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Day 8: Polity - Local Bodies

Local Bodies and Political Dynamics

Local Bodies


During India’s freedom movement, Mahatma Gandhi had strongly pleaded for decentralisation of economic and political power. He believed that strengthening village panchayats was a means of effective decentralisation. All development initiatives must have local involvement inorder to be successful. Panchayats therefore were looked upon as instruments of decentralisation and participatory democracy.

Article 40 of the Constitution, which enshrines one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, lays down that the State shall take steps to organise village panchayats and endow them with such powers and, authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.

The Community Development Programme was launched in 1952 with thrust on securing socio-economic transformation of village life through people’s own democratic and cooperative organisations with the government providing technical services, supply and credit.

The BalwantRai Mehta Committee ( 1957) suggested ways of democratic decentralisation in a three-tier structure of panchayati raj. This meant that panchayati raj should be set up at three levels. They should be furnished with sufficient powers and resources. These three tiers of panchayati raj are:

  • zilaparishad at district level;
  • panchayatsamiti at intermediate or block level;
  • village or gram panchayat at village level.

Rajasthan was the first state to establish Panchayati Raj. The scheme was inaugurated by the prime minister on October 2, 1959, in Nagaur district. Rajasthan was followed by Andhra Pradesh, which also adopted the system in 1959. Thereafter, most of the states adopted the system.By the 1960s, Gram Panchayats covered 90% of the rural population in the country.

In 1969, the first Administrative Reforms Commission in its report on State Administration recommended that the main executive organ of the Panchayati Raj system should be located at the district level in the form of “ZilaParishad” and not at the Block level as PanchayatSamiti.

In November 1977, a Working Group under the Chairmanship of Prof. M.L. Dantwala was appointed by the Government of India, to draw up guidelines for block level planning. At the same time, in December 1977, a Committee on Panchayati Raj, headed by Ashok Mehta was appointed. The Committee considered inadequacy of resources, mainly responsible for failure of PRIs and, therefore, recommended, inter alia, measures for strengthening the financial resources of PRIs.

Although a number of committees were formed between 1978 and 1986 to look into various aspects of strengthening the local self-government institutions such as the committees under C.H. HanumanthaRao (1984), G.V.K. Rao (1985) and L.M. Singhvi (1986), only minor suggestions were made for any change in the ideas/structures proposed by the Asoka Mehta Committee.

After 1987, a thorough review of the functioning of local government institutions was initiated. In 1989 the P.K.Thungon Committee recommended constitutional recognition for the local government bodies.In 1989, the central government introduced two constitutional amendments (64th and 65th). These amendments aimed at strengthening local governments and ensuring an element of uniformity in their structure and functioning across the country.

Finally in 1992, after synthesising important features of the earlier exercises on this subject, Government drafted and introduced the 73rd and 74th Amendments Bills in Parliament which were passed in 1993. These introduced new Parts IX and IXA in the Indian Constitution containing Articles 243 to 243ZG.

Salient Features of 73rd Amendment Act of 1992

  • This act has added a new Part-IX to the Constitution of India. This part is entitled as ‘The Panchayats’ and consists of provisions from Articles 243 to 243 O. In addition, the act has also added a new Eleventh Schedule to the Constitution. This schedule contains 29 functional items of the panchayats. It deals with Article 243-G.
  • The act provides for a Gram Sabha as the foundation of the panchayati raj system. It is a body consisting of persons registered in the electoral rolls of a village comprised within the area of Panchayat at the village level.Thus, it is a village assembly (legislative body) consisting of all the registered voters in the area of a panchayat.

Three Tier Structure

  1. Gram Panchayatcovers a village or group of villages. It is the lowest tier of Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI).It is a local body (executive body) working for the good governance of thevillage. 21 years is the minimum age for contesting elections to panchayats.
  2. The intermediary level is known as the Mandal(also referred to as Block or Taluka). The intermediary level body need not be constituted in smaller States.
  3. At the apex is the ZillaPanchayatcovering the entire rural area of the District.


  • All members of the three levels of Panchayati Raj institutions are elected directly by the people. The term of each Panchayat body is five years.
  • If the State government dissolves the Panchayat before the end of its Five year term fresh elections must be held within six months of such dissolution.


  • The act provides for the reservation of seats for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in every panchayat (i.e., at all the three levels) in proportion of their population to the total population in the panchayat area. Further, the state legislature shall provide for the reservation of offices of chairperson in the panchayat at the village or any other level for the SCs and STs.
  • If the States find it necessary, they can also provide for reservations for the other backward classes (OBCs).
  • The act provides for the reservation of not less than one-third of the total number of seats for women (including the number of seats reserved for women belonging the SCs and STs). Further, not less than one-third of the total number of offices of chairpersons in the panchayats at each level shall be reserved for women.
  • The above 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. This provision was added later by the 83rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 2000.


  • The act provides for a five-year term of office to the panchayat at every level. However, it can be dissolved before the completion of its term.
  • Further, fresh elections to constitute a panchayat shall be completed (a) before the expiry of its duration of five years; or (b) in case of dissolution, before the expiry of a period of six months from the date of its dissolution.
  • But, where the remainder of the period (for which the dissolved panchayat would have continued) is less than six months, it shall not be necessary to hold any election for constituting the new panchayat for such period.
  • Moreover, a panchayat constituted upon the dissolution of a panchayat before the expiration of its duration shall continue only for the remainder of the period for which the dissolved panchayat would have continued had it not been so dissolved.


  • Twenty-nine subjects, which were earlier in the State list of subjects, are identified and listed in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution. These subjects are to be transferred to the Panchayati Raj institutions.
  • These subjects were mostly linked to development and welfare functions at the local level.
  • The actual transfer of these functions depends upon the State legislation. Each State decides how many of these twenty-nine subjects would be transferred to the local bodies.

State Election Commission

  • The superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of electoral rolls and the conduct of all elections to the panchayats shall be vested in the state election commission.
  • It consists of a state election commissioner to be appointed by the governor. His conditions of service and tenure of office shall also be determined by the governor.
  • He shall not be removed from the office except in the manner and on the grounds prescribed for the removal of a judge of the state high court. A judge of a high court can be removed from his office by the president on the recommendation of the Parliament. This means that a state election commissioner cannot be removed by the governor, though appointed by him.
  • The state legislature may make provision with respect to all matters relating to elections to the panchayats.
  • Office of the State Election Commissioner is an autonomous like the Election Commission of India.

State Finance Commission

  • The State government is also required to appoint a State Finance Commission once in five years. This Commission would examine the financial position of the local governments in the State.
  • It would also review the distribution of revenues between the State and local governments on the one hand and between rural and urban local governments on the other.
  • The Central Finance Commission shall also suggest the measures needed to augment the consolidated fund of a state to supplement the resources of the panchayats in the states.


  • A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as or for being a Member of Panchayat if he is so disqualified, (a) under any law for the time being in force for the purpose of elections to the legislature of the state concerned, or (b) under any law made by the state legislature. However, no person shall be disqualified on the ground that he is less than 25 years of age if he has attained the age of 21 years.
  • Further, all questions of disqualifications shall be referred to such authority as the state legislature determines.


  • The state legislature may (a) authorise a panchayat to levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees; (b) assign to a panchayat taxes, duties, tolls and fees levied and collected by the state government; (c) provide for making grants-in-aid to the panchayats from the consolidated fund of the state; and (d) provide for constitution of funds for crediting all moneys of the panchayats.

Application to Union Territories

The provisions of this Part are applicable to the Union territories. But, the President may direct that they would apply to a Union territory subject to such exceptions and modifications as he may specify.

PESA (Panchayat Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act 1996

  • Parliament passed a separate legislation in 1996 as an annexure to the 73rd Amendment specifying special provisions for Panchayats in Schedule V areas. Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (PESA) extends Part IX of the Constitution to the areas listed under the Fifth Schedule subject to certain exceptions and modifications.
  • At present Scheduled V areas exist in 10 States Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan and Telangana.
  • The PESA Act enjoins the State governments to endow Gram Sabhas and Panchayats at the appropriate level with the power to enforce prohibition, ownership of minor forest produce, power to prevent alienation of land and restore unlawfully alienated land, power to manage village markets, power to exercise control over money lending, power to exercise control over institutions and functionaries in all social sectors and power to control local plans and resources for such plans including tribal sub-plans.
  • The Act prohibits Panchayats at the higher level to assume the powers and authority of any Panchayat at the lower level.

Tribal Areas under Sixth Schedule of the Constitution

  • Under the Sixth Schedule, separate provisions have been made for the Administration of Tribal areas in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram. These provisions have been made in exercise of the enabling provisions given in Articles 244(2) and 275(1) of the Constitution.
  • The Sixth Schedule identifies and designates certain tribal areas as autonomous districts. It provides for the constitution of District Councils and Regional Councils for autonomous areas, consisting of not more than thirty members each, of whom not more than four persons shall be nominated by the Governor and the rest shall be elected on the basis of adult suffrage for a term of five years.
  • An exception has been made in respect of the Bodo Territorial Council. The administration of an autonomous district is to be vested in a District Council and of an autonomous region, in a Regional Council.
  • The Sixth Schedule endows Councils with powers of legislative, judicial, executive, financial, collection taxes and fees, entitlement to royalties and indication of resources to be credited to Councils.
  • The sixth schedule has entrusted several key powers to the Governor of the State concerned in respect of District and Regional Councils. These powers are classified and briefly described as (1) constituting district and regional councils, (2) dissolving and superseding councils (3) affecting electoral representation in the council area, (4) enlarging, diminishing powers or reviewing decisions of District and Regional Councils, (5) Giving prior assent to laws, rules and regulations of the District and Regional Councils (6) arbitration, (7) Powers to appointing a Commission to ensure into the administration of autonomous district regions.
  • In addition to the above powers, special powers have been conferred in respect of the Governors of Assam, Tripura and Mizoram in certain subjects.

Salient Features of 74th Amendment Act of 1992

  • 74th Amendment Act has added a new Part IX-A to the Constitution of India. This part consists of provisions from Articles 243-P to 243-ZG.
  • In addition, the Act has also added a new Twelfth Schedule to the Constitution. This schedule contains eighteen functional items of municipalities.
  • It deals with Article 243-W.
  • The act provides for the constitution of the following three types of municipalities in every state.
    1. A Nagar panchayat (by whatever name called) for a transitional area
    2. A municipal council for a smaller urban area.
    3. A municipal corporation for a larger urban area.
  • But, there is one exception. If there is an urban area where municipal services are being provided by an industrial establishment, then the governor may specify that area to be an industrial township. In such a case, a municipality may not be constituted.

1. Composition

  • All the members of a Municipality shall be elected directly by the people of the municipal area. For this purpose, each municipal area shall be divided into territorial constituencies to be known as wards. The state legislature may provide the manner of election of the chairperson of a municipality.
  • It may also provide for the representation of the following persons in a municipality.
  • Persons having special knowledge or experience in municipal administration without the right to votein the meetings of municipality.
  • The members of the LokSabha and the state legislative assembly representing constituencies that comprise wholly or partly the municipal area.
  • The members of the RajyaSabha and the state legislative council registered as electors within the municipal area.
  • The chairpersons of committees(other than wards committees).

2. Wards Committees

  • There shall be constituted a wards committee, consisting of one or more wards, within the territorial area of a municipality having population of three lakh or more.
  • The state legislature may make provision with respect to the composition and the territorial area of a wards committee and the manner in which the seats in a wards committee shall be filled. It may also make any provision for the constitution of committees in addition to the wards committees.

District Planning Committee

  • Every state shall constitute at the district level, a district planning committee to consolidate the plans prepared by panchayats and municipalities in the district, and to prepare a draft development plan for the district as a whole.
  • The act lays down that four-fifths of the members of a district planning committee should be elected by the elected members of the district panchayat and municipalities in the district from amongst themselves. The representation of these members in the committee should be in proportion to the ratio between the rural and urban populations in the district.
  • The chairperson of such committee shall forward the development plan to the state government.

Metropolitan Planning Committee

  • Every metropolitan area shall have a metropolitan planning committee to prepare a draft development plan. The state legislature may make provisions with respect to the following:
    • The composition of such committees;
    • The manner of election of members of such committees;
    • The representation in such committees of the Central government, state government and other organisations;
    • The functions of such committees in relation to planning and coordination for the metropolitan area; and
    • The manner of election of chairpersons of such committees
  • The Act lays down that two-thirds of the members of a Metropolitan Planning Committee should be elected by the elected members of the Municipalities and chairpersons of the Panchayats in the metropolitan area from amongst themselves.
  • The representation of these members in the committee should be in proportion to the ratio between the population of the Municipalities and the Panchayats in that metropolitan area.

Bar to Interference by Courts in Electoral Matters

  • The act bars the interference by courts in the electoral matters of municipalities.
  • It declares that the validity of any law relating to the delimitation of constituencies or the allotment of seats to such constituencies cannot be questioned in any court.
  • It further lays down that no election to any municipality is to be questioned except by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as provided by the state legislature.

All the provisions of the 73rd amendment relating to direct elections, reservations, transfer of subjects, State Election Commission and State Finance Commission are incorporated in the 74th Amendment.

Panchayati Raj System in UP

  • Uttar Pradesh brought in Panchayati Raj immediately after independence through the enactmentof the UP Panchayat Raj Act, 1947.
  • Following the recommendations of BalwantRai Mehta Committee, a three-tier system ofPanchayats was established through the enactment of the U.P. KshettraSamitis and ZillaParishadsAct, 1961(now renamed as UP Kshetrapanchayats and ZillaPanchayatsAdhiniyam, 1961).
  • Following the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 in order to bring about conformity withthe provisions of the Constitution, the Government of U.P. amended the two Acts named above,through the Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Laws (Amendment) Act, 1994.
  • The 3 levels of Panchayats in U.P are: District or ZillaPanchayat, Intermediate or KshetraPanchayatand Village or Gram Panchayat.

Urban Local Bodies

  • In July 1953, the U.P. Government took a decision to set-up Municipal Corporations in five big cities of Kanpur, Agra, Varanasi, Allahabad and Lucknow, popularly known as KAVAL Towns. As a result, the state of U.P. adopted a new Act for Municipal Corporations in 1959.
  • According to the 74thAmendment, there are three categories of Urban Local Bodies in UttarPradesh which are declared by the Governor.

Political Dynamics

Political Parties

  • Political parties are voluntary associations or organised groups of individuals who share the same political views and who try to gain political power through constitutional means and who desire to work for promoting the national interest.
  • There are four types of political parties in the modern democratic states, viz.,
    1. Reactionary parties which cling to the old socio-economic and political institutions;
    2. Conservative parties which believe in the status-quo;
    3. Liberal parties which aim at reforming the existing institutions; and
    4. Radical parties which aim at establishing a new order by overthrowing the existing institutions.
  • According to the political scientists, the radical parties are known as the left wing, the liberal parties the central wing and reactionary and conservative parties clubbed into the right wing group.
  • There are three kinds of party systems in the world, viz.,
    • One party systemin which only one ruling party exists and no opposition is permitted, as for example, in the former communist countries like the USSR and other East European countries;
    • Two-party systemin which two major parties exists, as for example, in USA and Britain; and
    • Multi-party systemin which there are a number of political parties leading to the formation of coalition governments, as for example, in France, Switzerland and Italy.

Recognition of National and State Parties

  • The Election Commission registers political parties for the purpose of elections and grants them recognition as national or state parties on the basis of their poll performance.
  • The other parties are simply declared as registered unrecognised parties.

Conditions for Recognition as a National Party

  • A party is recognised as a national party if any of the following conditions is fulfilled:
  • If it secures six per cent of valid votes polled in any four or more states at a general election to the LokSabha or to the legislative assembly; and, in addition, it wins four seats in the LokSabha from any state or states; or
  • If it wins two per cent of seats in the LokSabha at a general election; and these candidates are elected from three states; or
  • If it is recognised as a state party in four states.

Conditions for Recognition as a State Party

  • If it secures six per cent of the valid votes polled in the state at a general election to the legislative assembly of the state concerned; and, in addition, it wins 2 seats in the assembly of the state concerned; or
  • If it secures six per cent of the valid votes polled in the state at a general election to the LokSabha from the state concerned; and, in addition, it wins 1 seat in the LokSabha from the state concerned; or
  • If it wins three per cent of seats in the legislative assembly at a general election to the legislative assembly of the state concerned or 3 seats in the assembly, whichever is more; or
  • If it wins 1 seat in the LokSabha for every 25 seats or any fraction thereof allotted to the state at a general election to the LokSabha from the state concerned; or
  • If it secures eight per cent of the total valid votes polled in the state at a General Election to the LokSabha from the state or to the legislative assembly of the state. This condition was added in 2011.

Anti-Defection Law

  • The Tenth Schedule was inserted in the Constitution in 1985 by the 52nd Amendment Act.
  • It lays down the process by which legislators may be disqualified on grounds of defection by the Presiding Officer of a legislature based on a petition by any other member of the House.
  • The law applies to both Parliament and state assemblies.


  • If a member of a house belonging to a political party:
  • Voluntarily gives up the membership of his political party, or
  • Votes, or does not vote in the legislature, contrary to the directions of his political party.
  • However, if the member has taken prior permission, or is condoned by the party within 15 days from such voting or abstention, the member shall not be disqualified.
  • If an independent candidate joins a political party after the election. 
  • If a nominated member joins a party six months after he becomes a member of the legislature.


The above disqualification on the ground of defection does not apply in the following two cases:

(a) If a member goes out of his party as a result of a merger of the party with another party. A merger takes place when two-thirds of the members of the party have agreed to such merger.

(b) If a member, after being elected as the presiding officer of the House, voluntarily gives up the membership of his party or re-joins it after he ceases to hold that office. This exemption has been provided in view of the dignity and impartiality of this office.


  • The Chairman or the Speaker of the House takes the decision to disqualify a member.
  • If a complaint is received with respect to the defection of the Chairman or Speaker, a member of the House elected by that House shall take the decision.
  • Originally, the act provided that the decision of the presiding officer is final and cannot be questioned in any court.
  • However, in KihotoHollohan case (1993), the Supreme Court declared this provision as unconstitutional on the ground that it seeks to take away the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the high courts. It held that the presiding officer, while deciding a question under the Tenth Schedule, function as a tribunal. Hence his decision like that of any other tribunal is subject to judicial review on the grounds of mala fides, perversity, etc.






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Day 8 Polity 8

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