With the Model Code of Conduct reaching 50 days of being in force in Delhi, statistics released by the Chief Electoral Office reveal that a total of 353 FIRs, reporting violations of the Code, have been registered. The Aam Aadmi Party topped the tally with 97 FIRs registered against it, followed by the BJP and the Congress with 79 and 67 FIRs, respectively.
On being registered with the highest number of FIRs against the AAP, party member Pankaj Gupta said: “We started our campaign much earlier than any other party. The notices we are getting now are mostly related to the pamphlets we distributed before the enforcement of the Code or for our advertisements on autos for which we had prior permission. ”
Mr. Gupta further said party-workers have been given instructions and now they are more aware of the provisions of the Code of Conduct.
“We have told everyone about the rules . Now, fewer complaints are coming.”
The Model Code of Conduct, which came into being in 1968 after the Election Commission’s consultations with various political parties, has been formulated to maintain the campaigning process on healthy and fair lines. T.N. Seshan’s tenure as the Chief Election Commissioner (1990-1996) saw strict enforcement of the Code. The Code has been strongly implemented prior to legislative elections ever since.
Questions have often been raised over the binding nature of the Code. Debate in this regard was settled by the Supreme Court of India, which held that the Election Commission has the authority to direct political parties to adhere to the Model Code of Conduct upon announcement of elections.
From time to time, various State governments have complained that the Code acts as a hurdle in implementation of welfare schemes and taking administrative decisions. However, this does not seem to be a problem with the Delhi Government. Congress spokesperson Jitender Kochar said, “The Congress Party agrees entirely with the Code of Conduct. We have instructed our candidates to conform to the rules and regulations formulated by the Election Commission.”
Mr. Kochar adds, “The Code should be converted into a legislation. I favour giving it statutory backing.” Although demands have frequently been raised to enact the Code into a law, there is no political consensus on this issue. Statutory backing for the Code has been opposed on the ground that such a measure would dilute the ability of the Election Commission to regulate campaigning process independently.