Unhappy over development projects being stalled during elections as it happened early this year in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the Centre proposes to take a fresh look at the Election Commission's code of conduct by making it a part of the law governing polls in the country.
The code of conduct comes into force once the elections the elections are announced, and currently the EC has powers to interpret and enforce the code, which has left the political class unhappy.
All this could change with a Group of Ministers (GoM) to consider measures to tackle corruption headed by finance minister Pranab Mukerjee, wanting the model code of conduct to be clearly defined in the Representation of People's Act.
Mukherjee is convinced that the code "is one of the biggest excuses to stall development projects." Law minister Salman Khurshid agreed with Mukherjee's view and is in favour of a fresh look at the entire issue.
"There is a possibility of making a violation of the election code of conduct a criminal offence," said a senior government official.
The change will empower the EC to register a case against the offender immediately when the violation would be reported. Under the present system, it has powers to debar a candidate from contesting for violation of the mode but those are rarely used. "In 99 % cases the candidates are issued a warning or are censured," said a government official.
Mukerjee has asking the law ministry to make this proposal part of its agenda for the all-party meeting on electoral reforms expected to be held soon.
"The legislative department of the law ministry may also also be asked to look into aspects where executive instructions of the Election Commission were required to be given a force of law," stated the GoM.
The government expects support from other parties as the EC this April got two state government schemes — Rs 2 per kg rice for poor in then Left ruled Kerala and distribution of free television set in then DMK ruled Tamil Nadu — discontinued citing the model code of conduct.