Visitor No. StatsCounter Hits


Search ECI website only

   Instructions to political parties on manifestos dated 24.04.2015 (English / हिंदी)

EC HOLDS CONSULTATIONS WITH POLITICAL PARTIES ON MANIFESTO GUIDELINES

 

        The Commission on 12th August 2013 held a meeting with representatives of National and State recognized Parties at Nirvachan Sadan, in New Delhi on formulation of guidelines for election manifestos. All the six National parties attended the meeting while, 24 State Parties participated out of 45 who were invited. The meeting was organized to seek their suggestions/views in the wake of the recent judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court which directed the Commission to frame guidelines on Election manifesto in consultation with the recognized political parties, to be included as part of the Model Code of Conduct.

        The Chief Election Commissioner, Shri V.S.Sampath explained to the political parties the background. He observed that some political parties had already given their written suggestions/views on the issue while some were yet to give this to the Commission. He requested the remaining political parties to give their views in the matter within a week.

        Besides the Chief Election Commissioner , Election Commissioners Shri H.S.Brahma and Dr. Nasim Zaidi also heard the presentation made by the political parties.

        The views of the political parties were mainly invited on broad frame work of guidelines on election manifesto and freebies, timing of release of election manifesto by political parties , mechanism for ensuring compliance of guidelines , practicability of implementation of promises of freebies.

        Both National and State recognized political parties presented their views before the Commission. The Commission noted these views.

 
 

Letter to recognized political parties regarding meeting on election manifesto

 

ELECTION COMMISSION OF INDIA

Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi-110001
No. 437/6/Manifesto/2013 Dated 02nd August, 2013

 

To
The President/General Secretary/Chairperson
of All National and State Parties

Subject:-Judgment dated 5.7.2013 of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in SLP (C) No. 21455 of 2008 and TC No. 112 of 2011-S.Subramaniam Balaji Vs Govt. of TN & Others – framing of guidelines for Election manifestos- reg


Sir,

I am directed to invite a reference to Commission’s letter No.509/84/2008/RCC dated 8th July, 2013 in the above matter. You may recall that in the said judgment, the Hon’ble Court had directed the Election Commission to frame guidelines on Election manifesto in consultation with the recognized political parties, to be included as part of the Model Code of Conduct.

2. The Commission has fixed a meeting with the representatives of all the recognized National and State Parties on 12th August 2013 at 9.30 AM in the Conference Hall, 4th Floor, Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi for consultation in the matter. You are requested to depute representative(s) on behalf of your Party to participate in the meeting. Owing to space constraints, the National Parties may restrict the number of representatives to two members only and State parties may depute one member each. It will be appreciated if you could intimate in advance the name(s) of representative(s) being deputed for the meeting.

3. The Commission has prepared a “Background Note” on the Election Manifestos, a copy of which is enclosed herewith. You are requested to forward your suggestions/views in the matter preferably before the date of meeting.

 

Yours faithfully,
(K. AJAYA KUMAR)
PRINCIPAL SECRETARY

 

BACKGROUND NOTE ON ELECTION MANIFESTOS
  • Election manifesto - concept and relevance

A manifesto is generally defined as a published declaration of the intentions, motives or views of an individual, group, political party or government whosoever issues it. A manifesto usually comprises a previously published opinion or public consensus and/or promotes a new idea with prescriptive notions for carrying out changes for future. Oxford dictionary defines manifesto as a public declaration of the policy and aims of a group such as political party. Thus an election manifesto is a published document containing declaration of the ideology, intentions, views, policies and programmes of a political party. The Election Manifestos are generally drafted by the Political Parties keeping an eye on forthcoming elections and are generally published and well publicized.

As already stated above, the election manifesto normally contains the declared ideology of the political Party concerned in general and its policies and programmes for the Country/State and people at large. It therefore serves as a reference document or benchmark for the public at large for what a political party stands for. By comparing the ideologies, policies and programmes of the political parties, the electors can decide which party they should vote for to meet their expectations and aspirations.

  • Election Manifestos over the years in the country – changes in trend and approach

 

It may be mentioned that after independence, elections in our country have been held from the year 1952 onwards. But all the political parties were not used to publishing their ideologies, policies and programmes through the publication of manifestos. Major political parties used to make public their ideologies, policies and programmes not necessarily through manifestos.

However, in recent years many National and State parties are publishing their manifestos for each general election and these manifestos generally contain, in addition to the basic ideology of the parties, major policies, viz Economic Policy, foreign policy, Plans, programmes and issues for governance, if they come to power. These include but are not restricted to measures such as ensuring comprehensive social security to those at special risk , making quality education affordable to everyone, waiving of agricultural loans, pension scheme for aged and helpless farmers, provision of safe drinking water facility and primary healthcare, medical cover for specified categories of people such as widows, old age pensioners, farmers, abolishing of child labour etc. In addition, there is a new trend started by some parties recently, in which they directly promise such items which in common parlance are termed as “Freebies”.
“Freebie” is defined in Webster dictionary as something given without charge. Oxford dictionary defines freebie as something provided or given free of charge. These promises may be aimed at targeted groups of electorate like, BPL families, weaker sections of the society, women, handicapped etc., as well as at electorate as a whole.

  • Observations and directions of Supreme Court

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in its judgment/orde
r dated 5th July 2013 in SLP(C) No. 21455 of 2008 has inter alia directed the Election Commission of India to frame guidelines on election manifesto to be included as part of the Model Code of Conduct. The Supreme Court has observed and directed that :

Directions:
Para (77) of the Supreme Court Judgment:- 77) Although, the law is obvious that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be construed as ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of RP Act, the reality cannot be ruled out that distribution of freebies of any kind, undoubtedly, influences all people. It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree. The Election Commission through its counsel also conveyed the same feeling both in the affidavit and in the argument that the promise of such freebies at government cost disturbs the level playing field and vitiates the electoral process and thereby expressed willingness to implement any directions or decision of this Court in this regard.
Para (78) :-78) As observed in the earlier part of the judgment, this Court has limited power to issue directions to the legislature to legislate on a particular issue. However, the Election Commission, in order to ensure level playing field between the contesting parties and candidates in elections and also in order to see that the purity of the election process does not get vitiated, as in past been issuing instructions under the Model Code of Conduct. The fountainhead of the powers under which the commission issues these orders is Article 324 of the Constitution, which mandates the commission to hold free and fair elections. It is equally imperative to acknowledge that the Election Commission cannot issue such orders if the subject matter of the order of commission is covered by a legislative measure.
Para (79):- 79) Therefore, considering that there is no enactment that directly governs the contents of the election manifesto, we hereby direct the Election Commission to frame guidelines for the same in consultation with all the recognized political parties as when it had acted while framing guidelines for general conduct of the candidates, meetings, processions, polling day, party in power etc. In the similar way, a separate head for guidelines for election manifesto released by a political party can also be included in the Model Code of Conduct for the Guidance of Political Parties & Candidates. We are mindful of the fact that generally political parties release their election manifesto before the announcement of election date, in that scenario, strictly speaking, the Election Commission will not have the authority to regulate any act which is done before the announcement of the date. Nevertheless, an exception can be made in this regard as the purpose of election manifesto is directly associated with the election process.
Para (80) :- 80) We hereby direct the Election Commission to take up this task as early as possible owing to its utmost importance. We also record the need for a separate legislation to be passed by the legislature in this regard for governing the political parties in our democratic society.|
Existing Model Code of Conduct- relevant provisions

The current model code of conduct contains some relevant provisions on corrupt practices by parties and candidates and related to promise by the party in power etc. They are reproduced below:-
Sub-para (4) of Para I. General Conduct stipulates that –
“(4) All parties and candidates shall avoid scrupulously all activities which are “corrupt practices” and offences under the election law, such as bribing of voters, intimidation of voters, impersonation of voters, canvassing within 100 meters of polling stations, holding public meetings during the period of 48 hours ending with the hour fixed for the close of poll, and the transport and conveyance of voters to and from polling station”.
Para VII. Party in Power stipulates inter alia that –
The party in power whether at the Centre or in the State or States concerned, shall ensure that no cause is given for any complaint that it has used its official position for the purposes of its election campaign and in particular-
(v) Ministers and other authorities shall not sanction grants/payments out of discretionary funds from the time elections are announced by the Commission; and
(vi)From the time elections are announced by the Commission, Ministers and other authorities shall not –

  • Announce any financial grants in any form or promises thereof; or

(b) (except civil servants) lay foundation stones etc., of projects or schemes of any kinds; or
(c) Make any promise of construction of roads, provision of drinking water facilities etc; or
(d) Make any ad-hoc appointments in Government, Public Undertakings etc., which may have the effect of influencing the voters in favour of the party in power.

5. Practice in other Democracies – manifestos/policy documents by political parties – legal provisions – guidelines – regulatory mechanism – role of EMBs in enforcement.

Information on international practices, that could be gathered from two international organizations and seven election management bodies, in response to a set of questions circulated to more than 30 organisations, has been compiled and is attached as Annexure.

  • (a) Guiding principles for framing guidelines

The Supreme Court in its judgment has directed the Election Commission to frame guidelines for the contents of election manifestos in consultation with all the recognized political parties. The guiding principles which will lead to framing of such guidelines are quoted below from the judgment:-

  • “Although, the law is obvious that the promises in the election manifesto cannot be construed as ‘corrupt practice’ under Section 123 of RP Act, the reality cannot be ruled out that distribution of freebies of any kind, undoubtedly, influences all people. It shakes the root of free and fair elections to a large degree”.
  • “The Election Commission, in order to ensure level playing field between the contesting parties and candidates in elections and also in order to see that the purity of the election process does not get vitiated, as in past been issuing instructions under the Model Code of Conduct”.

“We are mindful of the fact that generally political parties release their election manifesto before the announcement of election date, in that scenario, strictly speaking, the Election Commission will not have the authority to regulate any act which is done before the announcement of the date. Nevertheless, an exception can be made in this regard as the purpose of election manifesto is directly associated with the election process”.

In the light of aforesaid observations of the Hon”ble Supreme Court, it is important to recognize the public perception of the electorate in this country to promises of freebies.

  • Points for suggestions from political parties.
  • Suggestions/views of Political Parties on broad framework of guidelines on Election Manifesto & Freebies.
  • Suggestions/views with regard to Timing of release of Election Manifestos by Political Parties. Having regard to the Supreme Court’s observation that the part relating to election manifestos should be included in the Model Code of Conduct and that such part of the Model Code may come into force even prior to the date of announcement of election schedule by the Election Commission, what may be a reasonable window before announcement of elections within which the political parties may issue/release their manifestos?
  • Suggest mechanism for ensuring compliance of guidelines to be issued.
  • Suggestions/ views with regard to “freebies” in the Election Manifesto, keeping in view the observation/directions of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court expressed its concern over the issue of freebies being promised in the election manifestos of political parties. The definition of freebies has been explained in the foregoing paragraph number 2. What should in the view of the political parties, be considered as freebies?
  • Suggestions/views on practicability of implementation of promises of freebies in reference to their social and economic impact.

***********************

Annexure

A compilation of available international practices with ref. to Manifestos

Practice of issuing manifestos, their content and time of issue:

    • Issuing manifestos is increasingly common around the world. Manifestos normally indicate broad policy/programmes of a political party/candidate on political, economic and social matters.
    • In the United States, the nature of political party platforms is policy based, generally covering economic policy, foreign policy, healthcare, governance reform, environmental issues, immigration, etc. These do not offer specific benefits, but outline plans and policies that would benefit large groups of population.
    • In many West European countries, manifestos tend to mention more concrete policy choices as well as their budgetary implications. Sometimes, parties add financial paragraphs to their manifestos, which may be submitted to a Court of Audit (if it exists), which calculates how realistic each manifesto is.
    • In Bhutan, political parties are required to submit a copy of their election manifesto to the Election Commission, before primary round of National Assembly elections. Manifestos are issued to the public only with the approval of the Election Commission. Content is largely policies and development plans and programmes which a party will implement, if elected. Election Commission thoroughly vets the election manifestos, and filters out issues with potential to undermine the security and stability of the nation. Further, manifestos cannot contain anything that seeks electoral gains by campaigning on the ground of religion, ethnicity, region, prerogatives of the King and the State, national identity etc.
    • In Mexico, to be eligible to nominate candidates for a Federal election, a party must submit an electoral platform for registration and validation by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). The platform essentially contains principles/proposals which the party would uphold on three broad issues: politics, economics and social. The contents must be in line with declaration of principles and programme of action that the party submitted with their application for legal registration. IFE verifies that the electoral platform is in line with the basic documents of the party. Certification of registration and validation of the platform is essential for nomination of candidates.
    • As regards content, there appears to be a thin line between policy pledges and promises of freebies aimed at vote buying. These need to be differentiated, while considering the matter.
    • Manifestoes are issued before the elections – the period ranging from three weeks (Bhutan) to two months (United States) to five months (Mexico) before election day.

Legal provisions/guidelines regarding manifestos.

    • In Bhutan and Mexico, Electoral Authorities have power to vet manifestos and get certain types of content removed (as above).
    • In the United Kingdom, the Electoral authority issues guidelines for campaign materials (which would apply to manifestos also).
    • In the United States (without a central EMB), the State-level EMB regulations generally do not include any provisions about political party platforms. It is the Party Committee which governs internally and develops the platform of a party for a particular election, as per the Charter and By-Laws of the party.

(source: IFES)

    • Most other democracies do not seem to have any legal provisions/guidelines specifically for manifestos, although in some countries (e.g. United Kingdom, the Netherlands) legal provisions applicable to offensive campaign material would seem to apply to content of manifestos as well.

Regulatory mechanisms

    • Regulatory mechanisms operate in Bhutan and Mexico, as above.
    • In the United Kingdom, the Electoral authority issues guidelines for campaign materials (which would apply to manifestos also), but does have no other role.
    • In major democracies such as the United States, Sweden, Canada, the Netherlands and Austria, EMBs/Electoral Authorities have no role in relation to manifestos.

Role of EMBs in enforcement

    • In Bhutan and Mexico, manifestos require approval/validation by the Electoral authority before their release.
    • Other democracies do not seem to have taken any steps so far in this direction.
next
Quick Links
  Link to State/UT CEOs International Cooperation National Voter Day
  Officer's Login Link to DeitY Appstore ECI Mail Service
  Download Manager Page (For Officers) Miscellaneous Statistics Help
  Observer's Portal (For Observers Only) Delimitation Sitemap
  CEO's portal  /  ECI login /  Bye-Election Media Corner Genesys
  ECI Officers login (For Observer Reports) Best Sharing Portal E-Office