This article is written by Shreya Pandey, pursuing LLM from RamSwaroop University, Lucknow. The article deals with the changes brought by the 73rd Amendment Act and analyses the three-tier structure.

This article has been published by Shoronya Banerjee.

Introduction  

The 73rd Amendment Act was passed in 1992 and came into effect on 24th April 1993 which inserted Part IX consisting of Article 243 to 243-O, and the Eleventh Schedule enumerating 29 functional items. The Act gave certain powers to the state government to constitute gram panchayats at a local level and provide them with all the necessary assistance to operate as a unit of self-governance. The panchayat system was prevalent in India before the Amendment Act was enforced. The problem with that system was that it was not well organised, had inadequate financial resources, irregular elections, no proper representation of weaker sections, i.e., SCs and STs, and the government was not giving any support to the local authorities. So to address these issues and strengthen the local self-government bodies, this amendment was introduced by the central government to provide the local panchayats with legal support. 

The provisions under Part IX can be divided into 2 groups: compulsory group and voluntary group. 

Evolution of the Panchayati Raj System

Article 40 of the Indian Constitution obligated the state governments to constitute panchayats and provide them such powers and functions so that they can work as a unit of self-government. Executing its obligations certain committees were constituted by the government of India to give recommendations upon the implementation of self-governance on the rural level.

Following are the committees that were constituted:

  1. Balwant Rai Mehta Committee, 1957: This committee was appointed to monitor the functioning of the Community Development Program, 1952, and National Extension service, 1953 and to recommend ideas to improve their efficiency. The committee suggested democratic decentralisation that came to be known as the “Panchayati Raj System.” The committee also suggested the three-tier system at the village, block, and district levels.
  2. Sadiq Ali Committee, 1964: This Committee was constituted to report on the working of gram sabha in Rajasthan. The Committee reported the following weaknesses: 
    1. The main problem was the illiteracy of villagers, 
    2. Poor representation of women, 
    3. Avoidance of meetings by the Sarpanch to escape questions, 
    4. Meetings not being properly publicised, 
    5. The villagers used to be unaware and didn’t attend the meetings.  
  3. G.L. Vyas Committee, 1973: This Committee stated in order to rectify the dysfunction in the system recommended compulsory attendance of Sarpanch in every meeting, statutory recognition of gram sabha, meetings should be in May-June and January-December, compulsory attendance of patwari.
  4. Ashok Mehta Committee, 1977: The Committee recommended a two-tier system in panchayats, regular social audit, regular elections, reservation of SCs and STs.
  5. G.V.K. Rao Committee, 1985: This Committee was the first committee to recommend providing constitutional status to Panchayati Raj Institutions.
  6. L. M. Singhvi Committee, 1986: This Committee recommended the establishment of Nyaya panchayats, enhancing the financial resources of panchayats. The Committee also recommended the establishment of a separate judicial tribunal to deal with the cases regarding elections or any other matters of panchayats.

In September 1991, 73rd Constitutional Amendment Bill was introduced by the Lok Sabha and was passed by the same on 22nd December 1992. Rajya Sabha passed the Bill on 23rd December 1992 and it received the President’s assent on 20th April 1993 and came into force on 24th April 1993.   

Constitutional provisions of the Amendment

  1. Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) were made constitutional bodies.
  2. Every state had an obligation to establish panchayats in their territories. (Article 243-B)
  3. The State has the responsibility to develop powers, responsibilities, and authorities to the panchayats. (Article 243-G)
  4. The panchayats are elected for a tenure of 5 years.
  5. The amendment provides for a mechanism for the state election commission to conduct independent elections for the village panchayats.
  6. The amendment provides for an adequate representation of women, SCs, and STs in the village Panchayati Raj Institutions.
  7. It is the duty of the State Finance Commission to evaluate the financial position of the village panchayats.

Objectives of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992

  1. The main objective of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 was to provide constitutional status to the panchayats.
  2. It aimed at democratic decentralisation of power and resources among the central government and local bodies such as PRIs. This will create more engagement of the public in governance.
  3. Article 40 of the Indian Constitution states that it is the duty of the government to establish village panchayats and give them adequate power and authority so that they can function as a unit of self-government. The government came up with this amendment to provide an implementation of this Article.
  4. The Amendment was based upon the Gandhian principle that advocates for 3-tier governance where the third level of government can directly deal with the public and solve their issues and problems at the grass-root level.

Essential features of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992

1. Gram Sabha

Gram Sabha is defined under Article 243(b) which states that a gram sabha is a body that consists of persons registered on the electoral rolls relating to the village that falls under the area of Panchayat at a village level. It is the foundation of the Panchayati Raj Institution. Article 243A of the Indian Constitution empowers the Gram Sabha to perform the functions at its village level as is provided by the law or State Legislature.

2. State Election Commission 

State Election Commission is constituted in every state for the superintendence, maintenance, control, and preparation of electoral rolls. The Commission also handles the elections of panchayats.

3. Three-tier system

Article 243B of the Indian Constitution provides for a three-tier system in the Panchayati Raj Institution where panchayats shall be constituted at the village, intermediate, and district levels in every state. 

4. Composition of the panchayats 

According to Article 243C, the composition of the panchayats shall be as decided by the State legislature. The number of seats at any level of a panchayat shall be according to the population of that territory. 

5. Manner of election 

The election of members of panchayats of village, intermediate, and district levels shall be done through direct election by the people. The elections of chairman of the intermediate and district level panchayat will be elected indirectly by the elected members of the panchayats.

6. Reservation of seats 

Article 243D provides for the provision of reservation of seats which specifies the reservation of seats for SCs and STs according to the proportion of their population. The Article also provides for one-third of the total seats to be reserved for women that belong to the SCs or STs. This Article empowers the State Legislature to make any provision relating to the reservation of backward class.

7. Duration of Panchayats 

Article 243E specifies the duration of panchayats to be for a term of 5 years if it does not get dissolved before the completion of its tenure. If the panchayat gets dissolved then the other panchayat which was constituted would function till the remaining period of the dissolved panchayat.

8. Duties and power of the panchayats 

Article 243G puts State Legislature under an obligation to make laws so as to provide such power and authorities to the panchayats so that they can function as a unit of self-government. It is the duty of the panchayats to prepare a plan for economic development and social justice for the people. The Article provides authority to the state government to give power and authority to the panchayats on all the 29 subjects prescribed under the Eleventh schedule for local planning and implementing schemes, i.e., implementing Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee, 2006, MGNREGA, which is one of the largest employment generating schemes. Panchayats implement the schemes made by the central and state governments for the betterment of people at the ground level. Panchayats have the authority to increase employment facilities and work upon the development of the area.  

9. Finance Commission 

Under Article 243I, the Finance Commission is constituted by the Governor of the State to review the financial position of the Panchayats, to recommend the principles for the distribution of taxes between the state and panchayats. The finance commission also determines the taxes, duties, tolls, and fees that will be assigned or appropriated to the panchayats.  

10. Audit of accounts 

Under Article 243J, the State Legislature is empowered to make provisions for the panchayats to maintain and audit the accounts of panchayats.

11. Finance 

The State Legislature by law may authorise the panchayats to levy and collect tax, duties, tolls, or fees. The panchayats may be assigned with the tax, duties, fees, or tolls that are collected by the state government to carry out specific work. The panchayats are provided with a grant-in-aid from the Consolidated Fund of the State. The state legislature may also constitute a fund for crediting and withdrawal purposes by or for the panchayats. 

Compulsory and voluntary provisions

Compulsory provisions of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act,1992

  1. Establishing the State Elections Commission for 5 years to conduct elections of PRIs.
  2. Constituting Gram Sabha in villages.
  3. Establishing panchayats at three levels: village, intermediate, and district level.
  4. To conduct a direct election for all members of panchayats and an indirect election for the chairman at the intermediate and district level. 
  5. The minimum age to contest elections of panchayats is decided to be at 21 years of age and the reservation of seats for SCs and STs will depend upon the population and the reservation of seats for women is one-third of the total seats.
  6. State Finance Commission is to be established after every five years for reviewing the financial position of panchayats.
  7. The tenure of panchayats is for five years and a fresh direct election is to be arranged within six months of the suspension of the panchayat.

Voluntary provisions of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992

  1. Providing representation to the MPs and MLAs in the Panchayats at different levels.
  2. Reservation for backward classes.
  3. Granting financial powers to the panchayats.
  4. Providing autonomy to the panchayats to function as a unit of self-government.
  5. Giving power and responsibility to panchayats to prepare plans regarding economic development and social justice and to perform all the functions specified in 29 subjects of the Eleventh Schedule.

The subjects are specified in the Eleventh Schedule and not in the Seventh Schedule for the reason that the states are free to determine the activities of PRIs.

The three-tier structure

The Union Government established a three-tier structure for the Panchayati system for a period of five years through direct election. The three tiers are Gram Panchayat, Panchayat Samiti, and Zila Parishad.     

1. Gram Panchayat 

The main functions of gram panchayats are sanitation, cleaning public roads, public toilets, supplying clean drinking water, primary healthcare, and education. Eg: Implementing programs like Jal Jeevan Mission, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna, etc for the betterment of the villagers. Jal Jeevan Mission is a program that aimed to provide functional water taps in all households. Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna is a program that aims to provide shelter to all Below Poverty Line (BPL) families.

2. Panchayat Samiti 

Panchayat Samiti is the second tier of the Panchayati system that links the gram panchayat with the Zila Parishad. The members of Panchayat Samiti are elected directly. Sarpanch of Gram Panchayats are ex-officio members of Panchayat Samiti.

3. Zila Parishad 

It is the highest tier of the system where the members are elected directly by the people. Chairperson of Panchayat Samiti are elected ex-officio members of Zila Parishad and Members of Parliaments, Legislative Assemblies, and Councils of the districts are nominated members of Zila Parishad. 

Flaws in the Amendment

  1. The biggest flaw in the Amendment was the absence of funds for PRIs so the local government has to rely upon the local taxes or intergovernmental transfers to fund their activities.
  2. The intervention of MPs and MLAs in the activities of PRIs hamper their efficiencies.
  3. The Amendment Act provides constitutional status to PRIs but it gives discretion to the state legislature to delegate powers, responsibilities, and money to the panchayats.
  4. In the PRI system, there are structural flaws that lack secretarial support and technical competence.
  5. The presence of PanchPati and Proxy representation of women and SCs and STs dilutes the objective of reservation of seats of women and SCs and STs.

Conclusion

Panchayati Raj Institution was established after 45 years of independence despite many efforts made by the government. The reason behind this could be illiteracy, lack of funds, and political will. Panchayats are the best institutions for the people in villages to solve their issues and put their voice upfront before the government. Therefore the panchayats are the best institution to deal with the issues arising at the grassroots level. However, there are many flaws in the system but this Amendment was a huge step by the government to give constitutional status to the panchayats.

References

  1. https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/this-day-in-history-apr24/
  2. https://prepp.in/news/e-492-73rd-amendment-act-indian-polity-upsc-notes 
  3. https://www.handlebar-online.com/guidelines/what-are-the-main-features-of-73rd-constitutional-amendment-act/#What_was_the_aim_of_73_and_74_Amendment 
  4. https://www.soolegal.com/roar/panchayati-raj-system 
  5. https://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/constitution/73rd-amendment-of-the-constitution-of-india-1992-summary/46681 

LawSikho has created a telegram group for exchanging legal knowledge, referrals, and various opportunities. You can click on this link and join:

https://t.me/lawyerscommunity

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our YouTube channel for more amazing legal content.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here