Election Commission of India devised a Model Code of Conduct— a consensus document deliberated with political parties for the functioning of political parties.With the help of Model Code, though not legally backed, Election Commission has been successful to some extent in curbing electoral corruption.

And polls announce their arrival. The largest festival of Indian democracy is here— 17th general election to House of People. Election Commission of India announced poll schedule— from 11 April to 19 May in seven phases— for 2019 elections on 10 March in a press briefing. With the announcement of polls also came into force Model Code of Conduct, which is a set of norms and guidelines issued by Election Commission for free and fair elections across the country. India is largest democracy in the world, for as much as 900 million voters will choose their government for the next five years.

In India, first general elections took place in year 1951-1952. Since then world has only marvelled at robustness and vibrancy of Indian nation’s success in upholding democratic processes and smooth transition of power. Universal franchise, which is voting rights to each and every adult citizen, to a nation ailing of severe poverty, instability and illiteracy, at first, seemed to be a flawed idea to outsiders but Indian democracy built upon ideals of inclusiveness and mutual understanding showed its character and stood its ground for all the years to come despite ups and downs.

One institution that played a chief role in designing and functioning of electoral processes, in India, is Election Commission of India. In its initial years, with limited staff and scarce resources at its disposal, identifying and enrolling large uneducated populations (with or without sufficient prior documentation) on rolls that also meant in a way extending Indian citizenship to a person was a humongous task. But, Commission impressed everyone with its functioning style and efficiency in work.

Administering a highly competitive system of elections that involved fat and rich political parties- employing money and other power forces to get things done in their favour was a challenge for Election Commission. In reply to the challenge, Commission devised, and evolved henceforth, a number of techniques over the years to make the electoral process more transparent and fair.

In this bid, Election Commission of India devised a Model Code of Conduct— a consensus document deliberated with political parties for the functioning of political parties. Model Code underlies norms regarding electoral conduct, standards of public meetings, decency in democratic debate, restrictions on party promotion by government in power and more such provisions relating to Election Day conduct.

Election Commission has published a comprehensive and full fledged 263 pages long manual on Model Code of Conduct. Model Code of Conduct is divided into 8 parts. Key points of all 8 parts are listed below:
• Part one makes a general point about expected good behaviour of political parties, candidates and workers in public domain.
• Part two and three give a sense of decorum and doable things while arranging for public meetings.
• Part four and five mention of conduct of poll agents of parties and candidates in polling booths and nearby.
• Part six emphasise need to ask for any remedial action only from officers appointed by Commission without giving in to some kind of two or multi party conflict or imbroglio.
• Part seven, as Commission itself mentions, is flesh and blood of Model Code. It lays down directives for conduct of people in government, when they participate in campaigning and more importantly usage of government machinery in election campaign.
• The last part, added lately, mentions about spirit of party manifesto, that is, it should go in line with ideals and principals enshrined in constitution of India.

Though, Model Code of Conduct lacks legal backing for it is not a statutory document. But, still, with its help and broad consensus among stakeholders for observance of Model Code, Election Commission has been successful to some extent in curbing electoral corruption and campaign malpractices. According to Commission, “The Model Code is a unique document and regarded by many democratic countries across the world as singular contribution of India to the cause of free and fair elections”.