The Umpire Cannot Be Silent: When Governments Listen to the Election Commission


06:28 AM

1 min read

Why in News?

  • Two former poll panel chiefs' have expressed concerns regarding the actions of tax agencies during election periods.
  • Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of democracy, ensuring that citizens can exercise their right to choose their representatives without undue influence or coercion.
  • Amid these developments, it becomes important to analyse these actions that may disrupt this process, such as issuing tax demands or IT notices to political parties and precedence when EC stepped into maintain the level playing field.

Implications of IT Notices to Opposition During Election Period

  • Uneven Level Playing Field (LPF) Due to Financial Disruption
    • These actions by tax agencies can be perceived as attempts to undermine the democratic process by targeting specific political parties or candidates.
    • By freezing accounts, debiting funds, or issuing notices during election campaigns, tax agencies may disrupt the financial resources and operational capabilities of certain parties, thereby tilting the electoral playing field in favour of others.
    • Such interference undermines the principles of democracy and electoral integrity, eroding public trust in the electoral process.
  • Impact on Voter Perceptions
    • Moreover, the timing of these actions raises concerns about their potential impact on voter perceptions and election outcomes.
    • Voters may view such actions as politically motivated or aimed at influencing the electoral outcome, leading to doubts about the fairness and impartiality of the electoral process.
    • In a democracy, it is essential to uphold the principles of neutrality, transparency, and fairness to ensure that elections reflect the will of the people.
  • Operational Challenges
    • Raids and other enforcement actions by tax agencies can create operational challenges for political parties, diverting their attention and resources away from election campaigning.
    • Parties may need to allocate time and resources to address legal issues, respond to inquiries, and navigate the complexities of tax regulations, detracting from their focus on engaging with voters and promoting their agenda.
  • Negative Perception about Electoral Process
    • The perception that tax agencies are targeting specific parties or candidates during election periods can erode public trust in the fairness and impartiality of the electoral process.
    • Voters may view such actions as politically motivated attempts to influence the outcome of the elections, leading to scepticism about the integrity of the electoral process and the credibility of the results.
  • Impact on Democratic Participation
    • When political parties face financial and operational challenges due to enforcement actions, it can discourage democratic participation and engagement among voters.
    • Citizens may perceive the electoral process as unfair or biassed, leading to disillusionment and apathy towards the democratic process.

Why Actions Against CMs, Congress Can Wait?

  • Within the EC, the principle that was always followed was that anything that can wait till the end of elections must wait.
  • However, a question arises as to whether there would be any irreparable damage in postponing.
  • In the present two cases the arrest of two chief ministers and IT notices, including freezing of the accounts of an opposition party there seems to be no irreparable damage if the actions were delayed till the end of the elections.
  • On the contrary, irreparable damage is being done to the two affected parties by throttling their electoral campaign, physically and financially.

Precedence of Elections Commission’s (EC) Actions Against Central Agencies and Governments to Maintain LPF

  • Intervention in Instances of Bias or Partiality
    • The EC has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring fair and impartial elections by intervening in instances where central agencies were accused of bias or partiality.
    • During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the EC advised the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to act impartially after opposition parties alleged that the ruling party was using central agencies against them.
    • The EC emphasised the importance of neutrality, impartiality, and non-discrimination in all enforcement actions during the election period, underscoring its dedication to upholding the integrity of the electoral process.
  • Reasonableness in Matters Affecting Public Welfare
    • Additionally, the EC has shown reasonableness in matters affecting public welfare while maintaining neutrality and fairness.
    • For example, when the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas sought to announce a national reduction in petrol prices during state elections, the EC permitted it after considering it to be in the wider public interest.
    • On the other hand, when the government proposed an increase in the minimum support price of certain foodgrains, the EC disallowed it due to the timing being suspect, ensuring that electoral processes remain free from undue influence.
  • Contributions to Transparent Electoral Environment
    • The EC's interventions have contributed to reducing the misuse of office by political leaders and ministers, fostering a more transparent and equitable electoral environment.
    • The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) serves as a crucial tool in ensuring that ruling parties do not gain undue advantage over others.
    • It imposes restrictions on the government of the day, prohibiting the use of official machinery or personnel for electoral purposes and preventing the announcement of financial grants or projects that could influence voters.
  • Advice and Guidance to Political Parties
    • While enforcement actions under the MCC primarily involve censure or reprimand of individuals, the EC also advises political parties to ensure compliance with the code.
    • In instances where state governments' budget sessions coincide with election periods, the EC advises them to consider adopting a "vote on account" instead of introducing new schemes that could violate the MCC.
    • Governments have typically accepted the EC's advice, demonstrating a commitment to upholding democratic principles and ensuring a level playing field during elections.
  • EC’s Intervention in Goa By-Election, 2012:
    • A notable example of the EC's influence is its intervention in a by-election in Goa in 2012, where the Chief Minister intended to induct a probable candidate into the Council of Ministers prior to the election.
    • Despite having the constitutional authority to do so, the Chief Minister accepted the EC's advice to defer the induction, acknowledging the moral authority of the Model Code of Conduct over his constitutional rights.
    • This statesmanlike response exemplifies the delicate balance between various authorities and parliamentary democracy, elevating Indian elections on the world stage as models of democratic integrity and fairness.


  • By engaging with central agencies and advocating for the postponement of actions such as raids, freezing of accounts, and issuance of tax demands until after elections, the EC can uphold the principles of free and fair elections.
  • The EC's intervention is essential to reassure voters that the electoral process remains impartial and free from undue influence or manipulation.

Ultimately, preserving the integrity of elections is vital to safeguarding democracy and maintaining public confidence in the electoral process. 

Q) What is the Model Code of Conduct?

The Model Code of Conduct (MCC) is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to regulate the conduct of political parties and candidates during elections. It aims to ensure a level playing field, fair practices, and the maintenance of electoral integrity.

Q) What are the key components of the Model Code of Conduct?

The Model Code of Conduct encompasses various provisions such as refraining from making inflammatory speeches, maintaining harmony among different communities, avoiding personal attacks, and not using government resources for campaigning. It also includes guidelines on the use of public spaces for campaigning, regulation of political advertisements, and prohibitions on bribery and inducements.
Source:The Indian Express