‘Model code of conduct has lots of grey areas’

May 21st, 2009 - 12:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, May 21 (IANS) The model code of conduct (MCC) that comes into effect during each poll has a lot of grey areas and nearly all cases involving it gave rise to a difference of opinion between the Election Commission of India (ECI) and others, a former election official has said.
Speaking before the ad-hoc legislative committee meeting on home affairs in Panaji Wednesday, Ajit Srivastava, a senior bureaucrat who stepped down as chief electoral officer (CEO) in-charge of the election proceedings in Goa, said: “The model code of conduct was interpreted by various parties and various authorities in their own style… sincere officers who were doing their legitimate duties often faced frivolous complaints forwarded to the ECI”.

Srivastava, who stepped down as CEO Tuesday, made his statement after being grilled and formally admonished by the legislative committee for questioning the powers of the legislature.

The chairman of the ad-hoc committee and leader of opposition Manohar Parrikar and legislature secretary R. Kothandaraman also accused the state election officials of having breached the principle of separation of powers by seeking the ECI’s permission for conducting the budget session of the Goa legislative assembly and for permitting state government officials to attend the legislative committee’s meetings.

“You have the audacity to write to ECI about the legislative committee for which you do not have the power. The model code of conduct has no instructions regarding house committees and judiciary,” Kothandaraman said in course of the committee’s proceedings.

“As far as I am concerned the model code of conduct is a consensual agreement between political parties and ECI for smooth and fair elections. It has no legal validity.

“The term model code of conduct has come surreptitiously into the rules. This has not been questioned in the high courts or the Supreme Court,” he said. “Nowhere in model code of conduct does it say that can you impose any restriction on the functioning of the judiciary and the legislature. It is confined to the executive and political executive. The code of conduct is not for throwing spanner in works of legislative committees,” the legislature secretary said.

The ECI itself describes the model code of conduct as a “unique document which has evolved with the consensus of political parties themselves, which the ECI implemented and enforced with the aim of providing a level playing field for all political parties and ensuring free and fair election”.

The ad-hoc committee in its formal admonition to former CEO Srivastava and assistant CEO Arvind Bugde described the officers as “professionally delinquent and morally inept to hold public office in such senior capacities in the government’.

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