73rd Amendment of the Constitution
“When the Panchayati Raj is established, public opinion will do what violence cannot do” – Mahatma Gandhi
Gram panchayat is a local governing body of a village that prepares plans for economic development and social justice for the people of the Panchayat. It is also an organization that executes the implementation of schemes of the government.
Article 40 of the constitution requires the state to organize village panchayats and grant them necessary powers and authority to enable them to function as units of self-government. This article is based on the Gandhian Principle of DPSP which recommended grass root level of politics i.e. people should decide matters on their own. Gandhiji advocated a third level of government that can understand the problems of the people of the village at the grassroot level.
These local governments were provided constitutional sanction through the 73rd Amendment Act of 1992 which was enforced on 24th April,1993. 11th schedule was added in the constitution through this amendment which contained 29 subject matters of the Panchayats. This act also added Part IX to the Constitution which contained provisions from Articles 243 to 243O. This amendment brought the state governments under constitutional obligation to adopt the new system of Panchayati Raj in accordance with the provisions of the act.
Salient features of the 73rd Amendment Act are :-
- Gram Sabha :- Gram Sabha were made the foundation of the Panchayati Raj System which consisted of the people registered in the electoral rolls of the village within the area of the Panchayat.
- Three tier system :- Three tier system of panchayat was provided in every state i.e. Panchayat at village, intermediate and district level which brought uniformity in the structure of Panchayati Raj institutions throughout country.
- Election of members and chairpersons :- The members of Panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels shall be elected directly by the people whereas the chairman of the Panchayat at the intermediate and district level shall be elected indirectly from amongst the elected members thereof.
- Reservation of seats :- Reservation of seats for SC and ST is provided in every panchayat in proportion of their population. Provision for reservation of 1/3rd of the total number of seats are also provided for women. The state legislature has been empowered to make any provision for reservation in Panchayat at any level in favour of backward class.
- Duration of Panchayat :- Panchayats have been provided for a five year term of office at every level. It can however be dissolved before the completion of its term. A panchayat if elected after the dissolution of the panchayat before shall continue for the remainder period for which the dissolved panchayat would have continued had it not been dissolved.
- State Election Commission :- State election commission has been constituted and has been endowed with various roles like superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls. The conduct of elections to the Panchayats shall also be handled by the state election commission.
- Finance commission :- Finance commission is constituted by the governor to review the financial position of the Panchayats. This commission recommends the governor to decide the principles that should govern the distribution of taxes between the state and the Panchayats. It also determines the taxes, duties, tolls and fees that may be assigned to Panchayats. The provisions with respect to the maintanence of accounts by the Panchayats and the auditing of such accounts are done according to the provisions decided by the state legislature.
- Exempted states and areas :- The provisions of the act are not applicable in Jammu & Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram. These provisions are also not applicable in the schedule and tribal areas, hilly areas of Manipur for which district council exist and Darjeeling, West Bengal. The Parliament can extend the provisions of this Part to the schedule and tribal areas subject to various exceptions and modifications.
Powers and Functions of Panchayats :- The powers and functions of the Panchayats are endowed by the state legislature. The Panchayats prepare plan for economic development and social justice of the people of the Panchayats. It implements the scheme of the Central and State government for the betterment of the people at the ground level. Panchayats have power to enhance employment facilities and undertake development activities in the area.
Compulsory and Voluntary provisions of the Act :- The 73rd Amendment Act has various compulsory and well as voluntary provisions.
- The compulsory provisions of the act are :-
- Organisation of Gram Sabha in villages
- Panchayat establishment at three levels, i.e. Village, Intermediate and District level.
- Direct election to all the seats of the Panchayats.
- Indirect election to the post of Chairman at the intermediate and district level.
- Minimum age to contest a Panchayat election is decided to be 21 years.
- Reservation of seats for SC-ST(according to population) and women(1/3rd)
- The tenure of the Panchayats have been fixed for five years.
- Establishment of State Finance Commission after every five years to review the financial position of Panchayats.
- The voluntary provisions of the act are :-
- Allocating representation to MPs and MLAs in Panchayats at different level within their constituency
- To provide reservation of seats for backward classes in Panchayats at all levels.
- To grant power and authority to Panchayats so that they can function as institution of self governance.
- Granting financial power to Panchayats and authorize them to lev, collect and appropriate taxes,duties etc.
After independence, various efforts were done by the central government to establish Panchayati Raj in true sense. But due to illiteracy among the people, lack of will power in the state government and shortage of funds, it was only after 45 years of independence that an amendment was made in the Constitution that provided constitutional sanction to Panchayats. Since then Pancahayats have played a big role in decentralizing power & working for the people at grassroot level.
Author: Yatharth Tripathi,
1st year, Faculty of Law, University of Delhi/ Student