Dinshaw Tamboly writes in regarding the Code of Conduct for the Bombay Parsi Punchayet Elections.
Bombay Parsi Punchayet,
Ladies & Gentlemen,
Some of us (former trustees and other concerned individuals) addressed a letter dated 23rd January 2014 to your good selves, to consider introducing a Code of Conduct that would govern future elections to BPP Trusteeship.
This initiative was taken looking to the experiences of three earlier elections held after the introduction of universal adult franchise in 2008.
Our first meeting with the Trustees on this issue took place more than 14 months ago on 25th February 2014.
All of you ladies and gentlemen agreed there was a need for setting up a CoC for which we have had many meetings and for which several individuals have spent a great deal of time, energy and effort in drawing up the final draft of the document.
The final draft of the Voluntary Code of Conduct has been ready for some time now, seen and discussed by you Trustees and has been awaiting finalization by you all. Whilst all of you have accepted the necessity of having a CoC, and a majority of you have even indicated your willingness to sign and introduce the CoC, it is surprising that no action has been taken so far.
This being an election year, with three sets of elections, covering six seats, due in quick succession between mid-2015 to early-2016 it is imperative that the CoC should be finalized and announced before any further delay.
We realise it is now too late in the day for BPP to move the Hon’ble High Court to have the proposed CoC included in the Court approved Scheme for Election, and therefore our recent discussions have focussed on BPP introducing a ‘Voluntary Code of Conduct’ for the present elections, leaving it to future Trustees to move the court for incorporating the Code of Conduct into the BPP Scheme for Elections.
We were invited by a Trustee to attend the Board Meeting on 21st April to finalize the CoC, but thereafter were informed by another Trustee not to attend as you all first wished to discuss the issue amongst yourselves.
Whilst we did not attend the meeting on 21st April, we conveyed to yourselves the urgency and necessity to approve and launch the CoC. We were advised that we would be invited to the meeting scheduled to be held today (5th May 2015), but not having received any information we are by way of this communication informing your good-selves that we are now left with no choice but to bring into public domain the document, detailing the reason for the delay of introducing a voluntary CoC, the need for a CoC, and, the final draft of an evolving CoC.
The document that is being introduced into the public domain is attached.
Many other community members and the media themselves have also been clamouring for a CoC to be introduced. Even at this late hour, we would urge all the Trustees, or at least those Trustees who are committed to introducing the CoC to do the needful by taking the matter forward to its logical conclusion.
Dinshaw K. Tamboly
FOR THE INFORMATION OF THE COMMUNITY
Some of us former Trustees joined by prominent members of the community initiated a dialogue with the present Trustees of the BPP to introduce a Code of Conduct that would govern the Elections of Trustees.
Several meetings have been held over the last 18 months but the present Trustees have not come to any decision in the matter so far.
We were earlier informed verbally by some Trustees that a further meeting would be held with us on May 05, 2015 to discuss and finalize the code, but for reasons not known the same did not take place
Whilst all the Trustees have welcomed the initiative, a majority of the Trustees have also made it known that the Code as per final draft drawn up (reproduced below) was acceptable and they were willing to sign the same.
With 2015 being an election year, it is imperative that the code should have been in place by now. It is not understood why the Trustees, whilst acknowledging the necessity of having a Code of Conduct have not been proactive or considered this issue to be serious enough to merit their urgent consideration.
We have waited long enough, but looking to the low priority afforded to this vital issue, we are now left with no alternative but to place this matter in the public domain.
We hope that candidates aspiring to be elected Trustees will realize the necessity for a level playing field and shall abide by the voluntary Code of Conduct. It is expected that voters too shall consider voting for candidates who abide by the voluntary code of conduct and judge candidates on their merits.
Members of the community who believe that the need for a level playing field to conduct a fair election is essential, may consider taking up this issue directly with the Trustees or the media as they may wish.
This document has also been e-mailed to all the Trustees for their information. It is hoped that the Trustees who are willing to support the setting up of a voluntary code of conduct as per the final draft will append their names to the document drawn up that features the names of former Trustees and other concerned members of the community, and take the matter forward to its logical conclusion.
Dinshaw K. Tamboly & others.
THE NEED FOR A VOLUNTARY CODE OF CONDUCT
Since the advent of Universal Adult Franchise, as per the Scheme for Election of the BPP Trustees, sanctioned by the Hon’ble High Court in 2007, the BPP has had three election runs to date.
In each of the elections held in October 2008, April 2009 and July 2011 a number of pre-election irregularities were observed in terms of electioneering practices, in general. It is strongly felt that free and fair elections must have a “level playing field”. This unfortunately has not happened and it is time that this issue is redressed by way of introducing a “Code of Conduct” for candidates to follow for the forthcoming BPP elections this year. This “Code of Conduct” cannot presently be made a part of the existing Scheme for the election of Trustees, because any Court sanctioned amendment will take a long time to implement and inevitably delay the elections.
Therefore, it is felt that an evolving Voluntary Code of Conduct should be introduced, which it is hoped, will be signed by all the candidates concerned, who wish to uphold and abide by the recommendations made in this “Code of Conduct”. We believe that all the candidates concerned will agree to the fact, that this document is a step in the right direction in an attempt to streamline the election process. Therefore, it is expected that all the candidates concerned should support this move both in letter and in spirit, as being implemented in the greater interests of the community, as a whole.
If a candidate refuses to sign the recommended Voluntary Code of Conduct, it will imply that the candidate does not want a “level playing field” and that such a candidate wishes to continue with some of the earlier electoral malpractices. It shall then be left to the “good judgment” of the voters to reject or accept such a candidate.
The proposed Voluntary Code of Conduct is being publicized so that our community members can support what is being sought by way of improving the electioneering process in which large amounts of moneys have been spent in terms of free food, drinks, gifts, entertainment and transportation to influence the voters. It is hoped that those candidates, who seek not to abide by the Voluntary Code of Conduct will be given a fitting answer by the voters whose voices are important for democracy to prevail.
The proposed Voluntary “Code of Conduct” is being placed before the community as hereunder.
Proposed Voluntary Code of Conduct (CoC)
[Changes to be considered keeping in mind that the CoC will be introduced as a trial and voluntary measure without seeking sanction of the Court. When this CoC is incorporated as part of the Election Scheme and filed for approval by the court, the then Trustees will be requested to consider a detailed CoC as part of the Election Scheme].
1. BPP Trustees will appoint a President and two scrutineers as per the court sanctioned scheme to Conduct elections and oversee the Code of Conduct.
Since the elections are to be held simultaneously at multiple centres and completed in one day, with the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM), the BPP Trustees will also appoint individuals who will be responsible for the smooth running of the election process, at each centre allocated to them. (Designations to be formulated; can consider calling it ‘Election Management Team’).
The Election Management Team will function independently and without any intervention from the BPP Trustees or the Administration.
2. BPP Trustees will allow only those candidates to campaign in their Baugs & Colonies who accept without reservations, to abide and faithfully follow the procedure laid down under this Code of Conduct. Great emphasis is being placed upon the honesty and integrity of the candidates.
3. To ensure that a level playing field is maintained, candidates contesting the elections will not be allowed to provide any incentives or inducements of any kind (including food boxes, lunches/dinners, gifts etc) to the voters who attend such election meetings, at the venue or outside or sent to the residences / work places of the voters.
4. Each candidate will be permitted to spend no more than Rs,3,00,000/= (Rupees three lakhs) for their election campaign. Candidates if they so desire are free to campaign outside Greater Mumbai City limits. However the expenses incurred will form part of the overall budget of Rs.300,000/= (Rupees three lakhs).
Transportation (including hiring of buses) or food shall not be 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.
All the candidates will maintain an account of all the election expenses that they have personally incurred and will submit the same to the BPP Administration, 48 hours before the day of the Election, when all campaigning will stop. Full cooperation (see Note 10) from the Candidates is requested.
5. Whilst campaigning, criticism of the rival candidates shall be restricted to their policies, programme, past record and work, only.
6. Each voter shall bring his / her Voter’s ID Certificate at the time of voting, without which the voter will not be allowed to cast his / her vote under any circumstances.
The Voters’ Certificates of Registration will be vetted by the BPP staff to ensure that those who have passed away as on the effective date are struck off the voters’ lists by the BPP.
On providing proof of identity, BPP will make arrangements for taking a photograph of the voter whose certificate does not have a photograph affixed, and shall affix a scanned copy on the respective voting certificate.
7. The Candidate will hold meetings after seeking prior permission of the BPP trustees, in their Baugs / Colonies on a first come-first served basis as well as from the statutory authorities including the Police.
It is reiterated that candidates who do not agree to sign or to abide and faithfully follow the procedure laid down under this Code of Conduct will be refused permission to hold public meeting in any of the BPP Estates.
8. 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.
9. All Candidates are permitted to undertake house-to-house campaigning.
The timings for house-to-house campaigns 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.
Members of the Residents/Other Committees of the BPP Baugs / Colonies have been advised to intervene and disallow any candidates or his/her supporters who create a nuisance and cause inconvenience to any of the residents.
10. All campaigning, including house-to-house visits shall end 48 hours before the scheduled day for the holding of the election.
11. All activities which are corrupt practices or electoral offences such as bribery, undue influence, intimidation of voters, impersonation, are prohibited.
12. Any type of demonstrations, gheraos or picketing before the homes or places of work of the candidates by any one protesting against the candidates opinions or activities are barred and if resorted to, shall be dealt with strictly and appropriately, by the Election President.
13. 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.
14. The Polling Station is the room where the EVMs are placed on tables and voters can sit and operate these. There are to be two Polling booths, one for able voters and the other for those who are physically challenged. Entry into the Polling booths is strictly restricted to the BPP authorised staff, which includes paramedics, if any, and to the voters only when going in to operate an EVM.
The Polling Precinct is the general area outside the Polling booth and will vary from venue to venue. For each venue this area shall be suitably marked. Entry into the Polling Precinct is restricted to the authorized BPP staff, for manning the Registration and Authentication Desks, and the candidates with two of their authorised representatives as well as voters standing / sitting in a queue to cast their votes.
15. Posters, flags, symbols or any other propaganda material shall not be displayed in the Polling Precinct or Polling Station at any given venue.
16. 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.
17. Candidates and their accredited representatives shall be permitted to enter the Polling Precinct but not the Polling Station under any circumstances.
Other than a voter, only individuals with a specific valid authority letter from the President can enter the Polling Station. No exceptions will be made on this issue.
18. No sitting Trustee or anyone else shall enter the Polling Precinct except when coming to cast his/her vote. Admission to the Polling Station will be open only to the BPP administrative staff authorised as provided in the Scheme.
19. The President and the two scrutineers 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 or by his or her party workers suo moto or on a complaint received by the President, in writing.
Any breach noted at any polling centre on the day of voting where the President is not present will be reported in writing to the Election President by the member of the Election Management Team and dealt with appropriately by the Election President and the two scrutineers.
No voter shall be entitled to raise any objection to the election of any candidate as Trustee unless the person raising such objection shall have been entitled to vote at such an election and no objection shall have any validity nor be entertained unless the grounds for such an objection shall be stated in writing together with a statement of particulars on which such an objection is based and shall be lodged with the President whose decision shall be final.
20. This Code of Conduct will come into force on the day the elections are announced and shall continue till the election process is completed.
Dinshaw K. Tamboly
Minoo R. Shroff
Dadi B. Engineer
Burjor H. Antia
Jamsheed G. Kanga
Maneck H. Engineer
Noshir H. Dadrawalla
Homi P. Ranina
Other concerned community members
Cmde Medioma Bhada (Retd)
Darius P. Khambatta
Edul P. Bharucha
Dasturji Khurshed K. Dastoor
Farrokh K. Kavarana
Homi R. Khurokhan
Cmde Aspi Marker (Retd)
Fali P. Sarkari
Capt. Percy Master