• THE village Panchayat was a unit of local administration since the early British days, but they had to work under Government control.

  • 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 enactments

  • 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

  • Therefore, a 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 of self-government"

  • 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;

  • (b) The District Panchayat at the district level;

  • (c) The 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, respectively.

  • 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.

  • Elections 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 self-government

  • 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).

  • The list contains 29 items, e.g.. land improvement, minor irrigation, animal husbandry, fisheries, education, women and child development etc.

  • The 11th Sch. thus distributes powers between the State Legislature and the Panchayats as the 7th Sch. distributes powers between the Union and the State Legislature.

  • 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 State Government

  • 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 States.

  • 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 Governor.

  • 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

  • The 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:

A.    Gram Sabha [village assembly]: Comprises all registered voters in the area of the panchayat. It can have powers and duties as the state legislature determines.

B.     Three 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 intermediate level.

C.     Elections: 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 level.

D.    Reservation 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.

E.     Duration: 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.

F.      Qualifications: Candidate should be above 21 yrs. he / she shouldn’t be disqualified from participating in elections by any law of centre or state.

G.    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.

H.    State legislature can endow the panchayati system with powers and duties as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self government.

I.       State finance commission shall be appointed by the governor every 5 years to decide

a.       Principle for distribution of net proceeds of taxes between state and panchayats.

b.      grants in aid to panchayats from state consolidated fund

c.       determination of taxes that can be assigned to panchayats

d.      measures needed to improve their financial position

e.       any other matter referred by governor in matter of sound finance of panchayats

State legislature decides composition, qualification and method of selection of personnel. Governor places the report and action taken report to the house.

J.       Audits and accounting principles shall be laid by the state legislatures.

K.    President may direct application of this amendment to UT’s with modification or exceptions.

L.     Act 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].

M.   Courts are barred from interference in electoral matters.


Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas Act, 1996:

1.   State legislation on panchayats shall be in consonance to their laws and practices for managing community resources.

2.  Gram 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. identify beneficiaries 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 minerals;

3.      Reservation of seats shall be in proportion to their population; not less than 50% for ST; chairperson at all levels to be ST;

4.      State legislations shall ensure higher level panchayats don’t usurp authority of lower level panchayats

5.      Planning and managing minor water bodies the responsibility of panchayats at suitable levels.

Miscellaneous Facts - Maharashtra

  1. Sarpanch is the head of the gram Panchayat
  2. 7 to 17 panchas are present .
  3. 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.
  4. Minimum 2 meetings have to be held in a year - 14 April, 30 Oct.
  5. Panchayat Samiti is at the block level and headed by Chairman and deputy. The block development officer is the head of the Panchayat samiti.
  6. 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)

  1. Federalism

  2. Democratic decentralization

  3. Administrative delegation

  4. Direct democracy

Ans . B

  1. 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)

  1. 1 only

  2. 2 only

  3. Both 1 and 2

  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Ans . B

  1. 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)

  1. 1 only

  2. 2 only

  3. Both 1 and 2

  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Ans . A

  1. 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)

  1. 1 only

  2. 2 only

  3. Both 1 and 2

  4. Neither 1 nor 2

Ans . B

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  1. 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.

  2. 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)

  1. rehabilitate the homeless and destitute persons and provide them with suitable sources of livelihood

  2. release the sex workers from their practice and provide them with alternative sources of livelihood

  3. eradicate the practice of manual scavenging and rehabilitate the manual scavengers

  4. release the bonded labourers from their bondage and rehabilitate them

Ans . C

  1. Rashtriya Garima Abhiyaan is an NGO-led movement for manual scavenger


Score more than 80% marks and move ahead else stay back and read again!