73rd Constitutional Amendment Act: The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act has added a new part to the Constitution of India namely “The Panchayats”.
The Act which was formed in 1992 signifies the foundation and allotment of powers to the Gram Panchayats so that they can function as self-governing bodies.
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act was included in the Indian Constitution’s Directive Principles of State Policy of Article 40.
The 73rd Amendment Act was passed in 1992 and it describes the foundation of the Panchayati Raj system in the villages that can perform the functions entrusted to it by the State Legislatures.
The Act was established in 1992 and added part IX to the Constitution which covers provisions from Article 243 to 243(O) and an eleventh schedule that covers 29 subjects within the functions of the Panchayats.
Salient features of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act:
➜ Gram Sabha: The Gram Sabha is the only permanent Unit in the Panchayati Raj system and serves as the foundation of the Panchayati Raj. The powers of the Gram Sabha are fixed by the State legislatures and every person who is registered in the electoral roll is a member of the Gram Sabha. There are no elected representatives of the Gram Sabha and it is not among the 3 tiers of the Panchayati Raj.
➜ Three Tier system of Panchayati Raj: The Panchayati Raj consists of a 3 Tier system in each state comprising the Village level, Intermediate Level and District Level. States with a population below 20 Lakh could exclude the Intermediate level.
The main objective of the 3 tier system was to bring uniformity to the Panchayati Raj. All the members of the 3 Tier system are elected and the Chairperson of the Panchayat (Sarpanch) at the Village level, Intermediate level, and the District level are indirectly elected from the elected members of all the 3 levels.
➜ Duration of the Panchayats: The Panchayats are elected for a duration of 5 years and elections must take place before the completion of the term. In special cases the Panchayats can be dissolved before the completion of the term and elections must take place within 6 months of dissolution.
Reservation of Seats in Panchayats:
According to the 73rd Constitutional amendment Act, there is a provision for the reservation of seats for the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in all the levels of Panchayats. The reservation of the seats is in accordance with the total number of members at all the levels of the Panchayat.
According to the reservation policy of the Panchayats, out of the total seats in the direct elections, one-third of the seats are reserved for women. Among the reserved seats, one-third of the seats are allotted to women belonging to SC and ST categories. The reserved seats are allotted by rotation to the different Constituencies and the State also provides reservations for offices of the Chairpersons.
State Election Commission: The major roles of the State Election Commission are to conduct Panchayat elections, control, and preparation of electoral roles and direction.
Finance Commission: The main work of the Finance Commission is to review the financial position of the Panchayats. The Chairman of the Finance Commission is appointed by the State Government after every 5 years. The other work areas of the Finance Commission are as follows:
- Assignment of taxes, tolls, and fees to the Panchayats
- Granting aids to the Panchayats
- Maintaining and auditing accounts of the Panchayats
- Allocation of the funds to the different tiers of the Panchayats
Elections of the Panchayat:
The elections of the Panchayat are managed by the State Election Commission. According to the State Election Commission, the State has the power to control, supervise and direct the elections of the Panchayat and prepare the electoral rolls.
The Election Commission for the Panchayat Election is appointed by the Governor and the terms and conditions of the elections are managed by the Governor. According to Article 243K, the courts have no right to settle any dispute of the Panchayat election.
Powers and functions of the Panchayat:
The 11th schedule enshrines the power and authority of the Panchayats so that they can function like local Governments. The 29 subjects including the power and functions are given below:
- Land improvement and reforms, soil conservation and consolidation
- Agriculture and agricultural extension
- Animal husbandry and poultry farming
- Khadi, village, and Cottage industries
- Education, primary and secondary schools
- Irrigation, water management, and watershed development
- Social forestry and farm forestry
- Rural housing
- Drinking water
- Fuel and fodder
- Health and sanitation in villages. Development of primary health centers and dispensaries
- Distribution of electricity in rural areas
- Women and child development
- Social welfare and the welfare of mentally retarded and handicapped
- The welfare of the reserved categories
- Means of communication include roads, culverts, bridges, and waterways
- Food processing and other small-scale industries
- Development of non-conventional energy sources
- Cultural activities in villages
- Markets and fairs
- Adult education and non-formal education
- Maintenance of Community assets
- Poverty alleviation
- Drinking water
- Rural housing
- Family welfare
- Technical training and vocational education
Application of the Act to Union Territories and Exempted States:
The foundation of the Panchayati Raj Act is applicable to Union territories in the same way as the States but the President has the right to make modifications to the Act if necessary.
➤ Exempted States include:
- Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya
- Hill areas of Manipur have District Council.
- Hill areas of the district of Darjeeling of the State of West Bengal affect the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council.
- Reservation criteria of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act do not apply to Arunachal Pradesh.
Please Note: The PESA Act or the Extension Act which is the Provisions of the Panchayat Extension to the Scheduled Areas Act 1996 also falls under the Constitutional Amendment Act.
➤ Disqualification of Members:
Any person who is qualified to become an MLA can also become a member of the Panchayat but the minimum age of the candidate must be 21 years. As per Article 243F, a person can also be disqualified from the Panchayat membership.
➤ Bar on Interference by Courts:
As per Article 243 O, courts cannot question the functioning of the Panchayat or interfere in the matters of the Panchayat. Matters related to the election of the Panchayat or the allotment of seats in the Panchayat cannot be resolved by the courts.
➤ Continuance of existing laws and Panchayats:
- Most of the States passed the Panchayati Raj Act in 1993 and 1994 in accordance with the 73rd Amendment Act.
- According to the Act, the States must implement the Panchayati Raj system within 1 year of its enactment that is 24th April 1993.
- All the Panchayat laws that existed before the implementation of this Act will continue till the end of their term until dissolved by the States.
Important Objectives of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act:
- The main objective of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act is to strengthen the power of the local bodies and facilitate the smooth running of the Gram Panchayats.
- The Panchayati Raj was turned into Constitutional bodies.
- In accordance with Article 243 B, it is compulsory for all the States to establish the Panchayati Raj system.
- It is mandatory for the State Governments to ensure the smooth functioning of the Gram Panchayats.
- The elections of the Gram Panchayats are separate and conducted under the supervision of the State Government.
- The State Finance Commission reviews the financial condition of the Gram panchayats and makes the allotment of the funds accordingly.
- According to Article 243D, there are women, SC, and ST members in the Panchayati Raj.
- The Gram Panchayat of every State has a fixed term of 5 years.
- The Panchayati Raj functions in 3 levels- Gram Panchayat at the Village level, Mandal Parishad at the block level, and the Zila Parishad at the District level.
What are the Compulsory and Voluntary Provisions of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act?
Compulsory provisions of the Act:
- Establishment of the Panchayati Raj at the Village level, Intermediate level, and District level.
- The minimum age of the members contesting elections at Gram Panchayat must be 21 years.
- Direct elections for all the seats of the Panchayats at the Village, Intermediate, and District levels.
- Indirect elections for the post of Chairman at the Intermediate level and the District level.
- The Gram Panchayats have a tenure of 5 years at all three levels.
- There is provision for reservation of seats for women, SC, and ST at the Village, intermediate, and the District level.
- The State Election Commission supervises the smooth functioning of the Gram Panchayats.
- Fresh elections will be conducted within 6 months of supersession of any Panchayat.
Voluntary Provisions of the Act:
- Providing representation of the members of the Parliament and State Legislatures within the respective constituencies at different levels of the Panchayat.
- Allotment of financial powers to the Panchayats so that they can collect and levy taxes and duties.
- Giving power to the Panchayats so that they can function as autonomous bodies.
- Providing reservation of seats to the backward classes.
- Allotment of village-level functions and power to the Gram Sabha.
- Chairpersons(Sarpanch) of the Intermediate Panchayats represented the Village Panchayats.
- Make plans for economic development and social justice at the rural level.
- Perform some or all of the 29 functions listed in the 11th schedule of the Constitution.
- Devolution of powers and responsibilities on the Panchayat.
- Providing grants or aids to the Panchayats from the State funds.
- In some cases, the taxes, tolls, and duties collected by the State Government are assigned to a Panchayat.
Challenges faced by the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act:
- Lack of financial resources affects the growth and functioning of the Panchayati Raj.
- The intervention of local MPs and MLA hampers the self-governing structure of the Panchayati Raj.
- Lack of awareness among the villagers and the non-fulfillment of commitments made by the Gram Panchayats.
- Despite the provision for the reservation of seats for women and reserved categories in the Panchayati Raj, there are substitutes and Panchpati who take the place of the actual representatives.
- Structural flaws like lack of support, incompetence, and improper planning are the issues faced by the Panchayati Raj.
- Although the Panchayati Raj is a self-governing body there is very little devolution of power to perform flawless functioning.
- Rural Governments rely on local taxes or transfer of funds from the self Government as there is a lack of funding.
The main objective of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act is to allocate necessary powers to the village Panchayats to enable self-governing functions for them. The Act lays the foundation of the Panchayati Raj system and the powers are authorized by the State Legislatures.
The main feature of the Act is the formation of the 3 tier Panchayat system to empower the rural bodies and bring uniformity of the Panchayati Raj system in the country.