting institutions prior to the elections. 
  3. It further monitors the process of election manifestation and propagation thereby, keeping a close watch on the political activities.
  4. The Election Commission ensures compliance with the Code by securing a safe and just environment for the voters and preventing all such corruption inducing activities.
  5. Despite its non-statutory nature, the Code is subjected to strict implementation. The Commission is authorized to take appropriate measures in case of any deviance from the Code.

Applicability of the code

  1. The Code comes into being as soon as the Election Commission announces the date of the elections. It continues to be in effect until the process of elections is completed. Its applicability extends throughout the territory of India during the time of General Elections and throughout the territory of State during the State Legislative Assembly elections. 
  2. However, in the case of bye-elections, the applicability is reduced to that concerned constituency in which the elections are taking place.

Evolution of the Code and the role of ECI in its evolution

19601. The existence of the Code dates back to the 1960 Kerala State Legislative Assembly Elections when the State Administration for the first time, issued a set of instructions, regulating the conduct of the participating political institutions.
19621. The Code was then taken into national cognizance during the 1962 Lok Sabha Elections and the State Legislative Assembly elections. It was widely circulated to all the recognised states and national political parties.
2. As a result, the Code was voluntarily embraced and accepted in furtherance of securing a free and fair elections regime.
19671. The subsequent general elections of 1967 witnessed more States coming forward to embrace the Code.
19701. The Election Commission further conducted state level meetings to propagate the incorporation of the Code in the election process.
19741. The Chief Election Officers were directed to constitute district level standing committees, regulating compliance with the Code.
19791. The Election Commission, in a conference of political parties, consolidated the Code by adding a section monitoring the conduct of “parties in power” – to prevent the powerful political actors from obtaining an undue advantage of their position.
19911. The Code was further consolidated and re-issued by the Commission under the supervision of the then Election Commissioner T.N. Seshan.
2. ECI was very proactive in the subsequent 1991 elections which ensured strict adherence to the Model. 
20011. A mandatory clause providing that the date of elections would not be announced more than 3 months  prior to the election date.
2. It was further agreed that all such public projects will be inaugurated or laid by the public servants instead of political ministers so that public interest is maintained, once the Code is operated.
20141. The Supreme Court via its judgment S. Subramaniam Balaji Vs Govt. of Tamil Nadu and Others dated 5th July 2013, directed the Election Commission to formulate such guidelines, regulating the conduct of political parties and the contesting candidates while manifesting elections. Hence additional part was introduced by the ECI regarding the election manifesto. 
With an evolution in the Code, the election process has refined over time. From a mere document to a powerful authority regulating the conduct of political actors, the Code has come a long way. 
Strict guidelines with a stricter implementation have only added to the credibility of the Code. The present form is now subjected to a more assertive and active implementation by the Commission. Certain provisions are further incorporated under the supervision of the judiciary, thereby securing the democratic spirit of the country. 

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