Panchayati Raj System in India


  • Initially, 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha in July 1989 to constitutionalize panchayati raj system /institutions, couldn’t passed by Rajya Sabha. Panchayati Raj System in India
  • Constitutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of
  • Rajasthan was the first state to establish Panchayati Raj. The scheme was inaugurated by the prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru on October 2, 1959, in Nagaur district.

Evolution of Panchayati Raj System in India

  1. Balwant Rai Mehta committee 1957 –
    • To examine the working of the Community Development Programme (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953).
    • Establishment of an organically linked three-tier panchayati raj system through a device of indirect elections.
    • Village panchayat – constituted with directly elected representatives
    • Panchayat samiti and zilla parishad – constituted with indirectly elected
    • Genuine transfer of power and responsibility to these democratic bodies.
    • Adequate resources should be transferred to these bodies to enable them to discharge their functions and fulfil their responsibilities.
    • Chairman of the zilla parishad – District collector
  1. Ashok Mehta committee 1977 –
    • Three-tier system of panchayati raj should be replaced by the two-tier system – zilla parishad and mandal panchayat (consisting of a group of villages with a total population of 15,000 to 20,000)
    • District as first point for decentralisation under popular supervision below the state level.
    • Official participation of political parties at all levels of panchayat elections.
    • Compulsory powers of taxation to PRIs to mobilise own financial resources.
    • Regular social audit by a district level agency and by a committee of legislators to ascertain spending mandate.
    • Elections should be held within six months from the date of supersession, if any.
    • Nyay panchayats should be kept as separate bodies from that of development panchayats. They should be presided over by a qualified judge.
    • Minister for panchayati raj in the state council of ministers.
    • Reservation of Seats for SCs and STs on the basis of their population.
    • Constitutional recognition should be accorded to the PRIs – Will ensure sanctity and stature and an assurance of continuous functioning.
  1. G V K Rao committee 1985 –
    • Committee to review the existing “Administrative Arrangements for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation Programmes”.
    • Zilla Parishad (District level body) should be of pivotal importance in the scheme of democratic decentralisation.
    • A post of District Development Commissioner should be created. He should act as the chief executive officer of the Zilla Parishad and should be in charge of all the development departments at the district level.
    • Regular elections to the Panchayati Raj institutions.
  1. L M Singhvi committee 1986 –
    • Committee to prepare a concept paper on ‘Revitalisation of Panchayati Raj Institutions for Democracy and Development’.
    • Constitutional recognition to PRI with addition of new chapter in the Constitution of India.
    • Nyay Panchayats should be established for a cluster of villages.
    • Reorganisation of villages to make Gram Panchayats more viable.
    • Committee emphasised the importance of the Gram Sabha and called it as the embodiment of direct democracy.The Village Panchayats should have more financial resources.
    • Judicial tribunals should be established in each state to adjudicate controversies about election to the Panchayati Raj institutions, their dissolution and other matters related to their functioning.
    • The Committee concluded that the developmental process was gradually bureaucratised and divorced from the Panchayati Raj and called PRIs as ‘grass without roots’.
  1. Thungon committee 1988
    • To examine the political and administrative structure in the district for the purpose of district planning.
    • Constitutional recognition to Panchayati Raj bodies.
    • Three-tier system of PRIs with panchayats at the village, block and district levels.
    • Zilla Parishad should act as the pivot of planning and development agency in the district.
    • Fixed tenure of five years to PRIs.
    • The maximum period of super session of a body should be six months.
    • detailed enumeration of subjects for Panchayati Raj should be prepared and incorporated in the Constitution.
    • Reservation of seats in all the three-tiers – SC, ST, Women.
    • State finance commission should be set-up in each state.
    • Chief executive officer of the Zilla Parishad- district collector.
  1. Gadgil committee 1988-
    • The Committee on Policy and Programmes.
    • Constitutional status should be bestowed on the Panchayati Raj institutions.
    • Three-tier system of Panchayati Raj with panchayats at the village, block and district levels.
    • Fixed five years term of Panchayati Raj institutions.
    • Direct elections for members of the Panchayats at all the three levels.
    • Reservation for SCs, STs and women proportionate with their population.
    • Responsibility of preparation and implementation of plans for socio-economic development on PRIs.
    • PRIs should be empowered to levy, collect and appropriate taxes and duties.
    • Establishment of a State Finance Commission for the allocation of finances to the Panchayats.
    • Establishment of a State Election Commission for the conduction of elections to the panchayats.

73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992

  • New part IX to the constitution, eleventh schedule consisting 29 functional items of the panchayats.
  • Part IX – Article 243 To Article 243 O.
  • Inclusion of vast pool of women’s in democratic decision making process – led to political empowerment of women in rural areas.
  • Democratic shape to Article 40 (DPSP)- “state to organise the village panchayats and provide them powers and authority so they can function as self-government.”
  • Panchayati Raj systems come under the purview of justiciable part of the constitution and mandates states to adopt the system.
  • Further, the election process in the Panchayati Raj institutions will be held independent of state governments will.
  • The act has two parts: compulsory and voluntary. Compulsory provisions must be added to state laws, which includes the creation of the new Panchayati Raj systems. Voluntary provisions, on the other hand, is the discretion of the state government.
  • The act is milestone step in creating democratic institutions at the grassroots level in the country. The act has transformed the representative democracy to participatory democracy.

Salient Features of 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992

  • Gram Sabha 243A: Village assembly consisting of all the registered voters within the area of the panchayat.
  • Three-tier system: At village, intermediate and district level. States with a population less than 20 lakhs may not constitute the intermediate level.
  • Election of members and chairperson (243K): The members to all the levels of the Panchayati Raj is elected directly and chairperson to the intermediate and the district level is elected indirectly from the elected members and at the village level the Chairperson is elected as determined by the state government.

Reservation of Seats

    • SC and ST – in proportionate to their population.
    • Women– Not less than one-third of the total number of seats to be reserved for women, further not less than one-third of the total number of offices for chairperson at all levels of the panchayat to be reserved for women.
    • The state legislatures are also given the provision to decide on the reservation of seats in any level of panchayat or office of chairperson in favour of backward classes.

Provision relating to the reservation of seats in panchayats (both members and chairpersons) for the scheduled castes is not applicable to the state of Arunachal Pradesh. This is because the state is inhabited fully by indigenous tribal people and there are no scheduled castes.

    • Duration of Panchayat 243 E five-year term of office to all the levels of the panchayat. Panchayat can be dissolved before the completion of its term. fresh elections to constitute the new panchayat shall be completed before the expiry of its five-year duration.
    • Disqualification 243 F: A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as or for being a member of panchayat if he is so disqualified
    • Under any law for the time being in force for the purpose of elections to the legislature of the state concerned.
    • Under any law made by the state legislature.
    • Further, all questions relating to disqualification shall be referred to an authority determined by the state legislatures.
    • 21 years to be the minimum age for contesting elections to panchayats.
    • State election commission for each state: – The state legislature may make provision with respect to all matters relating to elections to the panchayats. SEC conducts elections for Panchayats and Municipalities.
    • Powers and Functions 243 G: The state legislature may endow the Panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government.
    • The preparation of plans for economic development and social justice.
    • The implementation of schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them, including those in relation to the 29 matters listed in the Eleventh Schedule.
    • Finances 243 H: The state legislature may,
    • Authorise a panchayat to levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.
    • Assign to a panchayat taxes, duties, tolls and fees levied and collected by the state government
    • Provide for making grants-in-aid to the panchayats from the consolidated fund of the state.
    • Provide for the constitution of funds for crediting all money of the panchayats.
    • Finance Commission 243 I : Governor of a state shall, after every five years, constitute a finance commission to review the financial position of the panchayats and make recommendations thereof.
    • Audit of Accounts 243 J: State legislature may make provisions for the maintenance and audit of panchayat accounts.
    • Application to Union Territories 243 L: The president may direct the provisions of the act be applied on any union territory subject to exceptions and modifications he specifies.
    • Exempted states and areas: The act does not apply to the states of Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram and certain other areas. These areas include-
    • The scheduled areas and the tribal areas in the states
    • The hill area of Manipur for which a district council exists and
    • Darjeeling district of West Bengal for which Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council exists.
    • Bar to interference by courts 243 O: It further lays down that no election to any panchayat is to be questioned except by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as provided by the state legislature.

PESA Act of 1996 (Extension Act)

  • The provisions of Part IX of the constitution relating to the Panchayats are not applicable to the Fifth Schedule areas.
  • The Parliament may extend these provisions to such areas, subject to such exceptions and modifications as it may specify.
  • Under this provision, the Parliament has enacted the “Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act”, 1996, popularly known as the PESA Act or the Extension Act.
  • At present (2021), ten states have Fifth Schedule Areas. These are: Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha and Rajasthan. All the ten states have enacted requisite compliance legislations by amending the respective Panchayati Raj Acts.


  • To extend the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the panchayats to the scheduled areas with certain modifications
  • To provide self-rule for the bulk of the tribal population
  • To have village governance with participatory democracy and to make the gram sabha a nucleus of all activities
  • To evolve a suitable administrative framework consistent with traditional practices
  • To safeguard and to preserve the traditions and customs of tribal communities
  • To empower panchayats at the appropriate levels with specific powers conducive to tribal requirements
  • To prevent panchayats at the higher level from assuming the powers and authority of panchayats at the lower level of the gram sabha


  • A state legislation on the Panchayats in the Scheduled Areas shall be in consonance with the customary law, social and religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources.
  • A village shall ordinarily consist of a habitation or a group of habitations or a hamlet or a group of hamlets comprising a community and managing its affairs in accordance with traditions and customs.
  • Every village shall have a Gram Sabha consisting of persons whose names are included in the electoral rolls for the Panchayat at the village level.
  • Every Gram Sabha shall be competent to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and the customary mode of dispute resolution.

Every Gram Sabha shall–

  • Approve of the plans, programmes and projects for social economic development before they are taken up implementation by the Panchayat at the village level;
  • Be responsible for the identification of beneficiaries under poverty alleviation and other programmes.
  • Every Panchayat at the village level shall be required to obtain from the Gram Sabha a certification of utilisation of funds for the above plans, programmes and projects.
  • The reservation of seats in the Scheduled Areas in every Panchayat shall be in proportion to the population of the communities for whom reservation is sought to be given under Part IX of the Constitution. 
  • The reservation for the Scheduled Tribes shall not be less than one-half of the total number of seats. 
  • Further, all seats of Chairpersons of Panchayats at all levels shall be reserved for the Scheduled Tribes.
  • The state government may nominate such Scheduled Tribes which have no representation in the Panchayat at the intermediate level or the Panchayat at the district level. But such nomination shall not exceed one-tenth of the total members to be elected in that Panchayat.
  • The Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be consulted before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas for development projects and before resettling or rehabilitating persons affected by such projects in the Scheduled Areas. However, the actual planning and implementation of the projects in the Scheduled Areas shall be coordinated at the state level.
  • Planning and management of minor water bodies in the Scheduled Areas shall be entrusted to Panchayats at the appropriate level.
  • The recommendations of the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be mandatory for grant of prospecting licence or mining lease for minor minerals in the Scheduled Areas.
  • The prior recommendation of the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be mandatory for grant of concession for the exploitation of minor minerals by auction.
  • While endowing Panchayats in the Scheduled Areas with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government, a State Legislature shall ensure that the Panchayats at the appropriate level and the Gram Sabha are endowed specifically with–
  • the power to enforce prohibition or to regulate or restrict the and consumption of any intoxicant
  • the ownership of minor forest produce
  • the power to prevent alienation of land in the Scheduled A and to take appropriate action to restore any unlawfully alien land of a Scheduled Tribe
  • the power to manage village markets
  • the power to exercise control over money lending to Scheduled Tribes
  • the power to exercise control over institutions and functionary all social sectors
  • the power to control local plans and resources including tribal sub-plans
  • The State Legislations shall contain safeguards to ensure that Panchayats at the higher level do not assume the powers and authority of any Panchayat at the lower level or of the Gram Sabha.
  • The State Legislature shall endeavour to follow the pattern of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution while designing the administrative arrangements in the Panchayats at district levels in the Scheduled Areas.
  • Any provision of any law (relating to Panchayats in the Scheduled Areas) which is inconsistent with the provisions of this Act shall cease to be in force at the expiry of one year from the date on which this Act receives the assent of the President.
  • However, all the Panchayats existing immediately before such date shall continue till the expiry of their term, unless dissolved by the State Legislature sooner.

Finances of Panchayati Raj System in India

  • Grants from the Union Government based on recommendations of the Central Finance Commission as Article 280 of the Constitution.
  • Devolution from the State Government based on recommendations of the State Finance Commission as per Article 243-I.
  • Loans or grants from the State Government.
  • Programme-specific allocation under Centrally Sponsored Schemes and Additional Central Assistance.
  • Internal Resource Generation (tax and non-tax).

Reasons for Poor ineffective Performance

  • Lack of adequate devolution: Many States have not taken
    adequate steps to devolve 3Fs (i.e., functions, funds and
    functionaries) to the PRIs
  • Excessive control by bureaucracy
  • Tied nature of funds
  • Overwhelming dependency on government funding
  • Reluctance to use fiscal powers
  • Status of the Gram Sabha
  • Creation of Parallel Bodies
  • Poor Infrastructure

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