All political parties and the Election Commission (EC) should maintain decorum so that free and fair elections are conducted to the Tamil Nadu Assembly, the Madras High Court said on Saturday.

The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam, passed the order while disposing of a public interest litigation petition seeking a direction to Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi and Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram not to indulge in any acts or deeds that may undermine the EC in its efforts to ensure free and fair elections.

In his petition, S. Balamurugan, general secretary, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, stated that both the Chief Minister and the Home Minister had levelled criticism against the Commission for its actions to ensure that electoral malpractices are curbed in the elections. Constitutional propriety required that the leaders not use language and expressions, which, in effect, denigrated and eroded the authority of another constitutional institution.

As reiterated by the Supreme Court, if the State or Central government had differences with EC, it was always open to them to communicate it to the Commission. It should not be blown into a public confrontation.

The criticism by the leaders about the EC's measures to check corrupt practices and electoral malpractices had “created a context of confrontation suffused with a sense of hostility, which vitiates the electoral atmosphere, seriously undermines the Constitution and erodes the rule of law.”

For ensuring free and fair elections, there was a need for strict enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct. There had been widespread requests to the EC to take firm measures unmindful of party affiliations of people indulging in electoral malpractices.