Shatakshi Aggarawal, a 2nd-year, VIPS (Delhi) student has written this article on”Constitutional Provision Related to Panchayat”
The concept of Panchayati Raj is borrowed from Ancient Indian Tradition. The Panchayati system was vividly depicted in the Chola administration where we found a well-developed, self-autonomous village system but the modern local self-government in India was started by Lord Ripon in 1881.
The Panchayati Raj Institution is mentioned under Article 40 of Directive Principles of State which defines the organization of village Panchayat. Gandhi was a supporter of the Panchayati Raj.
On 2 October 1952, Community development programs were launched for the promotion of grass root level development. The rural areas were divided into community development.
Blocks are headed by Block development officers. (BDO).
The function of Community development programs is-
- Development of a network of roads in rural areas.
- Reformatory measures to enhance agricultural production.
- Setting up health programs.
- To make the farming community self-independent.
- The involvement of rural people participates in the development programs.
Moreover, in 1953, Jawahar Lal Nehru started National extension services with the aim to involve rural people in village development programs in assistance with BDO. The development blocks consist of 300 villages under this scheme.
Balwant Rai Mehta Commission
Balwant Rai Mehta Commission also known as “ the team for the study of community projects and National Extension Services” was appointed in 1957. In the same year, this commission submitted its report to the government and in 1958 its recommendations were approved by the government.
The recommendations of the commission were-
- The main recommendation of this commission is the Decentralization of democracy at the grass root level.
- The commission recommended a 3-tier village Panchayat institution i.e.-
- District level: Zila Parishad
- Block level: Panchayat Samiti
- Village level: Gram panchayat
- It recommended a genuine transfer of power from the State government to these
- All the development schemes at the village level should be channelized through
Panchayati Raj Institution.
On 2 October 1959, Nehru inaugurated the village Panchayat Institution in the Nagpur district of Rajasthan. In the same year, Andhra Pradesh also implemented Panchayati Raj Institution after the Rajasthan government.
Ashok Mehta Committee (Son of Balwant Rai Mehta) – December 1977
This committee was formed by the Janata Party government to suggest measures to strengthen Panchayati Raj Institution. This committee submitted its report in 1978.
The Ashok Mehta Committee made nearly 100 recommendations. Some of the main recommendations were-
- Formation of 2-tier systems i.e. Zila Parishad and Gram Panchayat.
- It recommended the abolition of Panchayat Samiti at the block level.
- Furthermore, it recommended that instead of Gram Panchayat, Mandal Panchayat should be constituted, which shall cover over 15000-20000 villages.
Other committees associated with rural development-G.V.K Rao Committee:
The committee was appointed by the planning commission in 1985. It was constituted to recommend the Administrative arrangement for rural development (CAARD) commission.
- C.H. Hanumanta Rao Committee:
It was formed for the work of District Planning.
- L.M. Singhvi Committee:
The committee was appointed by the Government of India in 1986. The main objective of this committee is to report on rural development.
73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992
In 1991, the Congress Ministry under Narsimha Rao moved the 73rd Amendment Act, 1992 which came into force on 24th April 1993. The bill of this amendment act was drafted under the chairmanship of Nathuram Mirdha, a congress leader. This amendment is related to the Village Panchayat Institution.
After the passage of this Amendment Act, the main provisions of Panchayati Raj which are added in the form of XI schedule are divided into two categories-
In Union of India v. Rakesh Kumar, it was held that Article 243 makes special provision for the representation of the SCs and STs in the village panchayats as well as in the offices of these panchayats in proportion to their population. This provision is different from the provision for reservation under Articles 15(4) and (5) and 16(4) and well justified in view of the condition of these classes and the need for their representation in elected bodies at the village level.
- Reservation of women in Panchayat up to 50% of the total seats. Bihar was the first state to provide 50% reservation.
- Reservation is to be done on a rotational basis. State Election Commission is to be appointed by the Governor of the State and the elections should be conducted every 5 years, creation of a State election commission for conducting village elections in case the village Panchayat is dissolved then within 6 months fresh elections to be conducted. (Article 243K)
- In order to make financial institutions more effective, the village panchayat should be provided with financial resources. Hence the State Finance Commission is to be appointed every 5th year. (Article 243-I)
- Giving voting rights to the members of the Union Parliament or State assembly in these bodies.Providing reservation to backward classes.Making village Panchayat institutions an autonomous body.Providing Panchayati Raj Institutions financial powers in relation to tax levy and other duties.
- Devolution of power to Panchayati Raj to perform some or all the functions mentioned in Schedule XI.
Functioning of Panchayats
The primary goal of the 73rd Amendment Act was the democratic decentralization of power and resources from the center to locally elected authorities. This act added a new Part-IX to the Indian Constitution, titled “The Panchayats” and it contains provisions from Articles 243 to 243 O.
The very basic unit of the Panchayati system is the Gram Sabha. It has been defined by Article 243(b) of the Constitution as the body of all the persons registered on the electoral rolls of a village. Gram Sabha exists at the village level and the executive committee of Gram Sabha is known as Gram Panchayat.
It is an executive committee of Gram Sabha and its tenure is 5 years. The members are elected by Gram Sabha by secret ballots and the age of contesting elections is 21 years. Gram Panchayat is presided over by Sarpanch and he is assisted by Upsarpanch.
- Construction of Public wells
- Providing potable water
- Street electrification
- Sanitation development
- Development of agricultural land and animal husbandry
- Promotion of the cottage industry
- Promotion of cooperative society
- Management and maintenance of Panchayat property and public markets
It is headed by Pradhan who is elected by the members of Gram Panchayat. In each block, there is one Panchayat Samiti. Pradhan and all elected members and ex-officio members shall have voting rights and BDO is the secretary and executive officer of Samiti.
Its tenure is 5 years and its functions are the same as those of Gram Panchayat.
It is the apex body of the Panchayati Raj Institution. All the members are elected by people directly. The tenure is 5 years. Zila pramukh or chairman is the presiding officer of Zila Parishad.
Zila Pramukh is elected by the elected members of Zila Parishad.
- Zila Pramukh conducts the meeting of the Parishad and supervises and inspects the working of Panchayat Samiti and Gram Panchayat.
- Zila Parishad examine and approve the Panchayat Samiti budget.
- Issue directives to Panchayat Samiti.
- Coordinate the development plans prepared by the Panchayat Samiti
- Advise the state government on all matters related to development activities in the district.
- Distribute funds allocated by the state to Panchayat Samiti.
- Advise the state government in the allocation of the funds to be given to the lower tier.
Moreover, in Village Panchayat, Calangute v. Director of Panchayat it was held that the Panchayats are body corporate and can sue and be sued in their own name. They can also file a petition in the High court of their state against an order or decision of a state authority that aggrieved them.
Disqualification of membership (Article 243-F)
A person can be disqualified from being chosen and for being a member of the Panchayat on the following grounds-
- If he is disqualified under any law for the time being in force for the purpose of elections to the legislature of the state concerned.
- If the legislature of the state disqualifies him under any law, he will be disqualified.
The questions regarding the disqualification of any member shall be referred for the decision of such authority and in such manner as the legislature of the state by law, provide.
Application to Union territories (Article 243- L)
The provisions of this Part shall apply to the Union territories and shall, have effect as if the references to the Governor of a State were references to the Administrator of the Union territory appointed under article 239 and references to the Legislature or the Legislative Assembly of a State were references, in relation to a Union territory having a Legislative Assembly, to that Legislative Assembly:
Provided that the President may, by public notification, direct that the provisions of this Part shall apply to any Union territory or part thereof subject to such exceptions and modifications as he may specify in the notification.
Part not to apply to certain areas (Article 243-M)
Nothing in this part shall apply to-
- The Scheduled Areas and tribal areas in the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and
- The states of Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram
- The hilly areas in the state of Manipur and the district of Darjeeling.
However, the Legislature can decide to extend Part IX to some of the above exceptions. The Constitution says that the Parliament may extend the provisions of Part IX to Scheduled Areas mentioned in (1) above. Also, the Legislatures of Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram may extend Part IX to their states (except the Scheduled and tribal areas).
In pursuance of this article, the Parliament has enacted the Panchayats ( extension to scheduled areas) Act,1996 which provides for the representation of SCs and STs in every panchayat in proportion to their population as well as reservation of at least 50 percent seats for the STs. In Union of India v. Rakesh Kumar, the observation was made that Scheduled Areas reservations can reach up to 80 percent for the SCs and backward classes:
“In the light of the preceding discussion, it is our considered view that total reservation exceeding 50 percent of the seats in panchayats located in Schedules Areas are permissible on account of the exceptional treatment mandated under Article 243-M(4)(b).”
Bar to interference by courts in electoral matters (Article 243-O)
Courts have no jurisdiction in electoral matters of a panchayat. This article bars the court to question the validity of any law relating to the delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats made.
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment inserted the foregoing provisions to ensure that the lowest levels of the state exercise powers and functions democratically with responsibility and accountability. Almost all states have constituted panchayats in pursuance of these provisions, and women, the Scheduled Caste, and Scheduled Tribes have been represented in large numbers as mentioned in the provisions, making them the most visible beneficiaries of this arrangement. Some states have provided 50 percent reservation for women in their laws. These democratic institutions at the grass-root level have made substantial progress in the devolution of powers, functions, and finances, although there is still much to be done to give full effect to these provisions..
 AIR 2010 SC 3244
 AIR 2012 SC 2697
 Indian Constitution
 AIR 2010 SC 3244
 Indian Constitution