Panchayati Raj

Article 40: The state shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.

The Panchayati Raj is the Rural Local Self Government.

‘Local Government’ is mentioned in the State list of the 7th schedule of the Indian constitution.

The Panchayati Raj was not a part of the original Constitution. The Panchayati Raj was made a constitutional body through the 73rd Amendment Act of 1992.

BEFORE PANCHAYATI RAJ:

The government has launched the Community Development Programme (CDP) in the year 1952. The government has launched the National Extension Service (NES) in the year 1953.

BACKGROUND of Panchayat Raj

In the year 1957, the Government of India appointed the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee (B R Mehta Committee).

The B R Mehta Committee was appointed to look into the functioning of CDP and NES. The B R Mehta Committee submitted the report in November 1957.

The Committee recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘Democratic Decentralization” which is also known as Panchayati Raj.

The recommendations were accepted by the National Development Council in January 1958.

Rajasthan was the first state to establish the Panchayati Raj in India on October 2, 1959.

B R MEHTA COMMITTEE

B R Mehta Committee recommended for the establishment of a 3-tier structure Panchayati Raj system.

  • Gram (village) Panchayat – Village Level
  • Panchayati Samiti – Block Level
  • Zilla Parishad – District Level

The Village Panchayat should be constituted with directly elected representatives.

The Panchayat Samiti should be constituted with indirectly elected members.

The Zilla Parishad also to be constituted with indirectly elected members.

All the planning and development activities should be entrusted to the Panchayati raj bodies.

The Panchayati Samiti should be the executive body.

The Zilla Parishad should be the advisory, coordinating and supervisory body.

The District Collector should be the Chairman of the Zilla Parishad.

There should be a genuine transfer of powers and responsibility to these democratic bodies.

These bodies should be transferred with adequate resources.

A system should be evolved for the further devolution of authority in future.

The National Development Council (NDC) accepted the recommendations in January 1958.

The NDC said that the basic principles should be identical throughout the country.

WHICH IS THE FIRST STATE TO ESTABLISH PANCHAYATI RAJ?

The scheme of Panchayat Raj was first established in Rajasthan and inaugurated on October 2, 1959, by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Rajasthan was followed by Andhra Pradesh and other states.

There were many differences among the states in the structure and function of the Panchayati raj.

  • The states like Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh adopted 3-tier systems.
  • West Bengal adopted a 4-tier system.
  • Tamil Nadu adopted the 2-tier system.

ASHOK MEHTA COMMITTEE

In December 1977  (Janata Party Government) the Prime Minister Morarji Desai appointed a committee on Panchayati Raj institutions.

Ashok Mehta was the chairman of the committee.

The Ashok Mehta Committee submitted the report in August 1978.

To strengthen the Panchayati Raj system the Ashok Mehta Committee made 132 recommendations.

The Committee recommended for the adoption of 2 tier structure.

  • Zilla Parishad – District Level
  • Mandal Panchayat – Mandal Level

Mandal Panchayat is a group of villages with a population of 15,000 to 20,000.

The Zilla Parishad at the district level should be the executive body.

The Zilla Parishad must be made responsible for planning at the district level.

There should be official level participation of political parties at all levels of Panchayat elections.

The Panchayati Raj must have compulsory powers of taxation to mobilize their own financial resources.

There should be a regular social audit by a district level agency and by a committee of legislatures to check whether the funds allotted for the vulnerable social and economic groups are actually spent on them or not.

The State governments should not supersede the Panchayati Raj Institutions.

In the case of supersession, elections should be held within 6 months.

The Nyaya Panchayats should be presided over by a qualified judge.

The Nyaya Panchayat should be kept as a separate body.

The chief electoral officer in consultation with the chief election commissioner should conduct elections of the Panchayat Raj.

A Minister for panchayat Raj should be appointed.

Seats for Scheduled caste and scheduled tribes should be reserved on the basis of their population.

NOTE: No action was taken on the recommendations of the Ashok Mehta Committee report as the Janata Party government stepped down before the term due to political turmoil.

GVK RAO COMMITTEE:

In the year 1985, the Planning Commission appointed a committee on Administrative Arrangements for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation Programme.

According to the G V K Rao committee, the phenomenon of bureaucratization weakened the Panchayati Raj institutions.

The committee recommended for the revitalization of the entire Panchayati Raj system.

L M SINGHVI COMMITTEE:

In the year 1986 then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi appointed a committee on “Revitalization of Panchayati Raj Institutions for Democracy and Development”.

The L M Singhvi committee recommended that the Panchayati Raj institutions should be constitutionally recognized, protected and preserved.

The committee recommended that a new chapter should be added to the Constitution for the same purpose.

The L M Singhvi Committee also suggested the constitutional provisions to ensure regular, free and fair elections to the Panchayati Raj bodies.

— End of Committees —

After the recommendations of the above committees, then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made an attempt to provide the constitutional status to the PRIs (Panchayati Raj bodies).

In July 1989, the Rajiv Gandhi Government introduced the 64th Constitutional amendment bill.

The 64th amendment bill was introduced in the Lok sabha:

NOTE: A constitutional amendment bill can be introduced either in the Lok Sabha or in the Rajya Sabha.

This amendment is meant for providing the constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions.

The Lok Sabha passed the bill in August 1989.

NOTE: An amendment bill must be passed with the special majority.

The bill was opposed in the Rajya Sabha on the grounds that it sought to strengthen centralization in the federal system.

The bill was not passed in the Rajya Sabha.

The 64th amendment bill lapsed.

NOTE: A constitutional amendment bill must be passed in both the houses of the Parliament separately with a special majority.

ALSO NOTE: There is no provision of Joint sitting in case of disagreement on a Constitutional amendment bill.

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In the year 1989 National Front government was formed at the Central level.

V. P. Singh was appointed as the Prime Minister of India.

In the month of November 1989, the then Prime Minister V P Singh announced that the steps to strengthen the Panchayati Raj would be taken.

In September 1990 a constitutional amendment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha.

But the government collapsed and there was an inevitable midterm election for the Lok Sabha in the year 1991.

NOTE: If the Lok Sabha is dissolved all the bills that are pending in the Lok Sabha are lapsed. This led to the lapse of the bill.

*****

After the elections of 1991, P. V. Narasimha Rao became the Prime Minister of India.

NOTE: During the election campaign on May 21, 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.

The Congress government (P V Narasimha Rao) considered the matter of constitutionality for the Panchayati Raj institutions.

The controversial aspects were removed from the bill.

The bill was introduced in the form of the 73rd constitutional amendment bill.

The 73rd constitutional amendment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1991.

The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on December 22, 1992.

The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on December 23, 1992.

The bill was approved by the 17 state assemblies.

NOTE: A constitutional amendment bill related to the federal powers must get the consent of at least half the state with a simple majority.

The President gave his assent (President (Shankar Dayal Sharma) on April 20, 1993.

This became the 73rd Constitution Amendment Act, 1992.

SALIENT FEATURES OF THE 73RD AMENDMENT ACT 1992

  • This act added Part-IX to the Constitution.
  • This act also added a new article from 243A to 243O (English alphabet ‘O”). Note: This means 243A, 243B, 243C …243O.
  • The 73rd amendment act also added the 11th schedule to the Constitution of India.

NOTE: THE ORIGINAL CONSTITUTION CONTAINS ONLY 8 SCHEDULES.

The 9th schedule was added through the 1st amendment in the year 1951.

The 9th schedule is related to the land reforms.

The 10th schedule is added in the year 1985 through the 52nd amendment.

The 10th schedule is related to the Anti-Defection law.

The 11th schedule contains 29 subjects.

PLEASE REMEMBER: 7th schedule is different from the 11th schedule. The 7th schedule consists of 3 lists Union, State, and concurrent lists.

The state governments are under the constitutional obligation to adopt the new Panchayati Raj system.

The compulsory provisions of the act have to be included in the state laws creating the new Panchayati Raj system.

The voluntary provisions may be included at the discretion of the states.

GRAM SABHA:

All the adult members are in the village is the Gram Sabha.

This means that all the persons registered in the electoral rolls of a village is the Gram Sabha.

This is a village assembly consisting of all the registered voters in a Village Panchayat.

The Gram Sabha functions are determined by the state legislature.

ESTABLISHMENT OF 3-TIER STRUCTURE:

The act provides for the establishment of a 3-tier Panchayati Raj structure at the state level to bring the uniformity throughout the country.

  • Village Level – Village Panchayat
  • Mandal Level   (intermediate) – Mandal Panchayat
  • Zilla Parishad – District Level

But, a state with a population not exceeding 20 Lakh may not constitute Mandal Panchayat.

Note: It means the states with a population less than 20 lakh may constitute only Village Panchayat and Zill Parishad.

ELECTIONS:

All the members of the Panchayats at all levels

  • Village
  • Mandal
  • District

Shall be elected directly by the people.

The manner and procedure of election Chairperson at the village level (Sarpanch or President) is determined by the state legislature.

The chairpersons of Mandal Panchyat (Madal President) and Zill Parishad (Chairman) shall be elected indirectly from amongst the elected members.

A District (Zilla) is divided into a number of ZPTCs (Zilla Parishad Territorial Constituencies).

A ZPTC member is directly elected by the people.

The directly elected ZPTC members from amongst them elect the chairman of Zilla Parishad.

Similarly, each Mandal is divided into MPTCs (Mandal Parishad Territorial Constituencies).

An MPTC is elected directly by the people.

The President of Mandal is elected by the MPTCs from amongst themselves.

Hence, except the ZP chairman and the Mandal President, all the members in the Panchayats are elected directly.

RESERVATION OF SEATS:

Article 243 D provides the reservation of seats for SCs and STs.

The Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes are provided with the reservation of seats at all the three levels in proportion to their population.

The state legislature shall provide for the reservation of offices of the Chairpersons in the Village panchayat or any other level for SCs and STs.

The women are provided with the reservation at all three levels.

Not less than the 1/3rd of the total number of seats shall be reserved for women.

Note: 110th amendment bill that is meant for increasing the reservation for women from 1/3rd to ½ at all levels is still pending in the Parliament (As on January 15, 2014)

This includes seats reserved for women belonging to SCs and STs).

Not less than 1/3rd of the total number of offices of chairpersons in the panchayats at each level shall be reserved for women.

The state legislatures may make any provision for reservation of seats in any panchayat or offices of chairpersons in the Panchayat at any level in favor of backward classes.

TERM OF PANCHAYATS:

The term of office is 5 years.

The office can be dissolved earlier before the completion of the term in accordance with the procedure prescribed by state law.

In case of dissolution election should be conducted before the expiry of the 6 months from the date of dissolution.

A Panchayat that is reconstituted after premature dissolution shall continue only for the remainder of the period.

Fresh election to the panchayats can be conducted before the expiry of the term of 5 years.

QUALIFICATIONS:

Article 243 F provides that all persons who are qualified to be chosen to the state legislature shall be qualified to be chosen as a member of a panchayat.

A person who attained the age of 21 years is eligible to contest in the Panchayat elections.

NOTE: In the case of state assembly it is 25 years.

DISQUALIFICATIONS:

  • If a person is disqualified under any law for the time being in force for the purpose of elections to the legislature of the state concerned.
  • If a person is disqualified under any law made by the state legislature.
  • No person can be disqualified on the grounds that he is less than 25 years of age if he has attained the age of 21 years.
  • All questions of disqualifications shall be referred to such authority as the state legislature determines.

POWERS, AUTHORITY, AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF PANCHAYATS:

ARTiCLE 243G-243H: The State legislatures confer on the panchayats such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government.

The panchayats may be entrusted with the responsibilities of

  • Preparing plans for economic development and social justice
  • Implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice.

With regard to the subjects that are mentioned in the 11th schedule of the Indian Constitution. (29 items).

Thus the 11th schedule distributes powers between the state legislature and panchayats.

NOTE: the 7th schedule distributes the powers between the Union and the State legislatures.

POWERS OF PANCHAYATS TO IMPOSE TAXES AND FINANCIAL RESOURCES:

  • The State legislature may authorize the panchayats to levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls, etc.
  • The state legislature can also assign to a panchayat various taxes, duties, etc collected by the state government.
  • From the Consolidated Fund of the State Grants-in-aid may be given to the Panchayats.

STATE FINANCE COMMISSION:

NOTE: This is just like the Central Finance Commission.

The State Finance Commission is constituted by the Governor every 5 years.

The state finance commission recommends the division of net proceeds of taxes, duties, tolls, and fees leviable by the state may be divided between the state government and the Panchayats and how allocation would be made among various levels of Panchayats.

The State Finance Commission also recommends the grants-in-aid to be given to the panchayats.

The State finance Commission submits the report along with the memorandum of action taken on it to the Governor.

The report of the Finance Commission along with a memorandum of action taken on it is laid before the state legislature by the Governor.

AUDITING OF PANCHAYAT ACCOUNTS:

The provisions are made by the state legislature with respect to the maintenance of accounts by the panchayats and the auditing of such accounts.

STATE ELECTION COMMISSION:

Article 243K provides for the constitution of a state Election Commission.

The State Election Commissioner is appointed by the Governor.

The State Election Commission is vested with the responsibilities of

  • Superintendence
  • Direction
  • Control of elections to the panchayats
  • Preparation of electoral rolls

The State Election Commissioner can be removed in the same manner and on the same grounds as a judge of a High Court.

The State Legislature has the power to legislate on all matters relating to elections to panchayats.

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.

MISCELLANEOUS:

The President may direct the provisions of this act shall apply to any Union Territory subject to such exceptions and modifications as he specifies.

The 73rd amendment act is not applicable to the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland etc.

The act is also not applicable to Scheduled areas and tribal areas.

Note: Tribal areas are the autonomous districts.

SUBJECTS IN THE 11TH SCHEDULE OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION:

The 11th schedule contains 29 subjects.

  1. Agriculture, including agricultural extension.
  2. Land improvement, implementation of land reforms, land consolidation and soil conservation.
  3. Minor irrigation, water management, and watershed development.
  4. Animal husbandry, dairying, and poultry.
  5. Fisheries
  6. Social forestry and farm forestry
  7. Minor forest produce
  8. Small Scale industries, including food processing industries
  9. Khadi, village and cottage industries
  10. Rural housing
  11. Drinking water
  12. Fuel and fodder
  13. Roads, culverts, bridges, ferries, waterways, and other means of communication
  14. Rural electrification, including distribution of electricity
  15. Non-conventional energy sources
  16. Poverty alleviation programs
  17. Education, including primary and secondary schools
  18. Technical training and vocational education
  19. Adult and non-formal education
  20. Libraries
  21. Cultural activities
  22. Markets and fairs
  23. Health and sanitation including hospitals, primary health centers and dispensaries
  24. Family welfare
  25. Women and child development
  26. Social welfare, including the welfare of the handicapped and mentally retarded
  27. The welfare of the weaker sections and in particular of the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes
  28. Public distribution system
  29. Maintenance of community assets

It is expected that the subjects covered under the eleventh schedule of the Indian constitution are made to ensure the development of rural India.

Some Important Points:

Maharashtra is the 1st state in the country to provide 33 percent reservation to women in the local bodies in the early 1990’s – (during the Chief Ministership of Sharad Pawar ).

Bihar is the first state to provide 50 percent reservation for women in the local bodies.