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PM Modi’s Mission Shakti Speech & Model Code of Conduct

PM Modi’s Mission Shakti Speech & Model Code of Conduct

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  • GS 2 || Polity || Political Dynamics || Elections

Why in news?

  • The Election Commission concluded that Prime Minister’s address to the nation on the successful test-firing of an anti-satellite missile did not violate the model code of conduct.

Dispute

  • PM Announcement: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced through a nationally televised address the demonstration of India’s capability to bring down an operational satellite.
  • Mission Shakti: India shot down one of its satellites in space with an anti-satellite missile to demonstrate this complex capability, Prime Minister announced, making it only the fourth country to have used such a weapon.
  • Declaring India has established itself as a global space power after the success of the operation ‘Mission Shakti’, Prime Minister said the missile hit a live satellite flying in a Low Earth Orbit after it traversed a distance of almost 300 km from earth within three minutes of its launch.
  • Opposition parties had accused the Prime Minister of violating the Model Code by touting the demonstration of the anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test as a significant achievement of the ruling BJP.
  • CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury had formally complained to the EC.
  • There were questions about the timing of the test as well as the manner of announcement as the country is in election mode.

MCC mandate

  • Part VII of the Code covering the “party in power” prohibits advertisements at the cost of the public exchequer to further the prospects of the party in power.
    • It says “… the misuse of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided.”

Election Commission’s decision

  • A five-member committee formed by the EC concluded that the relevant provision was not attracted in this case.
  • The committee’s finding that there was no “misuse of official mass media” as Doordarshan and AIR took the feed from a news agency, and more than 60 channels did the same, is rooted in the letter of the code, not its spirit.

Is the argument valid?

  • As a landmark achievement in defence research, it deserved a public pronouncement at a high level.
    • Even then, letting the DRDO explain the achievement first would have served the purpose.
    • Prime Minister’s action in making the announcement himself, rather than letting the DRDO, the agency involved, do so violates the bar on “furthering the prospects” of the ruling party by the nature of the publicity given to the achievement.
  • Moreover, the practice of using a private agency to record the announcement and asking it to share the feed , obliquely serves the purpose of generating publicity through the official media.
    • As the legal maxim goes, what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly either.
  • Given these, the commission’s conclusion remains a narrow technical view as it is a thin line that divides the idea of making a high-level declaration of a defence capability from using it for electoral advantage.

Additional info

Model Code of Conduct (MCC)

  • MCC is a set of guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, portfolios, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.
  • These set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code in its letter and spirit.
  • The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission for the need of ensuring free and fair elections.
  • Its main purpose is to ensure that ruling parties, at the Centre and in the States, do not misuse their position of advantage to gain an unfair edge. It is designed to avert practices which are deemed corrupt under model code of conduct.
  • For example, politicians should not make hate speeches, putting one community against another or make promises about new projects that may sway a voter.

Mains question

  • The Election Commission of India, which once enjoyed high trust is now facing a credibility crisis. Comment.