Chapter 36: PANCHAYATI RAJ
THE village Panchayat was a unit of local administration since the early
British days, but they had to work under Government
When Indian leaders pressed for local
autonomy at the national level, the British Government sought to meet this
demand by offering concession at the lowest level, at the initial stage, by
giving powers of self-government to Panchayats in rural area and
municipalities in urban areas, under various local names under different
E.g. the Bengal Local Self-Government Act, 1885; the Bengal
Village Self-Government Act, 19l9; the Bengal Municipal Act, 1884.
In the Government of India Act, 1935, the power to enact legislation
was specifically given to the Provincial Legislature by Entry 12 in the
Provincial Legislative List.
By virtue of this power, new Acts were enacted
by many other States vesting powers of administration, including criminal
justice) in the hands of the Panchayats.
Notwithstanding such existing legislation, the makers of the
Constitution of Independent India were not much satisfied with the working
of these local bodies as institutions of popular government
Directive was included in the Constitution as follows:
"The state shall take steps to organise village panchayats and endow them with
such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units
But notwithstanding this Directive in Art. 40, not much attention was
given to hold elections In these local units as a unit of representative
democracy in the country as a whole.
During the time of Mr. Rajeev Gandhi
it was considered necessary to further the organisation of these local units by
inserting specific provisions in the Constitution itself on the basis of which
the Legislatures of the various States might enact detailed laws according to
the guidelines provided by the Constitutional provisions.
The ideas so evolved culminated in the passing of Constitution 73rd
and 74th Amendment Acts, 1992 which inserted Parts IX and IX-A in the Constitution.
While Part IX relates to the Panchayats, containing Arts. 243 to 243-0,
Part IXA relates to the Municipalities, containing
Arts. 243P to 243ZG.
The provisions In Parts IX and 1XA are more or less
parallel or analogous.
It may be pointed out that new system contains certain novel provisions, for example, direct
election by the people in the same manner as at the
Union and State levels; reservation of seats for women;
an Election Commission to conduct election, a Finance Commission to
ensure financial viability of these institutions.
Another striking feature is that the provisions inserted in the
Constitution by Arts. 243-243ZG are in the nature of basic provisions which
are to be supplemented by laws made by the respective State Legislatures.
Which will define the details as to the powers and functions of the various
organs, just mentioned.
It is to be recalled that 'local Government' including self-Government
institutions in both urban and rural areas is an exclusive State subject under
Entry 5 of the 7th Sch., so that the Union cannot enact any law to
create rights and liabilities relating to these subjects.
What the Union has,
therefore, done is to outline the scheme which would be Implemented by
the several States by making laws, or amending their own existing laws to
bring them in conformity with the provisions of the 73rd and 74th
Constitution Amendment Acts.
After Implementing legislation was enacted by the States, elections
have taken place In most of the States and the Panchayats and Municipalities
have started functioning under the new law.
These amendments do not
apply to Jammu & Kashmir, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and National
Capital Territory of Delhi.
PART IX of the Constitution envisages a three-tier system of
3-tier system. Panchayats,' namely,
(a) The village level;
District Panchayat at the district level;
Intermediate Panchayat which stands between the village and district
Panchayats in the States where the population is above 20 lakhs.
All the seats in a Panchayat shall be filled by persons chosen by direct
election from territorial constituencies in the Panchayat area.
The electorate has been named 'Gram
Sabha' consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls relating to a
village comprised within the area of a Panchayat.
In this way representative
democracy will be introduced at the grass roots.
The Chairperson of each Panchayat shall be elected according to the
law passed by a State and such State Law shall also provide for the
representation of Chairpersons of Village and Intermediate Panchayats in
the District Panchayat, as well as members of the Union and State
Legislature in the Panchayats above the village level.
Article 243D provides that seats are to be reserved for (a) Scheduled
Reservation of Castes, and (b) Scheduled Tribes.
The reservation for Scheduled shall be in proportion to their population.
Out of the seats so reserved not less than 1/3 of the seats shall be
reserved for women belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,
of A State may by law make provisIon for similar
of reservation of the offices of Chairpersons in the
Panchayats at the village and other levels.
These reservations favouring the Scheduled Castes and Tribes shall
cease to be operative when the period specified in Art. 334
A State may by law also reserve seats or offices of Chairpersons in the
Panchayat at any level in favour of backward classes of citizens.
Every Panchayat shall continue for five years from the date of its first
meeting. But It can be dissolved earlier in accordance with the procedure prescribed by State law.
must take place before the expiry of the above
period. In case it is dissolved earlier, then the elections must take place
within six months of its dissolution.
A Panchayat reconstituted after
premature dissolution (ie. before the expiry of the full period of five years)
shall continue only for the remainder of the period.
But if the remainder of
the period is less than six months it shall not be necessary to hold elections.
Article 243F provides that all persons who are qualified to be chosen to for the State Legislature shall be qualified to be chosen as
a member of a Panchayat, The only difference is that
a person who has attained the age of 21 years will be
eligible to be a member
If a question arises as to whether a member has become
subject to any disqualification, the question shall be referred to such
authority as the State Legislature may provide by Law.
State Legislatures have the legislative power, to confer on the panchayats powers necessary to enable them to function as institutions of
They may be such powers and authority as may be
entrusted with the responsibility of (a) preparing plans
for economic development and social Justice, (b) implementation of schemes
for economic development and social Justice, and (c) in regard to matters
listed in the Eleventh Schedule (Inserted by the 73rd Amendment).
contains 29 items, e.g.. land improvement, minor irrigation, animal
husbandry, fisheries, education, women and child development etc.
11th Sch. thus distributes powers between the State Legislature and the
Panchayats as the 7th Sch. distributes powers between the Union and the
A State may by law authorise a Panchayat to levy, collect and
appropriate taxes, duties, tolls etc.
The law may lay
Power to impose down the procedure to be followed as well as the
taxes and judicial limits of these exactions.
It can also assign to a
Panchayat various taxes, duties etc. collected by the
Grants-in-aid may be given to the Panchayats from the
Consolidated Fund of the State.
Within one year from 25th April 1993, i.e. the date on which the
Constitution 73rd Amendment came into force and
afterwards every five years the State Government shall
appoint a finance commission to review
and to make recommendations as to-
(a.) the distribution between the State and the Panchayats of the net
proceeds of taxes, duties, tolls and fees leviable by the State which may be
divided between them and how allocation would be made among various
levels of Paochayats;
(b) what taxes, duties, tolls and fees may be assigned to the Panchayats;
(c) grant-in-aid to the Panchayats,
The report of the Commisston, together with a memorandum of action
taken on it, shall be laid before the State Legislature.
These provisions are
modelled on Art. 280 which contains provisions regarding appointment of a
Finance Commission for dlstribution of finances between the Union and the
Article 243K is designed to ensure free and fair
elections to the Panchayats.
Article 243K provides for the Constitution of a State Election Commi-
ssion consisting of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the
Powers of superintendence, direction and control of elections to
the Panchayats, including preparation of electoral rolls
shall vest in the
State Election Commission.
To ensure the independence of the Commission
it is laid down that State Election Commissioner can be removed only in the
same manner and on the same grounds as a Judge of a High Court
State Legislatures have the power to legislate on all matters relating to
elections to Panchayats.
As under Art, 329, courts shall have no jurisdiction to examine the
validity of a law, relating to delimitation of constituencies
An election to a Panchayat can be called in question
only by an election petition which should be
presented to such authority and in such manner as may be prescribed by or
under any law made by the State Legislature.
Balwantrai Mehta committee
recommended democratic decentralisation in 1957. Ashok
Mehta committee 1977 to
sought to revive this system. GVK Rao committee 1985 was
appointed by the
planning commission to strengthen and revitalise the
panchayati raj system.
Finally the constitution amendment passed
in 1992 [73 rd amendment] by Narasimhan Rao government
added eleventh schedule to the constitution. 29 items
have been placed in domain of panchayats.
Features of this amendment:
Sabha [village assembly]: Comprises all registered
voters in the area of the
panchayat. It can have powers and duties as the state
tier system: At village-intermediate-district level in
all districts of the
country. However for states having population less
than 20 lakh may not have
All members’ at all three tiers shall be directly
elected by the people. Chairpersons
at top two tiers shall be indirectly elected by elected
members at those tiers.
State legislatures can make provision for election of
chairperson at village
of seats: at all levels reservation for seats shall be
made for SC, ST, and
Women. Also seat of chairperson too shall be reserved
for them at all levels.
All three tiers panchayats shall have 5 year term. But
it can be dissolved
earlier too. elections must be held within 6 months of
dissolution but new panchayats
shall be in power only for remainder of term of original
panchayats had it not
been dissolved. Also re-elections not needed if the
period of power is less
than 6 months.
Candidate should be above 21 yrs. he / she shouldn’t be
disqualified from participating in
elections by any law of centre or state.
election commission shall be created with an election
commissioner appointed by
the governor. However he can be removed by following
procedure for removal of
state high court judge. SEC shall handle preparation
of electoral rolls and
conduction of elections.
legislature can endow the panchayati system with powers
and duties as may be
necessary to enable them to function as institutions of
finance commission shall be appointed by the governor
every 5 years to decide
for distribution of net proceeds of taxes between state
in aid to panchayats from state consolidated fund
of taxes that can be assigned to panchayats
needed to improve their financial position
other matter referred by governor in matter of sound
finance of panchayats
legislature decides composition, qualification and
method of selection of
personnel. Governor places the report and action taken
report to the house.
and accounting principles shall be laid by the state
may direct application of this amendment to UT’s with
doesn’t apply to Meghalaya, Nagaland, Mizoram, J&K,
hill areas of Manipur
and Darjeeling; scheduled areas and tribal areas of
state [for this parliament
has enacted panchayats extension to scheduled areas act
[PESA act, 1996].
are barred from interference in electoral matters.
Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act,
legislation on panchayats shall be in consonance to
their laws and practices
for managing community resources.
Sabha shall have power to safeguard and preserve
traditional practices, rights,
customs and dispute resolution mechanism. It shall
approve plans, projects, and
schemes at village level before they are implemented.
for poverty removal programs; certify utilisation of
funds; acquisition of
lands for developmental projects; resettlement and
rehabilitation of affected
people; recommend granting of mining leases for minor
of seats shall be in proportion to their population; not
less than 50% for ST;
chairperson at all levels to be ST;
legislations shall ensure higher level panchayats don’t
usurp authority of
lower level panchayats
and managing minor water bodies the responsibility of
panchayats at suitable
Miscellaneous Facts - Maharashtra
- Sarpanch is the head of the gram Panchayat
- 7 to 17 panchas are present .
- Gram sevak or gram vikar adhikari is the secretary of the panchayat and calls the meetings of the Gram sabha. He is also the link between the government and the gram sabha.
- Minimum 2 meetings have to be held in a year - 14 April, 30 Oct.
- Panchayat Samiti is at the block level and headed by Chairman and deputy. The block development officer is the head of the Panchayat samiti.
- The zilla Parishad is at the district level and is headed by a President. He has term of 2.5 years. CEO of the Zilla parishad is the District collector but the Secretary of administration is the Deputy District collector.
Q. Local self-government can be best explained as an exercise in (UPSC CSAT 2017)
Ans . B
Decentralization of powers to local levels is the cause.
Q.Consider the following statements:
1. The minimum age prescribed for any person to be a member of Panchayat is 25 years.
2. A Panchayat reconstituted after premature dissolution continues only for the remainder period.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (UPSC CSAT 2016)
Both 1 and 2
Neither 1 nor 2
Ans . B
Minimum age is 21 years, to contest election in Panchayat.
Q.Consider the following statements :
1. The Chief Secretary in a State is appointed by the Governor of that State.
2. The Chief Secretary in a State has a fixed tenure.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (UPSC CSAT 2016)
Both 1 and 2
Neither 1 nor 2
Ans . A
Chief secretary is ‘chosen’ by CM. But he is ‘appointed’ by Governor. Because all the executive actions of the state are taken ‘by and in the name of the Governor
Q.With reference to the ‘Gram Nyayalaya Act’, which of the following statements is/are correct?
1. As per the Act, Gram Nyayalayas can hear only civil cases and not criminal cases.
2. The Act allows local social activists as mediators/reconciliators.
Select the correct answer using the code given below. (UPSC CSAT 2016)
Both 1 and 2
Neither 1 nor 2
Ans . B
Panchayat Courts also function in some states under various names like Nyaya Panchayat, Panchayat Adalat, Gram Kachehri ,etc.,to decide civil and criminal disputes of petty and local nature.
District court with consultation of DM, prepares panel of social workers to act as councilors.
Q.The fundamental object of Panchayati Raj system is to ensure which among the following?
1. People’s participation in development
2. Political accountability
3. Democratic decentralization
4. Financial mobilization
Select the correct answer using the code given below (UPSC CSAT 2015)
1, 2 and 3 only
2 and 4 only
1 and 3 only
1, 2, 3 and 4
Ans . C
Financial mobilization was never the basis for the establishment of panchayati raj. Local financial mobilization (by way of octroi taxes etc. ) is the outcome of the establishment of the PRIs, not its objective.
Political accountability can be ensured in any system which is democratic/rule-based, it need not necessarily be via a local body.
Q.‘Rashtriya Garima Abhiyaan’ is a national campaign to (UPSC CSAT 2016)
rehabilitate the homeless and destitute persons and provide them with suitable sources of livelihood
release the sex workers from their practice and provide them with alternative sources of livelihood
eradicate the practice of manual scavenging and rehabilitate the manual scavengers
release the bonded labourers from their bondage and rehabilitate them
Ans . C
Rashtriya Garima Abhiyaan is an NGO-led movement for manual scavenger
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