PART IX of 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 Grama Sabha consisting of persons registered in
the electoral rolls relating to a village comprised within the area of a
Panchayat. In this way representative democracy will be introduced at the
The Chairperson of each Panchayat shall be elected according to the law
passed by a State and such State Law shall also provide for the
representation of Chairpersons of Village and Intermediate Panchayats in the
District Panchayat, as well as members of the Union and State Legislature in
the Panchayats above the village level.
Reservation of seats for Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes:
Article 243D provides that seats are to be reserved for (a) Scheduled
Castes, and (b) Scheduled Tribes. The reservation shall be in proportion to
their population. If, for example, the Scheduled Castes constitute 30% of
the population and the Scheduled Tribes 21%, then 30% and 21% seats shall be
reserved for them respectively.
Out of the seats so reserved not less than 1/3rd of the seats shall be
reserved for women belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes,
Reservation for women:
Not less than 1/3rd of the total number of seats to be filled by direct
elections in every Panchayat shall be reserved for women.
Reservation of offices of Chairpersons:
A State may by law make provision for similar reservation of the offices of
Chairpersons in the Panchayats at the village and other levels.
These reservations favouring the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall
cease to be operative when the period specified in Article 334 (at present
60 years i.e., upto 21-1-2010).
A State may by law also reserve seats or offices of Chairpersons in the
Panchayat at any level in favour of backward classes of citizens.
Duration of Panchayat:
Every 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. Elections must take place before the expiry of the
above period. In case it is dissolved earlier, then the elections must take
place within six months of its dissolution. A Panchayat reconstituted after
premature dissolution (i.e., before the expiry of the full period of five
years) shall continue only for the remainder of the period. But if the
remainder of the period is less than six months it shall not be necessary to
Qualification for membership:
Article 243F provides that all persons who are qualified to be chosen to the
State Legislature shall be qualified to be chosen as a member of a Panchayat.
The only difference is that a person who has attained the age of 21 years
will be eligible to be a member (in case of State Legislature the prescribed
age is 25 years-Article 173). If a question arises as to whether a member
has become subject to any disqualification, the question shall be referred
to such authority as the State Legislature may provide by law.
Powers, authority and responsibilities of Panchayats:
State Legislatures have power, to confer on the Panchayats such powers and
authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of
self-government [Arts. 243G-243H]. 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, and (c) in regard to matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule
(inserted by the 73rd Amendment). The list contains 29 items, e.g., land
improvement, minor irrigation, animal husbandry, fisheries, education, women
and child development etc. The 11th Schedule thus distributes powers between
the State Legislature and the Panchayat just as the 7th Schedule distributes
powers between the Union and the State Legislature.
Powers to impose taxes and financial resources:
A State may by law authorise a Panchayat to levy, collect and appropriate
taxes, duties, tolls etc. The law may lay down the procedure to be followed
as well as the limits of these exactions. It can also assign to a Panchayat
various taxes, duties etc. collected by the State Government. Grants-in-aids
may be given to the Panchayts from the Consolidated Fund of the State.
Within one year from 25th April 1993, i.e., the date on which the
Constitution 73rd Amendment came into force and afterwards every five years
the State Government shall appoint a Finance Commission to review the
financial position of the Panchayats and to make recommendations as to---
The distribution between the State and the Panchayats of the net
proceeds of taxes, duties, tolls and fees leviable by the State
which may be divided between them and how allocation would be made
among various levels of Panchayats;
What taxes, duties, tolls and fees may be assigned to the Panchayats;
Grant-in-aid to the Panchayats.
The report of the Commission, together
with a memorandum of action taken on it, shall be laid before the State
Legislature. These provisions are modelled on Article 280 which contains
provisions regarding appointment of a Finance Commission for distribution of
finances between the Union and the States.
State Election Commission:
Article 243K is designed to ensure free and fair elections to the Panchayats.
Article 243K provides for the Constitution of a State Election Commission
consisting of a State Election Commissioner to be appointed by the Governor.
Powers of superintendence, direction and control of elections to the
Panchayats, including preparation of electoral rolls for it shall vest in
the State Election Commission. To ensure the Independence of the
Commissioner it is laid down that State Election Commissioner can be removed
only in the same manner and on the same grounds as Judge of a High Court.
The State Legislatures have the power to legislate on all matters relating
to elections to Panchayats.
Bar to interference by Courts in electoral matters:
As under Article 329, courts shall have no jurisdiction to examine the
validity of a law, relating to delimitation of constituencies or the
allotments of seats, made under Art. 243K. An election to a Panchayat can be
called in question only by an election petition which should be presented to
such authority and in such manner as may be prescribed by or under any law
made by the State Legislature.