Model Code of Conduct

Model Code of Conduct


  • The Model Code of Conduct comprises a set of guidelines issued by India’s Election Commission (EC) for candidates and political parties during elections. 
  • It takes effect immediately upon the announcement of the election schedule by the EC.
  • Kerala became the pioneer state in India to implement the model code of conduct during its 1960 elections.
  • The MCC plays a vital role in upholding the integrity of elections by preventing electoral offenses, malpractices, and corruption, thereby ensuring that elections are conducted fairly and transparently.
  • It prohibits the inappropriate use of official resources for electoral purposes, guaranteeing equal opportunities for all candidates to compete on a level playing field.
  • The MCC serves to regulate the behavior of political parties and candidates, promoting decorum and fairness throughout the electoral process.
  • Operating Period: Effective from the announcement of the election schedule by the EC until the conclusion of the electoral process, the MCC maintains its authority to ensure adherence to electoral standards.
  • Scope of Application: Applicable nationwide during general elections to the Lok Sabha and at the state level during general elections to the Legislative Assembly, while in bye-elections, it applies solely to the relevant constituency.

Historical Context

  • Emergence in Kerala: Originating during the 1960 Assembly elections in Kerala, initial guidelines were established by the State Administration.
  • EC Refinement: Since the 1962 Lok Sabha elections, the Election Commission has continuously refined the code to address corrupt practices and prevent unfair advantages for the ruling party.
  • Supreme Court Influence: Following a 2013 Supreme Court directive, the MCC expanded its scope to include guidelines on election manifestos, further enhancing its relevance and impact.

What are the components covered by the Model Code of Conduct?

  • Project and Public Initiatives: The government refrains from initiating new projects or public initiatives once the Code is in effect.
  • Recruitment Process: Government bodies are barred from engaging in any recruitment process during the electoral period.
  • Conduct of Candidates: Contesting candidates and their supporters are prohibited from disrupting the freedom of roadshows organized by their opponents, with the Code exercising control over such activities.
  • Election Campaigns: Rallies and roadshows organized for election campaigns must not disrupt road traffic or cause inconvenience to the general public.

Provisions of Model Code of Conduct

General Conduct Guidelines for Political Parties and Candidates

  • Avoiding Aggravation of Differences: Parties and candidates are prohibited from engaging in activities that worsen existing differences or promote mutual hatred between different castes, communities, religions, or linguistic groups.
  • Restrictions on Criticism: Criticism of other political parties should be limited to their policies, programs, past records, and public activities. Personal aspects of private life unrelated to public activities should not be subject to criticism, and unverified allegations or distortions must be avoided.
  • Avoiding Appeals to Caste or Communal Feelings: Parties and candidates must refrain from making appeals to caste or communal feelings to secure votes. Places of worship such as mosques, churches, temples, etc., should not be used as platforms for election propaganda.
  • Prevention of Corrupt Practices: All parties and candidates are required to avoid corrupt practices and offenses under election laws. This includes bribery, voter intimidation, impersonation, canvassing within 100 meters of polling stations, holding public meetings within 48 hours of polling, and providing transportation to voters.
  • Respect for Individual's Privacy: The right to a peaceful and undisturbed home-life must be respected, regardless of political opinions or activities. Organizing demonstrations or picketing outside individuals' homes to protest against their opinions or activities is strictly prohibited.
  • Respect for Property Rights: Parties and candidates should not allow their supporters to use an individual's property without permission for erecting flagstaffs, hanging banners, pasting notices, or writing slogans.
  • Ensuring Orderliness at Public Events: Parties and candidates are responsible for ensuring that their supporters do not disrupt meetings and processions organized by other parties. Disturbances, including oral or written questioning and distribution of leaflets, are prohibited. Processions should not pass through areas where other parties are holding meetings, and posters issued by one party should not be removed by workers of another party.

Guidelines for Conducting Meetings

  • Informing Local Authorities: Parties or candidates are required to notify local police authorities in advance regarding the venue and timing of any proposed meeting. This allows the police to make necessary arrangements for traffic control and maintaining peace and order.
  • Compliance with Orders: Before conducting a meeting, parties or candidates must ascertain whether any restrictive or prohibitory orders are in place at the proposed venue. If such orders exist, they must be strictly followed. If an exemption is needed, it should be applied for and obtained well in advance.
  • Permission for Facilities: If permission or a license is necessary for using loudspeakers or any other facilities during a meeting, the party or candidate must apply to the relevant authority well in advance and obtain the required permission or license.
  • Seeking Police Assistance: Organizers of meetings should always seek the assistance of on-duty police officers in dealing with individuals who disrupt the meeting or attempt to create disorder. Organizers themselves should refrain from taking action against such individuals.

Guidelines for Conducting Processions

  • Preparation and Planning: Organizers of processions must decide in advance the starting time and place, the planned route, and the termination point. Deviation from the planned program should be avoided whenever possible.
  • Notification to Authorities: Advance intimation of the procession's program should be provided to local police authorities to enable them to make necessary arrangements.
  • Compliance with Orders: Organizers should verify if any restrictive orders are in effect along the procession route and comply with them unless specially exempted by the competent authority. Traffic regulations and restrictions must also be strictly adhered to.
  • Traffic Management: Measures should be taken in advance to ensure the smooth passage of the procession without causing blockages or hindrances to traffic. Long processions should be organized in manageable segments to allow the passage of held-up traffic at intervals.
  • Direction and Compliance: Processions should keep to the right side of the road as much as possible, and organizers must strictly adhere to the directions and advice provided by the police on duty.
  • Coordination with Other Parties: If multiple political parties or candidates plan processions along the same route or at similar times, organizers should establish contact well in advance to prevent clashes or disruptions to traffic. Assistance from local police should be sought to reach satisfactory arrangements.
  • Control Over Participants: Organizers must exercise maximum control over procession participants to prevent the carrying of items that could be misused by undesirable elements, especially during moments of excitement.
  • Prohibited Demonstrations: Political parties or candidates should not allow the carrying of effigies representing members of other political parties or their leaders, burning such effigies in public, or any other forms of demonstration deemed inappropriate.

Polling Day Guidelines

  • Ensuring Peaceful Polling: All political parties and candidates must cooperate with election officers to maintain peaceful and orderly polling, allowing voters complete freedom to cast their votes without any disturbance or obstruction.
  • Identification Badges: Parties should provide suitable badges or identity cards to their authorized workers for easy identification.
  • Identity Slips: Identity slips provided to voters must be on plain (white) paper and should not contain any symbols, candidate names, or party names.
  • Prohibition on Liquor Distribution: Parties and candidates must refrain from serving or distributing liquor on polling day and 48 hours preceding it.
  • Crowd Management: Unnecessary crowds near polling booths should be avoided to prevent confrontations and tensions among party workers and supporters. Candidate camps should be simple without displaying posters, flags, or other propaganda material. No food should be served, and crowds should be discouraged.
  • Compliance with Vehicle Restrictions: Parties must cooperate with authorities regarding restrictions on vehicle movement on polling day and obtain necessary permits, which should be prominently displayed on vehicles.

Polling Booth Procedures

  • Appointment of Observers: The Election Commission is appointing observers to oversee the conduct of elections. Candidates or their agents with specific complaints or problems regarding election conduct may bring them to the observer's notice for resolution.

Guidelines for the Party in Power

  • Ministerial Conduct: Ministers should refrain from combining official visits with electioneering activities and avoid using official machinery or personnel for campaign purposes.
  • Prohibition on Official Resources: Government resources such as transport, aircraft, vehicles, and personnel should not be utilized to benefit the party in power during elections.
  • Fair Access to Public Places: Public spaces like maidens and helipads should not be monopolized by the ruling party. Other parties and candidates should be allowed to use these facilities under the same terms and conditions.
  • Fair Use of Government Accommodation: Rest houses, dak bungalows, or other government accommodations should not be monopolized by the ruling party or its candidates. They should be made available to all parties and candidates in a fair manner without being used for campaign offices or election propaganda.
  • Avoidance of Partisan Publicity: Advertisement expenses from public funds and the misuse of official mass media for partisan political coverage should be avoided during the election period.
  • Restriction on Discretionary Grants: Ministers and authorities should refrain from sanctioning grants or payments from discretionary funds once the election is announced by the Election Commission.
  • Restrictions on Announcements and Promises: Ministers and authorities should avoid announcing financial grants, laying foundation stones, promising construction projects, or making ad-hoc appointments that may influence voters in favor of the ruling party once elections are announced.
  • Date of Election Announcement: The Election Commission shall announce the election date, typically not more than three weeks before issuing the notification for the elections.
  • Restrictions on Ministerial Presence: Ministers of the central or state government should refrain from entering polling stations or places of counting, except in their capacity as candidates, voters, or authorized agents.

Guidelines on Election Manifestos

  • Constitutional Compliance: Election manifestos should align with the ideals and principles enshrined in the Constitution and comply with the provisions of the Model Code of Conduct to maintain the integrity of the electoral process.
  • Welfare Measures: While political parties can include promises of welfare measures consistent with the Directive Principles of State Policy, they should avoid pledges that may compromise the fairness of elections or unduly influence voters.
  • Transparency and Credibility: Manifestos should transparently outline the rationale behind promises and indicate the means to fulfill them financially. Voters' trust should be sought only for commitments that are feasible to fulfill.

Prohibitory Period for Manifesto Release

  • Single-Phase Elections: Manifestos should not be released during the prohibitory period specified under Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, for single-phase elections.
  • Multi-Phase Elections: Similarly, in the case of multi-phase elections, manifestos should not be released during the prohibitory periods of all phases as prescribed by Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951.


The Model Code of Conduct is a crucial set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India to ensure fair and transparent elections. It covers various aspects of electoral conduct, including the behavior of candidates and political parties, the management of election campaigns, and the conduct on polling day. By providing clear directives on issues such as the use of government resources, the organization of meetings and processions, and the content of election manifestos, the Code aims to maintain the integrity of the electoral process and uphold democratic principles. Additionally, the guidelines on the conduct of the party in power and the regulation of election manifestos contribute to fostering a level playing field and promoting transparency in the electoral process.