The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) should be amended to ensure that political parties release their manifesto at least 72 hours before voting ends in the first phase of polls, a committee set up by the Election Commission has recommended.
Section 126 of the RP Act, meanwhile, embodies “election silence”, which prohibits any form of poll campaign in the last 48 hours leading up to voting. This section also restrains display of any election matter “by means of cinematograph, television or other similar apparatus”.
In a multi-phase election, the silence period is usually in effect in some seats even as poll campaigning is on in others. In such cases, the committee has recommended political parties and candidates should not make any reference, direct or indirect, seeking support for seats covered under the silence period. The report also states that during such time, political party leaders should refrain from addressing media through press conferences or give interviews on election-related issues.
Among the other key recommendations of the panel are:
* Social media platforms should work with the EC to evolve a mechanism by which the latter can flag content violating electoral law and social media sites can take it down as soon as possible.
* EC should issue directions to private cable TV channels to follow NBSA guidelines for election broadcasts during the poll period.
“The recommendations made by the Committee, when implemented (after adoption by the ECI with necessary modification or additions), will help in minimizing the possible interference of activities which aim at indirectly influencing voters during the valuable silence period of 48 hours provided to them,” stated a press statement issued by the EC Thursday.
The panel’s report, which was drafted after consultation with major stakeholders including political parties, News Broadcasters Association, the Internet and Mobile Association of India and representatives of Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter, and Google, will be considered by the EC next week.