FREE VACCINE PROMISE NOT A VIOLATION OF MODEL CODE OF CONDUCT

Pursuant to a direction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the ECI in 2013 framed certain guidelines for election manifestos of political parties. These guidelines were incorporated as Part VIII of the Model Code of Conduct and they are applicable from the date a political party issues its manifesto.

Firstly, as per the guidelines the manifesto shall not contain anything repugnant to the ideals and principles enshrined in the Constitution and shall be consistent with the letter and spirit of other provisions of Model Code.

Secondly, in light of the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution that enjoin upon the State to frame various welfare measures there can be no objection to the promise of such welfare in the election manifesto. However, political parties should avoid making those promises which are likely to vitiate the purity of the election process or exert undue influence on the voters in exercising their franchise.

Lastly, in interest of transparency, level playing field and credibility of promises, it is expected that manifesto also reflect the rationale for the promises and broadly indicate the ways and means to meet the financial requirement for it. Trust of voters should be sought only on those promises which are possible to be fulfilled.

Advocate Saket Gokhale filed a petition on 22nd October before the Election commission of India requiring the commission’s attention towards the comment made by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s leaders which promised free Covid-19 Vaccine to all the people of Bihar. 

The petition highlighted that the statement was not made by the leaders of BJP polling in Bihar but by the Union Minister of Finance Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman, which was objectionable and misleading. Secondly, the petition objected to the action of posting the comment via twitter from the official BJP handle.

The main ground of the petition was that the statement made by the political party is in ignorance of the Model Code of Conduct and of Article 14 of the Constitution of India since each and every state and every individual therein is equally entitled to access the vaccine. The petition stated that in the absence of any official policy by the Union government, such promises are baseless.  

Whereas, the political party’s reply to it stated that, since public health being a state subject the state governments can decide the course of action and hence make promises for the same.  

Further, in reply to this petition the Election Commission on 28th October waived the objections and held that the statements and promises made by the party do not violate any code of conduct specifically those mentioned above. Hence the Election Commission of Indian disposed of the petition. 

(Food for thought- What truth will the above-mentioned statement hold for a common man’s understanding and is it likely to exert undue influence on people? – will be added in the slides) 

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