Panchayats are institutions of self-government in rural areas of India. They are responsible for planning and implementing various development schemes and programs at the local level. The constitution of India provides for the establishment, composition, powers and functions of panchayats in Part IX, which was added by the 73rd amendment in 1992.
According to Article 243B of Part IX, there shall be constituted in every state, panchayats at three levels: village, intermediate and district. However, states with a population not exceeding 20 lakhs may not have panchayats at the intermediate level. The panchayats at each level shall consist of elected representatives from the territorial constituencies in the panchayat area. The ratio between the population of each constituency and the number of seats allotted to it shall be the same throughout the state, as far as practicable.
Article 243C of Part IX specifies the composition of panchayats at each level. It also provides for the representation of the chairpersons of the lower level panchayats, the members of parliament and state legislatures, and the members of the upper houses of parliament and state legislatures in the higher level panchayats. The chairperson of a panchayat at the village level shall be elected by the people, while the chairperson of a panchayat at the intermediate or district level shall be elected by and from among the elected members of that panchayat.
Article 243D of Part IX mandates that not less than one-third of the total number of seats in a panchayat shall be reserved for women, and that not less than one-third of the offices of chairpersons in a panchayat at each level shall be reserved for women. It also provides for reservation of seats and offices for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in proportion to their population in a panchayat area.
Article 243E of Part IX stipulates that every panchayat shall continue for five years from the date of its first meeting, unless dissolved earlier. It also states that an election to constitute a new panchayat shall be completed before the expiry of its term, or within six months of its dissolution.
Article 243F of Part IX lays down the qualifications and disqualifications for membership in a panchayat. It also empowers the state legislature to make laws regarding these matters.
Article 243G of Part IX empowers the state legislature to endow the panchayats with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government. It also authorizes the state legislature to delegate to the panchayats such functions and responsibilities as may be entrusted to them by law relating to various subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule.
Article 243H of Part IX authorizes the state legislature to make laws regarding the finances of the panchayats, including their taxation powers, grants-in-aid from the consolidated fund of the state, and allocation of funds from central or state plans.
Article 243I of Part IX provides for the constitution of a State Finance Commission every five years to review the financial position of the panchayats and make recommendations regarding their resources, expenditure and audit.
Article 243J of Part IX obliges every panchayat to maintain accounts and records of its income and expenditure, and submit them for audit by such authority as prescribed by law.
Article 243K of Part IX provides for the constitution of a State Election Commission to conduct elections to the panchayats in accordance with law.
Article 243L of Part IX extends Part IX to union territories subject to such modifications as may be specified by law.
Article 243M of Part IX exempts certain areas from Part IX, such as those under Schedule V (tribal areas), Schedule VI (hill areas), or any other area where local self-government exists under any other law or custom. It also empowers Parliament to make laws regarding these matters.
Article 243N of Part IX states that any law made under Part IX shall not be called in question in any court on any ground.
Article 243O of Part IX bars any court from interfering in any electoral matter relating to a panchayat, except on an election petition presented to such authority as prescribed by law.