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Election Commission warns political parties to follow model code of conduct for upcoming Lok Sabha polls

New Delhi: Taking note of the various trends and cases of plummeting levels of political campaign discourse in recently held elections, the Election Commission of India has issued further advisory to all political parties to maintain decorum and utmost restraint in public campaigning and raise the level of election campaigning to "issue"-based debate.

The poll body has also put the 'Star Campaigners' and candidates on a 'notice' in case of violations that followed the previously known methodologies during elections to avoid breaching the Model Code of Conduct.

The Election Commission will assess any indirect MCC violations as per advisory as a fair basis to rework the notices to be given in terms of time and content in issue in the forthcoming elections.

For the general election to the Lok Sabha and four state Legislative assemblies, all phases and geographical areas of the elections shall be the basis for determining "repeat" offences.

It may be recalled that Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar recently emphasised that political parties should foster ethical and respectful political discourse that inspires rather than divides and promotes ideas instead of personal attacks.

The Commission's proactive advisory now formally sets the stage for ethical political discourse, and cuts clutter in the 2024 General elections. Commission's methodical approach to MCC violations prepares ground for civilised campaigning in 2024 General Elections

While acknowledging the need to keep a balance between freedom of expression and level playing field, the advisory noted that the Commission has been following a self-restrained approach since the previous few rounds of elections, presuming that its notice would serve as a moral censure to the candidate or star campaigner.

The orders issued by the Election Commission are carefully crafted to ensure minimal disruption to campaigning activities, rather than outright prohibitions. However, the objective to check on the level of discourse, using MCC notices in a judicious way, akin to a moral censure, may not be misunderstood and repeated in the next election cycle.

Additionally, the advisory has acknowledged that the evolving landscape of information technology and social media platforms has blurred the lines between pre-MCC and the 48-hour silence period, leading to the persistent circulation of content across multiple phases of campaigning and even unrelated elections.

The Commission has urged all the political parties, their leaders, and the contesting candidates to remain within the confines of the Model Code of Conduct and the legal framework. It has been emphasised that any genre of surrogate or indirect violation of MCC and surrogate means to plumate level of election campaign will be dealt with stern action by the Commission.

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 purposeful 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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