A code of conduct for the Election Commission and what ECI must do

Should there be a “Model Code of Conduct” for the Election Commission itself, for the public to judge its role and performance? The poser was put in a letter addressed to the CEC on Sunday

Former Secretary EAS Sarma urged the EC to make all its meetings transparent & remove hoardings and ads featuring political leaders during the election period.  (photo: IANS)
Former Secretary EAS Sarma urged the EC to make all its meetings transparent & remove hoardings and ads featuring political leaders during the election period. (photo: IANS)

A.J. Prabal

With the ‘Model Code of Conduct’ having kicked in for political parties and candidates, shouldn’t there be a similar code for the Election Commission itself, asked former Secretary EAS Sarma on Sunday, 17 March in a letter addressed to the Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar and the two other election commissioners, Gyanesh Kumar and S.S. Sandhu.

Proceedings of the Commission should be transparent and compliant with the Right to Information (RTI) Act and the minutes of every meeting and dissenting opinion, if any, should be uploaded for the public to see and respond, the highly regarded former civil servant suggested.

Recalling that in January this year the ECI had issued an advisory on newspaper advertisement and misuse of official mass media during the election period, Mr Sarma called upon the ECI to ensure the removal of all hoardings and advertisements which seek to project the achievements of “any living political functionaries and which carry their photos , names or party symbols.

The Election Commission should immediately depute special teams to remove pictures of living political leaders, names, party symbols etc. at railway stations, petrol bunks, national and state highways and other public places that violate the guidelines, the letter urged the CEC. Images on PDS ration cards, health insurance identity cards, vehicles and other moveable/ immoveable fixtures carrying the names and photos of living leaders should also be removed likewise.

Mr Sarma also urged the CEC to ensure that visits to religious places of worship by political leaders are not undertaken at public cost and are not allowed to become public spectacles.

The retired civil servant also suggested the following, among other measures to restore the declining credibility of the election and the ECI:

  • Every complaint received from political parties and individual citizens on violations of the MCC be displayed on the ECI portal along with the ECI’s speaking order on its disposal

  • The Commission should request a high-level panel of retired Supreme Court judges, nominated by the CJI, to monitor the functioning of all Central investigating/ enforcement agencies during the next few months to make sure that they function independently of the political executive and remain accountable to the judiciary and no one else.

“It is a fact that EVMs deprive the voter of the right to know physically that the vote cast has gone to the right candidate. Prima facie, this constitutes a violation of the voter’s right to know,” the letter points out.

“Since the EVMs also function without totalisers, votes cast in a constituency cannot be “mixed” as was done in the past with paper ballots. This violates booth-wise secrecy of voting, rendering the electoral process prima facie illegal on that count,” it went on to add.

The least therefore that the Commission should do at this moment is to order a 100% verification of the EVM count vis-a-vis VVPATs, Mr Sarma suggested.

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