By Akash Pandey :

Panchayati raj system is a very old system. We can see this system in Rigveda as a ‘Sabha’ ‘Samiti’ ‘Vidatha’ basic governing system of a village. In 250 CE, historians says that this type of system continued all over the Indian sub-continent (present India, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh). The word Panchayat raj ‘panchayat’ means assembly of five and ‘raj’ means rule. This is the basic meaning of the Panchayat Raj. Traditionally panchayat consists of the elder persons of the village chosen by the community who had to make all decisions for the village or the community. We can see this concept in the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharat, Manu Smriti, Book Arthashastra written by Kautilya, Mahatma Gandhi also advocated for panchayat system as local government. He supported the decentralization of power, termed as ‘Gram Sabha’ (village self-governance). If we see the history of India every era is having a similar concept of the local self-government system.

Indian constituent assembly also debated to adopt local self-government system but in conclusion the inclusion of panchayat system into the constitution was not unanimously agreed by the members of constituent assembly, so they place the panchayat in the Article 40 Of The Directive Principles Of The State Policy, Since the directive principles are not binding, states can adopt the principles as for their wish and Article 246 Which Empowers The State Legislature To Legislate Concerning Any Subject Relating To Local Self- Government.

Evolution of PRI

After independence India initiated the Community Development Programs (CDP) on Gandhi Jayanti, 2nd October 1952. The aim of CDP was the overall development of the rural areas and people’s participation including economic, cultural, and social. This programme was started to provide an administrative framework through which the government might reach to the district, tehsil/ taluka, and village level. The concept of the CDP in India was initiated before independence under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. The National Extension Service was started in 1953 as a preface of the community development programs. Its aim was to reduce the number of personal and more modest financial provisions so that development work could proceed based on the self-help efforts. It came up as a failure. There are different reasons for the failure of this community development program like bureaucracy and politics, lack of participation of the people, lack of trained and qualified ground staff, lack of interest of ground staff and more.


In 1957 the National Development Council formed a committee headed by Balwant Rai Mehta to investigate the workings of the Community Development Program. The committee submitted the report in November 1957 and recommended: –

  1. 3 tier system of the Panchayati raj institution consists of Gram Sabha at the village level, Panchayat Samiti at the block level, and Zila Parishad at the district level. All tiers are linked throw indirect election. 
  2. Village level panchayat formed from directly elected representatives, Zila Parishad, and panchayat Samiti is formed from indirect elections.
  3. These bodies have the power of planning and development 
  4. The Zila Parishad should be the advisory, coordinating, supervisory body, and the panchayat Samiti should be the executive body.
  5. The district collector should be the chairperson of the Zila Parishad.
  6. Enough should be transferred to these bodies for the functioning of these bodies.

These are some of the recommendations which are given by the Balwant Rai Mehta Committee. These recommendations are accepted by the National Development Council in January 1958. The government did not make it mandatory for all states it is up to the states how they can evolve their pattern or way as for their suitable local conditions but the essence, basic principles, and fundamentals are should be same throw out the country.

RAJASTHAN was the first state who establishes the Panchayati Raj in Nagaur District in 2 October, 1959. The second was Andhra Pradesh who adopted the system in 1959. After this many states formed Panchayati Raj in the 1960s but all are different about tier, the position of Samiti and panchayat, tenure, composition, finances, functions, and so on. For example, Rajasthan had adopted 3 tier system, Tamil Nadu had adopted 2 tier system and West Bengal had adopted 4 tier system. Some states also established the Nyaya Panchayats as judicial panchayats for the trial of petty civil and criminal matters. 

In 1960 many teams of study, committees, and working groups are formed for examining the various aspects of the Panchayati Raj system. 

1.1960Committee on Rationalisation of Panchayat StatisticsV.R. Rao
2.1961Working Group on Panchayats and CooperativesS.D. Mishra
3.1961Study Team on Panchayati Raj AdministrationV. Iswaran
4.1962Study Team on Nyaya PanchayatsG.R. Rajgopal
5.1963Study Team on the Position ofGram Sabha in Panchayati Raj MovementR.R. Diwakar
6.1963Study Group on Budgeting and Accounting Procedure of Panchayati Raj InstitutionsM. Rama Krishnayya
7.1963Study Team on Panchayati Raj FinancesK. Santhanam
8.1965Committee on Panchayati Raj ElectionsK. Santhanam
9.1965Study Team on the Audit andAccounts of Panchayati Raj BodiesR.K. Khanna
10.1966Committee on Panchayati Raj Training CentresG. Ramachandran
11.1969Study Team on Involvement of Community Development Agency and Panchayati Raj Institutions in the Implementation of Basic LandReform MeasuresV. Ramanathan
12.1972Working Group for Formulation ofFifth Five Year Plan onCommunity Development andPanchayati RajN.Ramakrishnayya
13.1976Committee on CommunityDevelopment and Panchayati RajSmt. Daya Choubey

SOURCE: M. Laxmikant, Indian polity, 5th edition, pg: -38.4


In December 1977, the Janta Party formed a committee headed by Ashok Mehta. This committee submitted its report in August 1978 with 132 recommendations for strengthening the Panchayati raj institution. Their main recommendations are: –

  1. The three-tier system should be replaced by a two-tier system.
  2. Zila Parishad at the district level and Mandal panchayat below it consisting a group of villages population of 15,000 to 20,000.
  3. Zila Parishad should be an executive body and should be responsible for development and planning.
  4. Decentralization should be done in the district which is supervised by the state.
  5. Participation of political parties in the panchayat elections.
  6. Panchayati raj should have the power of tax collection and proper audit by district-level the agency and by the committee of legislators.
  7. Responsibility of election of panchayat should be in the hand of the state, if in any circumstances elections got suspended then within six months state government should conduct an election.
  8. Nyaya panchayats should be kept separate from panchayats and qualified judges should preside over them.
  9. The chief electoral officer of a state with the consultation of the chief election commissioner conducts the elections of the panchayat. 
  10. Minister of Panchayati raj should be appointed in the state legislative council to look after the affairs Panchayati raj institution.
  11. Reservation of STs and SCs based on population.
  12. Constitutional recognition is given to the Panchayati raj institution. 

These are some recommendations given by the Ashok Mehta Committee but due to disfunction or collapse of the Janta Government before the completion of its tenure the recommendations of the Ashok Mehta Committee was not implemented but three states Karnataka, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh took some steps to regenerate or re-establish the Panchayati raj institutions based on the recommendations of the Ashok Mehta committee. 

Many more committees were formed like the Dantwala committee which given the report on block-level planning in 1978 and the Hanumantha Rao committee report on District Planning (1984) both committees suggested that the decentralization of planning function should be at the level of the district.


The planning commission in 1985 appointed a review committee which work is to review the administrative arrangements for rural development and poverty alleviation programs under the leadership of the G.V.K Rao. The committee recommendations are: –

  1. The district should be a proper unit for planning and development and Zila Parishad should be the body for management for all developmental programs.
  2. Panchayati raj institutions are assigned important roles related to planning and development in the lower level.
  3. A post of district development commissioner should be created who will act as a Zila Parishad executive officer and had charge of all developmental programs at the district level.
  4. Elections should be held on a regular basis.

The report of G.V.K Rao Committee mainly focused on local planning and development.


Under the government of Rajiv Gandhi in 1986, regularly recognized a committee was appointed to prepare the proper concept of Panchayati Raj on a paper under the chairmanship of the L.M Singhvi. The recommendations are: – 

  1. The Panchayati Raj Institution should be recognized by the constitution by adding a separate chapter.
  2. Constitutional provisions to ensure regular, free, and fair elections.
  3. Nyaya panchayats should be created for a cluster of villages.
  4. The village panchayats should have enough financial resources.
  5. Tribunals should be created in each state to look after the disputes over panchayat elections, dissolutions, and other matters related to functioning.


A subcommittee was formed for the consultation of the parliament under the chairperson of P. K Thungon in 1988. This committee suggested strengthening the Panchayati raj system. Their recommendations are as follows: – 

  1. The Panchayati raj institution should be recognized by the constitution.
  2. Three-tier system village, block, and district.
  3. Zila Parishad should play an important role in the Panchayati raj system. It should act as a planning and development agency of the district.
  4. Fixed tenure of five years.
  5. For planning the coordination and planning committee should be set up at the level of state and the minister should be a chairperson of a committee and the Zila Parishad should be a member of this committee.
  6. A detailed list of the working matters of the panchayat should be made and inserted in the constitution.
  7. Reservation in all three tiers and should be done based on population and provide reservations to the women.
  8. The state finance commission should be set up in each state. The commission will dissolute the resources of Panchayati raj institutions.
  9. The District Collector should be the chief executive officer of the Zila Parishad. 


By the Congress Party, the committee was constituted on the matter of policy and programs under the chairmanship of the V.N Gadgil in 1988. This committee work for “how best Panchayati raj institution could be made effective.” The made following recommendations: –

  1. Constitutional status to Panchayati rai institution.
  2. The three-tier system of Panchayati raj institution.
  3. Fixed five years tenure.
  4. Direct elections at all three levels.
  5. Reservations for STs, SCs, and women.
  6. The panchayat bodies should have the power of taxation.
  7. Establishment of state finance commission for the allocation of finances to the panchayats. 
  8. Establishment of a state election commission for the conduction of elections to the panchayats.

All the above recommendations of the Gadgil Committee became the basis for drafting a bill aimed at conferring the constitutional status and protection to the Panchayati raj institutions.


The Rajiv Gandhi government in July 1989 introduced the 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha. The bill regarding Panchayati raj institution. But the bill lapsed in Rajya Sabha due to the opposition party they are against this Bill. Again when V. P Singh’s government got power in June 1990 a two-day conference of State Chief Ministers under the chairmanship of V.P Singh related to issues of the Panchayati Raj institutions and after rectifying all things. All members decided to pass a Panchayati raj bill as a new Constitutional Amendment Bill. The new Constitutional Amendment Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha but due to the fall of the government, the bill lapsed. Under the prime ministership of P.V Narsimha Rao again they tried to pass the Panchayati raj institution act but this time Narasimha Rao government deleted the all controversial provisions and introduced a fresh Bill in Lok Sabha in September 1992 as the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act which came into force on 24 April 1993.

This Act has added the new part in the Constitution which is Part IX is known as THE PANCHAYATS and it consists of Articles 243 to 243O. In addition, Schedule Eleven was added into the constitution which contains 29 functional items of the panchayats. Its deals with Article 243G. This act gives the reality to Article 40 of the constitution which says “the state shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as a unit of the self-government.” This article is a part of directive principles of the state policy and the 73rd Constitutional Amendment provides the constitutional status and puts panchayats into the justiciable part of the constitutional. 


Jharkhand came into existence in 25 November 2000 as the 28th state of India. Jharkhand state is flourished with natural resources. Article 243B says that every State shall constitute Panchayats at the village, intermediate, and district levels following the provisions of Part IX of the Indian Constitution. Jharkhand enacted Panchayati Raj Act 2001 after constitutionalization of the panchayat system via the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act there are too many important provisions inserted in it regarding local self-government but the application of Part IX to the schedule areas is restricted because of Article 243(M)

The Bhuria Committee in 1995 suggested, the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) (PESA) Act which into came into existence in 1996. It changes some parts by adding some exceptions for the Schedule V areas of the ten states. At present only four states out of ten having PESA. Under PESA Act the Gram Sabha have absolute power and the state legislature have advisory power to ensure the workings of the Gram Sabha. There are so many powers given to the Gram Sabha.

  1. Protect traditional beliefs and culture.
  2. Resolve local disputes.
  3. Prevention of land transfer.
  4. Protection and management of the properties based on tribal traditions.
  5. Manage village markets.
  6. Rights to control liquor.
  7. Exercise control over money lenders.
  8. All other rights related to Schedule Tribes.

The Governor and State-Tribal Advisory Council should follow the laws and work together towards the welfare of the tribal and give importance to the tribal self-governance.

To Part IX of the constitution and the Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996, the legislative assembly of the Jharkhand passed the Jharkhand Panchayat Raj Act, 2001 (Jharkhand Act No. 6 of 2001). The elections of the panchayats could not be held at that time due to litigation pending in the Hon’ble High Court of Jharkhand. In the writ petition CWJC No. 3591 of 1997 (R) High Court of Jharkhand said some Panchayat provisions (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act,1996 and Jharkhand Panchayat Raj Act, 2001 relating to reservation is unconstitutional. After the order of the Jharkhand High Court, the Union of India in Appeal Nos. 484-491 of 2006 appeal to Supreme Court of India regarding the provisions of the PESA Act 1996 and Jharkhand Panchayat Act 2001 were SC held that as constitutional and valid.

For the aligning the provisions of the Jharkhand Panchayat Raj Act, 2001 with the constitutional provisions the Ordinance was passed on 15 April 2010 The Jharkhand Panchayat Raj (Amendment) Act 2010 because the legislative assembly was not in session. Then on 1st June 2010, the parliament of India passed this amendment because of the proclamation of the president’s rule in the state of Jharkhand. The amendment act talks about providing not less than fifty percent reservation of the seats and offices of chairpersons in the panchayat in favour of women. 

These are the laws but when we go to the realities of the ground we see that the law PESA remains unempowered in the states government have not able to frame rules till now it’s 25 years after the passing of the PESA act 1996. It’s one of the most powerful legislation supporting the tribal which constitutes 4% of the population. The former commissioner for Schedule Tribes B. D Sharma wrote to the president in 2010 said that “ The provisions of PESA, appeared to come as a saviour that is designed to erase the historical injustice done to the Adivasi community. It engendered unprecedented fervour amongst the Adivasi people throughout the country. It was perceived as a restoration of their dignity and tradition of self-governance, symbolized by ‘Mava Nate Mava Raj (Our Village Our Rule).

Dayamani Barla a known journalist and activist of Jharkhand said to MONGABAY INDIA “People living in fifth schedule areas were excited as they thought that the new legislation will ensure their control over their resources, land, mines, and minerals, minor forest produce, etc……. but their reality did not change even after 25 years of this law powerful people still have control over natural resources and the local community suffers at the hand of these people with clout, if they try to claim their ownership……………………… the government is acquiring land without the consent of gram sabhas. despite having a 26% Adivasi population, Jharkhand has failed to formulate rules for the implementation of PESA, a law meant for the welfare of the Adivasi community.

A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Public Administration in six districts of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha, shows the poor implementation of the Act, in the Khunti district 65% of people whose land was encroached and they even not asked about it same happens in the Gumla district where 26% people claim this same matter. The study was carried out in 2016-17 where there were huge protests by the Adivasi community against the change in the law which allows the Adivasi land to use for agriculture or other purposes. In Khunti district of Jharkhand, the famous Pathalgadi movement has started that spreaded to the other districts and other states also. Using the provisions of the PESA, Adivasi villages declaring self-rule (rule of Gram Sabha) it refers to a practice where Adivasi people erect a huge stone structure at the entry of the villages notifying the power and rights of the Gram Sabhas.

Also, as of now Panchayat elections in Jharkhand are delayed by one year. During the situation of Coronavirus, now this year also there is no possibility of elections in Gram Panchayats. Till now the state government has also kept silent on this issue. Panchayat elections were held in Jharkhand in 2015. Then under the three-tier Panchayati Raj Institutions, the election of Gram Panchayat Mukhiya, Panchayat Samiti, and Zilla Parishad was conducted. After the completion of their fixed tenure of five years, these three institutions have automatically dissolved in May-June then the talk of holding Panchayat elections was loud. Ever since the appointment of former Jharkhand Chief Secretary DK Tiwari as the State Election Commissioner, there was speculation that panchayat elections would be held in the state soon. Due to the second wave of Corona, once again the possibility of postponement of Panchayat elections has become strong. A press conference was held in the March on behalf of the State Election Commissioner regarding the Panchayat elections, in which it was said that soon the Panchayat elections will be conducted in Jharkhand. After the dissolution of the three-tier Panchayati Raj Institutions, the government of CM Hemant Soren issued a notification in January itself and formed an executive committee to keep the Panchayati Raj institutions active. In February, the Rural Development Department of the State Government had written a letter to the State Election Commission demanding Panchayat elections be held as soon as possible. The extension period will end on July 31, before which either poll have to be held or all panchayat bodies would get dissolved. In the case of the latter scenario, the department would face difficulty in the utilization of funds meant for panchayat bodies and local area development at a time when the pandemic has hit the economy and resulted in rural distress. State Rural Development Minister Alamgir Alam held a meeting with his officials to explore possibilities in this regard and prepare an alternative road map to keep panchayat bodies operational.

The department is considering two options — to provide an extension of another six months or put the rural bodies under the administrative control of the state government, a move which the Bihar government has adopted recently. 

Talking to TOI, Alamgir Alam said, “We have decided to write separate letters to the Union government and the advocate general (AG) of the state and seek their opinion. As per the Panchayati Raj Act, an extension can only be given once for six months. Therefore, we will seek the Centre’s opinion on the matter. Meanwhile, we will also seek the AG’s opinion before taking a final call.”

Alam conceded that conducting polls within the next two months will not be feasible. “If all goes well, we will be in a position to hold the election in November-December and not before that as it requires a lot of groundwork such as delimitation and preparing the voter list, among others. We are requesting the State Election Commission to be ready for the polls, but I don’t see the election happening anytime before the end of this year. Therefore, the only option is to explore whether to give extension to the panchayat bodies or put them under administrative control

Meanwhile, Jharkhand State Mukhiya Association (JSMA) demanded the extension of power on the line of Madhya Pradesh. JSMA president Vikas Kumar Mahto said, “Panchayat polls are also pending since 2019 in Madhya Pradesh, where executive committees of Mukhiyas have been set up and they have been given powers. Such practice is functional for the past two years. So, extension to panchayat bodies can also be given on line of Madhya Pradesh.

On 20 June, 2021 State Rural Development and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Alamgir Alam told reporters that the state government is soon going to bring an ordinance to extend the tenure of panchayats. The development of Panchayats should not be hampered and the work should continue, for this, it has been decided to extend the tenure once again for six months by bringing an ordinance. Minister Alamgir Alam expressed the hope that after the situation becomes normal, the work of Panchayat elections in the state will be completed in the last week of December. He expressed hope that after the completion of the three-tier panchayat elections by December 20-21, there will be no need to extend the term for the third time.

These are the very hard times for the states to hold an election but we should know that while when the whole country was suffering from the second wave of Covid –19 at this time West Bengal, Assam, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu are having their legislative elections, as well as mass campaigning, was going on in these states. This shows that the government of both centre and state don’t consider 3rd level elections necessary and important.

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