Local Government – Panchayats

Q. Local Government – Panchayats

Panchayati Raj is an important feature of the Indian political system which ensures the direct participation of people at the grass roots level. After independence the framers of the Constitution decided to give them importance and under Article 40 of the Directive Principles directed the states to “organize village panchayats as units of self government”. A number of committees were appointed like the Balwant rai Mehta committee and Ashok Mehta committee to suggest measures for the improvement of the working of Panchayati Raj institutions. The Constitution passed the 73rd and 74th Amendment Acts, 1992 which was related to working of Panchayats and Municipalities.

The Constitution envisages a three-tier system of 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. Seats shall be reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and woman. A State may by law make provision for similar reservation of the offices of Chairpersons in the Panchayats at the village and other levels. The Chairperson is elected according to the law passed by the State.

Duration of a Panchayat:

Each 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.

Qualifications for membership: All persons who are qualified to be chosen to the State Legislature shall be qualified to be chosen as a member of Panchayat. The only difference is that a person who has attained the age of 21 years will be eligible to be a member of a Panchayat.

Powers and Functions of Panchayats

State Legislatures have the legislative power, to confer on the Panchayats such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self- government. They 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
(c) In regard to matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule. This Schedule contains 29 items e.g. land improvement, minor irrigation, animal husbandry, fisheries, education, woman and child development. A State may by law authorize a Panchayat to levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls etc.

A State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner is to be appointed by the Governor to conduct elections to the Panchayats. Any question with respect to elections shall be referred to such authority as the State Legislature may provide by law. Courts will have no jurisdiction in this matter.

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