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Election Commission of India has issued an advisory to all national and state parties and candidates to exercise caution

Taking serious note of the declining level of election discourse during the ongoing GE to Karnataka Legislative Assembly, the Election Commission of India has issued an advisory to all national and state parties and candidates to exercise caution and restraint in their speeches during the campaign and not spoil the elections atmosphere.

The Commission’s attention has recently been drawn to instances of inappropriate vocabulary and language used during an ongoing campaign by persons, particularly those with statutory star campaign status. Such cases have given rise to various complaints, cross-complaints and also attracted negative media attention.

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Taking cognizance of the above, in an advisory issued to all political parties for strict compliance, the Commission noted that national parties and star activists have under the R.P. Act. other options. The advisory states: It is imperative that all parties and stakeholders remain within the Model Code of Conduct and legal framework in their speeches during the campaign so as to preserve the dignity of political discourse and not detract from the campaign and election atmosphere.

They are expected to contribute to sustaining and raising the level of discourse on the ‘issue’ debate, provide an all-India perspective, depth of local discourse and assure all sections of the electorate to participate fully and fearlessly in free and fair elections.

In the advisory, the ECI called on political parties for provisions in the Model Code of Conduct and other statutory provisions that capture the field and frame the expected campaign discourse.

MCC Provisions:

(a) Article 3.8.2 (ii) states: “No one shall engage in any activities or make any statements which amount to an attack on the privacy of any person or statements which may be malicious or offensive to decency and morals.”

(b) Article 4.3.1 states “Political parties and candidates shall refrain from criticizing all aspects of private life that are not related to the public activities of leaders and workers of other parties. It also provides that no party or candidate shall indulge in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension.

(c) Clause 4.3.2 states “maintain a high standard of election campaigning”.

(d) Article 4.3.2 (ii) states: “The Electoral Commission, while expressing deep concern at the progressively decreasing level of disclosure of political information, warns political parties that repeated violations of the Model Code may trigger action against them.”

(e) Article 4.4.2 (B) (iii) states: “No party or candidate shall indulge in any activity which may aggravate existing differences or create mutual hatred or cause tension between different castes and communities, religious or linguistic.”

(f) Article 4.4.2 (B) (v) states: “Other parties or their personnel shall not be criticized on the basis of unverified allegations or misrepresentations.”

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Provisions of the IPC

(a) Section 171G IPC – “False statement in relation to election”.

(b) Section 499 IPC states that “Defamation. – Whoever, by words, whether spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person, intending to injure, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will injure the reputation of such person, is said except when further expected to defame that person.”

(c) Section 500 IPC states that “Punishment for defamation – Whoever defames another shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both”.

(d) Section 504 IPC – “Whoever willfully offends and thereby provokes any person, intending or knowing that such provocation is likely to cause a breach of public order or the commission of any other offence, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term up to two years or a fine or both.

The Commission, in collaboration and consultation with all stakeholders, particularly political parties and candidates, has made efforts to encourage all stakeholders to maintain a level of political discourse during the campaign that befits the universal admiration and stature of Indian democracy throughout the world.

The Commission directed the CEOs to ensure the widest possible publicity and compliance with this advice, failing which appropriate action must be initiated under the existing regulatory and legal framework.

Written by: Vaishali verma

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