Code of Conduct Proposed For Future Bombay Parsi Punchayet Elections

The following PROPOSED CODE OF CONDUCT TO GOVERN FUTURE BPP ELECTIONS appeared in Jam-e-Jamshed edition of 11 Jan 2015

bpp_logoWith a view to provide a level playing field to all individuals contesting future BPP Trustee elections, former Trustees of BPP along with some prominent community members had been discussing with the present Trustees, since early 2014, the necessity to introduce a ‘Code of Conduct’ that would govern future elections for BPP Trusteeship.

This communication is being released as many – individuals as well as community media – have been enquiring about the progress made in introducing the proposed ‘Code of Conduct’ under which future elections for trusteeship of BPP would be conducted.

After much deliberations and holding of several meetings a final draft of the ‘Code of Conduct’ has been evolved and forwarded to the present BPP Trustees for consideration.

As elections to BPP Trusteeship are conducted under a ‘Scheme of Elections’ framed by the Hon. Bombay High Court, a revised Scheme of Elections has been framed into which the ‘Code of Conduct’ has been incorporated, that would before implementation, first need to be approved by present Trustees and thereafter sanction sought from the Hon. Bombay High Court.

The salient features of the Code of Conduct that has been forwarded to present BPP Trustees in November 2014 are reproduced hereunder for the information of all those who have been enquiring about the same.

1. The Trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet shall constitute an Election Commission (EC) having an Election Commissioner and four other Additional Commissioners, being individuals having impeccable integrity.

2. The Additional Election Commissioners (“AEC”) shall work under the directions and supervisions of the Election Commissioner.

3. Trustees may nominate 2 “reserve members” of the EC who shall be called upon to officiate as Additional Commissioners if one or more Additional Commissioner cannot officiate as such, for any reason whatsoever. In addition the Trustees may co-opt members as required to assist in the conduct of elections and supervising/manning of EVMs.

4. The Election Commissioner and his Associates shall oversee the electoral procedure carried out by the Administrative staff of the BPP, and shall endeavour to ensure that the elections are conducted in a transparent, free and fair manner.

5. The EC shall oversee the Election Process at all times – from the announcement of the elections until their completion with sufficient administrative help and staff of the BPP to conduct the election.

6. While the Trustees of BPP shall have the general superintendence and control of the EC & the elections, all the BPP sitting trustees will remain outside the election fray at all times unless a trustee is offering himself for re-election.

7. The EC will oversee all matters pertaining to the Election process. All complaints relating to the election and/or breach of any of the conditions of this Code shall be specifically dealt by the EC.

8. Full co-operation shall be extended by the Trustees and BPP staff to the EC and the team appointed by them at all times to ensure peaceful and orderly polling.

9. Three months prior to the election date, the Election Commission will invite applications from prospective candidates, depending on the number of vacancies, for Trusteeship of the Parsi Punchayet of Bombay. Prospective candidates would file their nomination with the Election Commission and lodge a deposit of Rs 50,000/-. A candidate not procuring at least 5% of the total votes cast shall forfeit the deposit. The deposit amount shall be pegged at the prevailing cost of living index for future elections. After the Election of 2015, the BPP Trustees shall for such future elections declare in advance, the amount of such deposit.

10. The candidate would submit personal details as per a standard format devised by the Election Commission. The candidate would also submit a short bio-data with an Election Manifesto and Vision Statement of not more than 2000 words. Failure to comply with the requirements of the Election Commission would result in the candidature being rejected by the EC.

11. All the candidates will maintain an account of all the election expenses that they have personally incurred and will submit the same to the Election Commission one day prior to the last polling date, as all campaigning activities would have come to an end 48 hours prior to the date of election. Each candidate will be permitted to spend no more than Rs.3,00,000/= (Rupees three hundred thousand) for their entire election campaign.

12. The Election Commission, shall consider all written complaints by the voters/candidates about irregularities committed by any candidate and/or by his/her supporters, All the EC appointees shall consider the complaint and then give their decision, by way of a simple majority. In case of a tie, the Election Commissioner shall have a casting vote.

13. Posters will be displayed as per the guidance of BPP and all efforts will be made by EC to see that these are not destroyed, removed or defaced.

14. The Candidate will hold meetings after seeking prior permission of EC on 1st come 1st serve basis & statutory authorities including Police.

15. No incentives or inducements of any kind (including food boxes, lunches/dinners, gifts etc) will be provided to the voters who attend such election meetings, at the venue or outside or sent at home in order to maintain a level playing field for all the prospective candidates.

16. Negative criticism of the other candidates shall be restricted to their policies, programme, past record and work, only. No personal. defamatory attacks or character assassination will be allowed against any candidate.

17. Candidates can campaign outside Greater Mumbai City limits if they choose to do so but the expenses incurred will be within the permissible ceiling of Rs.3,00,000/=.

18. No moneys for any transportation (including hiring of buses) or food will be permitted or arranged directly or indirectly to be given to any voter be it from Mumbai or out of station who comes to participate in the voting.

19. None of the Fire Temples of the community or the Towers of Silence complex or any other place of worship shall be used as places for election propaganda, including speeches, posters, music etc.

20. Whilst candidates are permitted to undertake house-to-house campaigning the timings are left to the ‘good sense’ of each candidate. It will be the responsibility of each candidate to ensure that no nuisance is caused to residents by them or their representatives and supporters whilst house to house campaigning is under way.

21. All campaigning, including house-to-house shall end 48 hours before the scheduled day for holding of the election in the geographical area in which polling is to be done.

22. All activities which are corrupt practices or electoral offences such as bribery, undue influence, intimidation of voters, impersonation, are prohibited and shall be dealt with severely.

23. Any type of Demonstration, gherao or picketing before the homes or places of work of candidates by any one protesting against the candidates opinions or activities is barred and if resorted to shall be dealt strictly and appropriately by the EC.

24. All efforts should be made by the candidates and their supporters not to create disturbances of any kind, like hooting, booing, interrupting, sloganeering at public meetings and/or processions organized by rival contesting candidates.

25. Entry into the Polling Stations shall be restricted to EC Staff, those authorised by the EC, in writing which would includes paramedics, if any, and voters when they are operating an EVM to cast their vote.

26. The Polling Precinct shall be the general area outside the Polling Station and will vary from venue to venue. For each venue this area shall be suitably marked by the EC and promulgated to all concerned. Entry into the Polling Precinct is restricted to EC Staff, those by the EC for manning of Registration and Authentication (manned by candidates representatives) Desk, candidates with two of their authorised representatives and voters standing in a queue to cast their votes.

27. Posters, flags, symbols or any other propaganda material shall not be displayed in the place/s being used on the day/s of polling for any purpose by the candidate.

28. No candidate shall be permitted to provide transport to the voters. The EC shall organize a sufficient number of mini buses/vans that would ply on a pre-determined and publicized route with timings, for the voters. No remuneration of any kind shall be given to voters nor should any moneys be paid to the voters for transportation to the Polling Precinct and back.

29. Each voter shall bring his / her Voters ID Certificate at the time of voting, without which the voter will not be allowed to cast his / her vote under any circumstances.

30. On the day of polling, no Parsi who perceives himself to be under a security threat and has therefore employed security guards, armed or otherwise, shall enter the vicinity of a polling station precinct with security personnel only after obtaining permission in writing from the EC. If the Parsi who has employed security guards also happens to be a voter, then he or she shall strictly restrict movement of his/her security personnel in the election precincts. Such a voter, accompanied by security personnel shall be permitted to vote only after previous intimation to the EC in that behalf.

31. Candidates and their accredited representatives (not exceeding 2 for each candidate), shall be permitted to enter the Polling Precinct but not the Polling Station under any circumstances.

32. Only Parsis with a specific valid authority letter from the EC can enter the Polling Station. No exceptions will be made on this issue.

33. No sitting Trustee or any other Parsis shall enter the Polling Precincts except when coming to cast his/her vote. Admission to the Polling Station will be open only to members of the Election Commission and BPP administrative staff authorised in writing by the EC. if any, as provided in the Scheme.

34. The EC shall have the power to investigate the issue of a breach of the Code of Conduct or any irregularity/ illegality relating to the election process by a contesting candidate / his or her party workers, suomoto or on a complaint received by the EC, in writing. No Parsi shall be entitled to raise any objection to the election of any Parsi as Trustee unless the Parsi raising such objection shall have been entitled to vote at such election and no objection shall have any validity nor be entertained unless the grounds of such objection shall be stated in writing together with a statement of particulars on which such objection is based and such writing shall have been lodged at the office of the EC not later than 14 days on the date of which the result of such election is published by display upon the notice board. If the office of the EC is closed on the last day for lodging such writing it may be lodged on the first working day thereafter and amongst the particulars required to be stated may be such as (1) the name of the voter in personated (if it is alleged that someone else voted for him,) (2) the name of the voter prevented by force from voting (if it is alleged that there was such prevention and particulars as to how and when such force was used).

35. If any objection to an election of any Parsi to be Trustee shall be lodged at the office of the EC in accordance with the terms of the last preceding rule the EC shall have full power and authority to determine the same in such manner as they deem just and right after hearing the parties or their legal advisors, and their decision shall be final and binding on all Parsees concerned.

36. The EC shall be guided by the following among other principles in deciding such objections :-

a) If the election of a candidate whose election has been published is set aside, the candidate who has obtained the largest number of votes out of those who have not been elected and against whose election there is no valid objection shall be declared to be elected. If there are several such candidates who have obtained the same number of votes the question will be decided by drawing lots. The setting aside of the election of any candidate shall not affect the election of any other elected candidate.

b) No objection shall be entertained on the ground that a candidate who has not been elected was disqualified.

c) If any voter is proved to have been prevented from voting by force or owing to omission by mistake or otherwise of his name from a register or List of Voters or the error of an election officer and raises his/her objection within 48 hrs of the counting of votes, such voter may be given an opportunity of recording his/her vote or votes and the votes recounted thereafter and the result declared accordingly. Votes under this sub rule may be recorded in any manner the EC deems just and fit not necessarily in accordance with the foregoing rules.

d) No election shall be set aside for any irregularity in procedure unless the irregularity is proved to have materially affected the final result.

e) If the decision involves the setting aside of the election of any Parsi or the declaration of the election of any other, the result of such decision shall be published in the same way as the result of an election.

f) The fact that the election of a candidate is set aside shall not affect the validity of any act of the Trustees in which such Parsee may have taken part, if such act would have been valid without his taking part in it.

37. The Election Commission shall, within 15 days of the receipt of the complaint and hearing the complainant, within this period and considering oral or written evidence and / or submissions that may be made by either party either disqualify the candidate from contesting the election or if the election is complete, disqualify the said candidate from assuming the office of Trustee or should the candidate have assumed the office of Trustee to disqualify him / her from continuing as a Trustee.

38. In order to hold free and fair elections, the Election Commissioner will be entitled to adopt any other additional measures as he / she may deem fit.

It is now for the present Trustees of BPP to consider implementing the Revised Scheme into which the Code of Conduct has been incorporated and move the Hon. Bombay High Court for its sanction.

Jamsheed G. Kanga,

Minoo R. Shroff,

Dadi B. Engineer,

Burjor H. Antia,

Dinshaw K Tamboly

Maneck H. Engineer,

Noshir H. Dadrawala,

Homi R. S. Khushrokhan,

Farokh K. Kavarana,

Fali P. Sarkari,

Comm (Retd) Aspi Marker.

Former Trustees & other concerned Zoroastrians.