Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

2024 MAR 31

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  • The Election Commission of India (ECI) recently said it received over 79,000 complaints through its cVigil app regarding violations of the Model Code of Conduct since the announcement of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections two weeks ago.


  • cVIGIL is an innovative mobile application launched by the Election Commission of India for citizens to report Model Code of Conduct and expenditure violations during the elections. ‘cVIGIL’ stands for Vigilant Citizen and emphasises the proactive and responsible role citizens can play in the conduct of free and fair elections.
  • The cVIGIL operating model will operate as follows:



  • The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission to regulate political parties and candidates prior to elections, to ensure free and fair elections.
  • The MCC is operational from the date that the election schedule is announced till the date that results are announced.
  • The Election Commission ensures that the political parties adhere to the Model Code of Conduct to carry out free and fair polls under Article-324 of the Constitution.
  • The MCC is not enforceable by law.  However, certain provisions of the MCC may be enforced through invoking corresponding provisions in other statutes such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • cVIGIL mobile application is made to register the voter’s complaints regarding violation of the guidelines or any kind of offences in an election.


  • A form of the MCC was first introduced in the state assembly elections in Kerala in 1960.
  • In the 1962 general elections to the Lok Sabha, the MCC was circulated to recognized parties, and state governments sought feedback from the parties. It continued to be followed in subsequent general elections. 
  • In 1979, the Election Commission added a section to regulate the ‘party in power’ and prevent it from gaining an unfair advantage at the time of elections. 
  • In 2014, the Election Commission included guidelines regarding election manifestos in the MCC.
  • The ECI in 2019 had decided to keep social media posts by the political parties and leaders under its vigil for detecting any MCC violation.


  • General Conduct: Criticism of political parties must be limited to their policies and programmes, past record and work.  Activities such as: (a) using caste and communal feelings to secure votes, (b) criticising candidates on the basis of unverified reports, (c) bribing or intimidation of voters, and (d) organising demonstrations or picketing outside houses of persons to protest against their opinions, are prohibited.
  • Meetings:  Parties must inform the local police authorities of the venue and time of any meeting in time to enable the police to make adequate security arrangements.
  • Processions:  If two or more candidates plan processions along the same route, organisers must establish contact in advance to ensure that the processions do not clash.  Carrying and burning effigies representing members of other political parties is not allowed.
  • Polling day:  All authorised party workers at polling booths should be given identity badges.  These should not contain the party name, symbol or name of the candidate.
  • Polling booths: Only voters, and those with a valid pass from the Election Commission, will be allowed to enter polling booths.
  • Observers:  The Election Commission will appoint observers to whom any candidates may report problems regarding the conduct of the election.
  • Party in power: Ministers must not combine official visits with election work or use official machinery for the same.  The party must avoid advertising at the cost of the public exchequer. Ministers and other authorities must not announce any financial grants, or promise any construction of roads, provision of drinking water, etc.   Other parties must be allowed to use public spaces and rest houses and these must not be monopolised by the party in power.
  • Election manifestos:  Added in 2013, these guidelines prohibit parties from making promises that exert an undue influence on voters, and suggest that manifestos also indicate the means to achieve promises.

Effect of violation of MCC:

If a person violates the MCC rules, they cannot be punished, except in certain cases where the MCC violation is also a crime under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Representation of the People Act, 1951. For the violation of those crimes, one might even go to jail. As for violations of MCC alone, a warning will be issued by ECI, but if the person repeat them, the complaint will be forwarded to the election authorities who will take necessary actions, which might even be removal of their candidature. The most important role the Election Commission plays during the period MCC is in force, is the immediate actions it takes in stopping violations of MCC.

  • The Election Commission can stop government advertisements endorsing the ruling party.
  • Stop the ruling party from using their political influence and endorsing their agenda through television or cinema.
  • Stop a candidate or a party from indulging in any activity which may create mutual hatred or cause tension between castes and communities.
  • The District Election Officers can order an FIR against a person for making remarks which can lead communal tension.


  • Ensures fair and peaceful elections: The codes act as a guideline for all parties to follow. It also lays down procedures to be followed for peaceful campaigning in a constituency. This ensures equality and peaceful conduct of the election process.
  • Prevents misuse of power: By laying down specific guidelines for the party in power, the MCC prevents any form of misuse of government machinery or public exchequer for elections that could create an unfair advantage to them.
  • Protects voters: The codes prohibit bribing or intimidation of voters. It also prohibits parties from making promises that exert an undue influence on voters. Thus, the codes ensure that voters are not misled and they execute their vote with full freedom.
  • Protects private life: MCC prohibits parties and candidates from criticism of all aspects of private life, not connected with the public activities of the leaders or workers of other parties.
  • Protection from false claims: Criticism of other parties or their workers based on unverified allegations or distortion are not permitted under the MCC. This provision helps prevent a political squabble to a great extent.
  • Ensures secularism in elections: MCC prohibits places of worship like Temple, Mosque or Gurudwara from being used as forum for election propaganda. Further, the code prohibits appeal to caste or communal feelings for securing votes.
  • Aligns with changing trends: Over the years, the MCC has adjusted to the changing nature of elections and campaigning. The addition of social media posts into the foray of MCC is a prime example of this.
  • Flexibility: For tackling emergencies or unforeseen calamities like providing relief to people suffering from natural calamities, government may do so after obtaining prior approval of the Commission. But the code also prevents any ostentatious functions or impressions that create an unfair advantage to the Government in office.


  • No legal backing: Since the MCC itself does not have the force of law, it is enforced through executive decision-making. It remains, therefore, ambiguous and uneven as far as the modality of implementation and certainty of execution, are concerned.
  • Restriction on development: Enforcement of MCC is often cited as a roadblock to developmental process that are already being executed.
  • Efficiency of Election commission: In a country with 968 million voters sprawled over 3.2 million square kilometers, the Election Commission lacks the resources and legal expertise to take decisions on cases of MCC violations effectively.
  • Difficult to quantify: The MCC is based on assumption that political parties and candidates would accord importance to issue of propriety, ethics and morality. However, they are subjective and open to varying interpretations.
  • Difficult to monitor social media: Social media has a far and wide reach and it is difficult to keep track of all the campaigning activities through it.
  • Advantage to ruling party exists: The MCC prohibits advertisement at the cost of public exchequer in newspapers/media during the election period.  However, since the MCC comes into operation only from the date on which the Commission announces elections, the government can release advertisements prior to the announcement of elections. This gives an advantage to the ruling party to issue government sponsored advertisements, which gives it an undue advantage over other parties and candidates.



  • Delays the election process: The Election Commission has argued against making the MCC legally binding, stating that elections must be completed within a relatively short time and judicial proceedings typically take longer. Therefore, it is not feasible to make it enforceable by law.
  • Already enforceable: Most provisions of the MCC are already enforceable through corresponding provisions in other statutes, such as the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, and Representation of the People Act, 1951.
  • Requires flexibility: The EC needs flexibility to deal with unprecedented situations that can arise at any time. Providing legal backing can take away this freedom and further complicate the election process.
  • Violates the spirit of MCC: MCC is a document designed in consensus with political parties. Any attempt to bind it legally would affect the spirit of consensus arrived at.


  • Eliminates ambiguity: Providing a legal backing to the code will eliminate the ambiguities that currently surround the MCC.  
  • Empowers the Election Commission: The EC of India has been repeatedly demanding the government for more powers to effectively manage elections. Eg: Explicit powers to postpone or cancel polls if incidents of bribery of voters are reported in any constituency. Providing legal backing to MCC can greatly help overcome this issue.  
  • Supported by committees: The Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, in 2013, recommended making the MCC legally binding.  Another Standing Committee recommended that the MCC be made a part of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.


  • While the MCC's current non-statutory nature allows the Election Commission of India (ECI) to flexibly address violations, the complexity of modern elections demands stronger legal frameworks to ensure ethical compliance. Making the MCC statutory could enhance the ECI's authority to enforce rules, but might also lead to legal delays and affect voluntary compliance. The future of the MCC involves either legal codification or strengthening its enforcement within the existing framework, aiming for effective, flexible, and inclusive elections. Enhancing ECI's capacity, boosting public engagement, and promoting respect for electoral norms are key to ensuring the integrity of elections in India, reflecting the democratic ethos of the world's largest democracy.


Q. The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is an important document to ensure procedural certainty and assure fairness in elections. In this regard, critically examine the demand of providing legal status to the MCC?  (10 marks, 150 words)