Earlier there was no specific Article in the Constitution of India which defined the Panchayats, but later the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 came into force and it was added in part IX of the Constitution. A Panchayati Raj System has established whose main objective was rural development. Certain committees were appointed by the government to examine and study the implementation of the self-government at the rural level. Each committee gave certain recommendations to improve the conditions at the ground level which are usually ignored. The Act provides that there will be three levels that will be made (village, intermediate and district). There were certain areas where this system was not established so one another Act was passed known as the PESA Act. With the help of the proper functioning of the Panchayati Raj System, the rural areas have developed a lot.
The main objective of the Panchayati Raj System in Rural Development and it has been established in nearly all the States of India except Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Mizoram, in all Union Territories except Delhi. There are certainly other areas too, they consist of:
- The scheduled and tribal areas of State
- Hill areas of Manipur for which there is a district council
- Darjeeling district of West Bengal for which there is a council called Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council
The Government of India appointed certain committees to examine and study the implementation of the self-government at the rural level and the government also asked the committee to provide necessary steps to achieve the goal.
The committees appointed were:
Balwant Rai Mehta Committee
The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee was appointed in 1957. The motive behind appointing the committee was to examine and provide suggestions for the better working of the Community Development Programme and the National Extension Service. The committee suggested that there should be an establishment of a democratic decentralized local government which later was called the Panchayati Raj System.
The committee recommended the following:
- There should be a three-tier Panchayati Raj system consisting of the Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad.
- The representatives of Gram Panchayat were to be elected through direct elections whereas the representatives of the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad were to be elected through the indirect elections.
- The primary objective of the Panchayati Raj System was planning and development.
- The Zila Parishad’s chairman was the District Collector.
- They requested to provide the offered resources to help them discharge their duties and responsibilities.
Ashok Mehta Committee
The Ashok Mehta Committee was appointed in 1977. The motive behind appointing this committee was to revive and strengthen the declining Panchayati Raj System in India.
The committee recommended the following:
- The already existing three-tier system was to be replaced by a two-tier system which will now include the Zila Parishad at the district level and the Mandal Panchayat at the group of villages.
- After the State level, the first level of supervision will be the district level.
- The Zila Parishad was to be made as to the executive body which will be given the responsibility for planning at the district level.
- The two newly made systems (Zila Parishad and Panchayat Mandal) will have mandatory taxation powers to mobilize their financial resources.
G V K Rao Committee
The G V K Committee was appointed in 1985. This committee was appointed by the Planning Commission. This committee recognized that because of bureaucratization resulting in the Panchayati Raj Systems the development was not up to the mark at the ground levels. Therefore, they gave the following recommendations so that the problems can be resolved:
- They suggested to make Zila Parishad as the most important body in the scheme of democratic decentralization and also suggested to make it the principal body so that it can manage the developmental programs at the district level.
- The district and lower levels of the Panchayati Raj System were to be allotted with accurate planning, implementation, and monitoring of the rural development programs.
- A new post of the District Development Commissioner was to be created who will be made the Chief Executive Officer of the Zila Parishad.
- Regular elections to be held for the levels of the Panchayati Raj System.
L M Singhvi Committee
The L M Singhvi Committee was appointed by the Government of India in 1986. The main objective behind making this committee was to recommend measures to revitalize the already existing Panchayati Raj System for democracy and development. The committee gave the following recommendations:
- They suggested that the Panchayati Raj Systems should be recognized constitutionally and they also recommended that there should be constitutional provisions to recognize free and fair elections for the Panchayati Raj System.
- To make the Gram Panchayat more viable the committee suggested reorganizing the villages.
- For the activities that take place in the villages, the Panchayats should have more finances.
- Each state should have Judicial tribunals to look into the matters related to the elections of the Panchayati Raj System and other matters related to their proper functioning.
73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 was added to part IX of the Indian Constitution under the heading “The Panchayats” and it also added the Eleventh Schedule which includes 29 functional items of the Panchayats. Part IX of the Constitution contains Article 243 to Article 243 O.
The Amendment provides shape to Article 40 of the Constitution which directs the state to organize the Village Panchayats and it also gives them the power and authority to function as self-government. Through this Act, the Panchayati Raj System comes under the purview of a justiciable part of the Indian Constitution and it makes it mandatory for the system to adopt the system. Also, the elections held for the Panchayati Raj System will be independent of the will of the State Governments.
The act is divided into two parts. The first part is the compulsory part while the other one is the Voluntary part. The compulsory provisions include the creation of the new Panchayati Raj System whereas the voluntary provisions are the discretion of the State Government. This Act is a very significant step in the creation of a democratic institution at the ground level in our country, and it has also helped in transforming the representative democracy into participatory democracy.
Gram Sabha is the primary body of the Panchayati Raj System. It is a village assembly which includes of all the registered voters within the area coming under the particular Panchayat. It has the authority to exercise powers and perform the functions assigned to it by the State Legislature. There is also a website on which the candidates can look up to the functions of the Gram Panchayat and the kind of work done by it.
The Act provides to set up a three-tier Panchayati Raj System in the states and it will include the village, intermediate and district. The smaller States having a population of fewer than twenty lakhs are suggested to not constitute the intermediate level.
The members of the Panchayati Raj System are elected through the direct elections while the Chairperson to the intermediate and the district level is elected through the indirect elections from the elected members and at the village level, the Chairperson is elected as decided by the State Government. There is also a reservation of seats for the SC, ST, Women, and others which is discussed below:
- For the SC and ST, the reservation is given at all the three levels according to their population percentage.
- For the women, the reservation is not less than two-thirds of the total number of seats reserved for women and further not less than one-third of the total number of the offices for chairpersons at all levels of the Panchayat to be reserved for women.
- The State Legislature is also given the powers to decide the reservation of seats in any of the three levels (village, intermediate and district) of the Panchayat or the office of the Chairperson in favor of the backward classes.
The Act provides that at all the levels of the Panchayat there will be a five-year term of office and fresh elections will be held to constitute the new Panchayat of its five-year term and in case of the dissolution, before the expiry of a period of six months from the date of its dissolution. However, the Panchayat can be dissolved before the completion of the five-year term.
A person can be disqualified for being chosen as or for being a member of the Panchayat if he is disqualified according to the following:
- Under any law for the time being in force for elections to the legislature of the state concerned
- Under any law made by the State legislature. No person shall be disqualified because he is less than 25 years of age if the person is 21 years old.
- All the other questions related to the disqualification of a person shall be referred to as an authority decided by the State Legislatures.
There is also a State Election Commission which is responsible for the superintendence, direction, and control of the preparation of electoral rolls and for conducting the Panchayat elections. The State Legislature has the authority to make provisions concerning all the matters that are related to the Panchayats.
The State Legislature has the power to endow the Panchayats with the powers that they would need to function smoothly as the institution of self-government. Such schemes have certain provisions that are related to the Gram Panchayat concerning the planning of economic development and social justice and with the implementation of various schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them. The State Legislature has the authority to make provisions for proper maintenance and auditing of the accounts of the Panchayat.
Talking about the finances, the State Legislature can provide constitutional funds for crediting money of Panchayats and can authorize a Panchayat to collect appropriate taxes. There is a body known as the Finance Commission which reviews the final positions of the Panchayats and then gives recommendations for the necessary measures that should be taken to give the appropriate resources to the Panchayat.
PESA Act of 1996
The provisions of part IX of the Constitution of India do not apply to the areas coming under the Fifth Schedule. The Parliament has the authority to extend this part to such areas with medication and exceptions as it may specify. Under the provisions, the Parliament enacted an act called the Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act. This Act is popularly known as PESA act.
The objectives of the PESA Act are discussed below:
- Extending the provisions of part IX to the Scheduled areas.
- Provide self-rule for the population of tribal areas.
- To have village governance with participatory democracy.
- To prevent the Panchayats at a higher level from assuming powers and authority of Panchayats at a lower level.
- To empower Panchayats with the powers to conductive tribal requirements.
Most of the time the ground level problems are ignored or are treated with utmost negligence and that is why the rural areas of our country are in such a bad condition. With the introduction of the Panchayati Raj System after the 73rd Amendment Act of 1992 rural development has improved and is also in a better place now. There is still a lot to do as there are people who deteriorate the development because of their corrupt practices. With the major amendments being made now and then we can hope that there will be strict laws for the corrupt people so that our rural areas grow and are in no way less than any urban city.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
- Who is the father of the Panchayati Raj System?
- What is the importance of Panchayati Raj?
- Which State in India has no Panchayati Raj institution?
- What were the recommendations given by the Balwant Rai committee?
- Explain the reservation of seats in the elections for the Panchayats?
- Constitutional Law of India by Dr. J.N. Pandey
- Bare act of Constitutional Law of India
- Indian Constitutional Law by M P Jain