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., (i) reactionary parties which cling to the old socio-economic and political institutions; (ii) conservative parties which believe in the status-quo; (iii) liberal parties which aim at reforming the existing institutions; and (iv) radical parties which aim at establishing a new order by overthrowing the existing institutions. In their classification of political parties on the basis of ideologies, the political scientists have placed the radical parties on the left and the liberal parties in the centre and reactionary and conservative parties on the right. In other words, they are described as the leftist parties, centrist parties and the rightist parties. In India, the CPI and CPM are the examples of leftist parties, the Congress of centrist parties and the BJP is an example of rightist parties.
There are three kinds of party systems in the world, viz., (i) one party system in 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; (ii) two-party system in which two major parties exists, as for example, in USA and Britain; and (iii) multi-party system in which there are a number of political parties leading to the formation of coalition governments, as for example, in France, Switzerland and Italy.
PARTY SYSTEM IN INDIA
The Indian party system has the following characteristic features:
The continental size of the country, the diversified character of Indian society, the adoption of universal adult franchise, the particular type of political process, and other factors have given rise to a large number of political parties. In fact, India has the largest number of political parties in the world. At present (2013), there are 6 national parties, 51 state parties and 1415 registered – unrecognized parties in the country2. Further, India has all categories of parties—left parties, centrist parties, right parties, communal parties, non-communal parties and so on. Consequently, the hung Parliaments, hung assemblies and coalition governments have become a common phenomenon.
One-Dominant Party System
In spite of the multiparty system, the political scene in India was dominated for a long period by Congress. Hence, Rajni Kothari, an eminent political analyst, preferred to call the Indian party system as a ‘one-party dominance system’ or the ‘Congress system’3. The dominant position enjoyed by the Congress has been declining since 1967 with the rise of regional parties and other national parties like Janata (1977), Janata Dal (1989) and the BJP (1991) leading to the development of a competitive multi-party system.
Lack of Clear Ideology
Except for the BJP and the two communist parties (CPI and CPM), all other parties do not have a clearcut ideology. They (i.e., all other parties) are ideologically closer to each other. They have a close resemblance in their policies and programmes. Almost every party advocates democracy, secularism, socialism, and Gandhism. More than this, every party, including the so-called ideological parties, is guided by only one consideration—power capture. This, politics has become issue-based rather than the ideology and pragmatism has replaced the commitment to the principles.
Quite often, the parties are organized around an eminent leader who becomes more important than the party and its ideology. Parties are known by their leaders rather than by their manifesto. It is a fact that the popularity of Congress was mainly due to the leadership of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, and Rajiv Gandhi. Similarly, the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and TDP in Andhra Pradesh got identified with MG Ramachandran and NT Rama Rao respectively. Interestingly, several parties bear the name of their leader like Biju Janata Dal, Lok Dal (A), Congress (I) and so on. Hence, it is said that “there are political personalities rather than political parties in India”.
Based on Traditional Factors
In the western countries, the political parties are formed on the basis of socio-economic and political programme. On the other hand, a large number of parties in India are formed on the basis of religion, caste, language, culture, race and so on. For example, Shiv Sena, Muslim League, Hindu Maha Sabha, Akali Dal, Muslim Majlis, Bahujan Samaj Party, Republican Party of India, Gorkha League and so on. These parties work for the promotion of communal and sectional interests and thereby undermine the general public interest.
Emergence of Regional Parties
Another significant feature of the Indian party system is the emergence of a large number of regional parties and their growing role. They have become the ruling parties in various states like BJD in Orissa, DMK or AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, Akali Dal in Punjab, AGP in Assam, National Conference in J&K, JD(U) in Bihar and so on. In the beginning, they were confined to regional politics only. But, of late, they have come to play a significant role in the national politics due to coalition governments at the Centre. In the 1984 elections, the TDP emerged as the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha.
Factions and Defections
Factionalism, defections, splits, mergers, fragmentation, polarisation and so on have been an important aspect of the functioning of political parties in India. Lust for power and material considerations have made the politicians to leave their party and join another party or start a new party. The practice of defections gained greater currency after the fourth general elections (1967). This phenomenon caused political instability both at the Centre and in the states and led to the disintegration of the parties. Thus, there are two Janata Dals, two TDPs, two DMKs, two Communist Parties, two Congress, three Akali Dals, three Muslim Leagues and so on.
Lack of Effective Opposition
An effective Opposition is very essential for the successful operation of the parliamentary democracy prevalent in India. It checks the autocratic tendencies of the ruling party and provides an alternative government. However, in the last 50 years, an effective, strong, organized and viable national Opposition could never emerge except in flashes. The Opposition parties have no unity and very often adopt mutually conflicting positions with respect to the ruling party. They have failed to play a constructive role in the functioning of the body politic and in the process of nation-building.
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-unrecognized parties.
The recognition granted by the Commission to the parties determines their right to certain privileges like allocation of the party symbols, provision of time for political broadcasts on the state-owned television and radio stations and access to electoral rolls.
Every national party is allotted a symbol exclusively reserved for its use throughout the country. Similarly, every state party is allotted a symbol exclusively reserved for its use in the state or states in which it is so recognized. A registered-unrecognized party, on the other hand, can select a symbol from a list of free symbols. In other words, the Commission specifies certain symbols as ‘reserved symbols’ which are meant for the candidates set up by the recognized parties and others as ‘free symbols’ which are meant for other candidates.
Conditions for Recognition as a National Party:******
At present (2014), a party is recognised as a national party if any of the following conditions is fulfilled:
The party wins 2% of seats in the Lok Sabha (11 seats) from at least 3 different States.
At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly, the party polls 6% of votes in four States and in addition, it wins 4 Lok Sabha seats.
A party gets recognition as State Party in four or more States.
Both national and state parties have to fulfil these conditions for all subsequent Lokshabha or State elections. Else, they lose their status.
Conditions for Recognition as a State Party ********
At present (2014), a party is recognized as a state party in a state if any of the following conditions is fulfilled:
At General Elections or Legislative Assembly elections, the party has won 3% of seats in the legislative assembly of the State ( subject to a minimum of 3 seats).
At a Lok Sabha General Elections, the party has won 1 Lok sabha seat for every 25 Lok Sabha seat allotted for the State.
At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly, the party has polled minimum of 6% of votes in a State and in addition, it has won 1 Lok Sabha or 2 Legislative Assembly seats.
At a General Election to Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly, the party has polled 8% of votes in a State.
The number of recognized parties keeps on changing on the basis of their performance in the general elections. At present (2019), there are 7 national parties, 51 state parties. The national parties and state parties are also known as all-India parties and regional parties respectively.
Recognised National Parties and State Parties (First to Fifteenth General Elections)
General Elections (Year)
Number of National Parties
Number of State Parties
Recognised National Parties and their Symbols (2013)
Name of the Party (Abbreviation)
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
Communist Party of India (CPI)
Ears of Corn and Sickle
Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPM)
Hammer, Sickle and Star
Indian National Congress (INC)
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)
In all States / U.T.s except in Assam, where its candidates will have to choose a symbol out of the list of free symbols specified by the Election Commission.
Recognised State Parties and their Symbols (2013)
Name of the State / Union Territory
Name of the State Party (Abbreviation)
1. Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS)
2. Telugu Desam (TDP)
1. All India Trinamool Congress (AITC)
Flowers and Grass
2. People’s Party of Arunachal (PPA)
1. All India United Democratic Front (AUDF)
Lock and Key
2. Asom Gana Parishad (AGP)
3. Bodoland People’s Front (BPF)
1. Janata Dal (United) (JD(U))
2. Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJSP)
3. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)
Maharashtrawadi Gomantak (MAG)
1. Haryana Janhit Congress (BL) (HJC(BL))
2. Indian National Lok Dal (INLD)
Jammu & Kashmir
1. Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (JKNC)
2. Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party (JKNPP)
3. Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (JKPDP)
Ink Pot and Pen
1. All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU)
2. Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)
Bow and Arrow
3. Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) (JVM(P))
4. Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)
Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S))
A Lady Farmer carrying Paddy on her head
1. Janata Dal (Secular) (JD(S))
A Lady Farmer carrying Paddy on her head
2. Kerala Congress (M) (KEC(M))
3. Indian Union Muslim League (IUML)
1. Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS)
2. Shiv Sena (SHS)
Bow and Arrow
1. All India Trinamool Congress (AITC)
Flower and Grass
2. Manipur State Congress Party
Cultivator Cutting Crop
3. Naga People’s Front (NPF)
4. People’s Democratic Alliance
1. United Democratic Party (UDP)
2. Hill State People’s Democratic Party
1. Mizo National Front (MNF)
2. Mizoram People’s Conference (MPC)
3. Zoram Nationalist Party (ZNP)
Sun (without rays)
Naga People’s Front (NPF)
Biju Janata Dal (BJD)
1. All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) or (AIADMK)
2. All India N.R. Congress
3. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)
4. Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK)
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)
Sikkim Democratic Front (SDF)
1. All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) or (AIADMK)
2. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)
3. Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK)
1. Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD)
2. Samajwadi Party (SP)
1. All India Forward Bloc (AIFB)
2. All India Trinamool Congress (AITC)
Flowers and Grass
3. Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP)
Spade and Stoker
Formation of Political Parties (Chronological Order)
.1. Is it necessary for an association to get registered by the Election Commission? Ans. No
It is not necessary for every association to get registered by the Election Commission. Only an association or body of individual citizens of India calling itself a political party and intending to avail itself of the provisions of Part-IV-A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, (relating to registration of political parties) is required to get itself registered with the Election Commission of India.
Q.2. What are the benefits of registration with the Election Commission of India? Ans. The candidates set up by a political party registered with the Election Commission of India will get preference in the matter of allotment of free symbols vis-à-vis purely independent candidates. Further, registered political parties, in course of time, can get recognition as `State Party’ or National Party’ subject to the fulfillment of the conditions prescribed by the Commission in the Election Symbols (Reservation and Allotment) Order, 1968, as amended from time to time. If a party is recognised as a State Party’, it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it in the State of States in which it is so recognised, and if a party is recognised as a `National Party’ it is entitled for exclusive allotment of its reserved symbol to the candidates set up by it throughout India. Recognised `State’ and `National’ parties need only one proposer for filing the nomination and are also entitled for two sets of electoral rolls free of cost and broadcast/telecast facilities over Akashvani/Doordarshan during general elections.
Q.3. What is the procedure for registration? Ans. An application for registration is to be submitted to the Secretary, Election Commission of India, Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi-110001 in the proforma prescribed by the Commission. The Performa is available on request by post or across the counter from the office of the Commission. The proforma and necessary guidelines are also available on the Commission’s website under the main heading Judicial References, sub-heading Political Party and sub-sub-heading Registration of Political Parties(Click Here). The same can be downloaded from there also. The application should be neatly typed on the party’s letter head, if any, and it should be sent by registered post or presented personally to the Secretary to the Election Commission within thirty days following the date of formation of the party.
2. The application must be accompanied by the following documents/information:-
(i) A demand draft for Rs. 10,000/- (Rupees Ten Thousand Only) on account of processing fee drawn in favour of Under Secretary, Election Commission of India, New Delhi. The processing fee is non-refundable.
(ii) A neatly typed/printed copy of the memorandum/rules and regulations/Constitution of the Party containing a specific provision as required under sub-section (5) of Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 in the exact terms, which reads “—————(name of the party) shall bear true faith and allegiance to the constitution of India as by law established, and to the principles of socialism, secularism and democracy and would uphold the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India”. The above mandatory provision must be included in the text of party constitution/rules and regulations/memorandum itself as one of the Articles/clauses.
(iii) The copy of the party Constitution should be duly authenticated on each page by the General Secretary/President/Chairman of the Party and the seal of the signatory should be affixed thereon.
(iv) There should be a specific provision in the Constitution/rules and regulations/memorandum of the party regarding organizational elections at different levels and the periodicity of such elections and terms of office of the office-bearers of the party.
(v) The procedure to be adopted in the case of merger/dissolution should be specifically provided in the Constitution/rules and regulations/memorandum.
(vi) Certified extracts from the latest electoral rolls in respect of at least 100 members of the party (including all office-bearers/members of main decision-making organs like Executive Committee/Executive Council) to show that they are registered electors.
(vii) An affidavit duty signed by the President/General Secretary of the party and sworn before a First Class Magistrate/Oath Commissioner)/ Notary Public to the effect that no member of the party is a member of any other political party registered with the Commission.
(viii) Individual affidavits from at least 100 members of the party to the effect that the said member is a registered elector and that he is not a member of any other political party registered with the Commission duly sworn before a First Class Magistrate/Oath Commissioner)/Notary Public. These affidavits shall be in addition to the furnishing of certified extracts of electoral rolls in respect of the 100 members of the applicant party mentioned at (vi) above.
(ix)Particulars of Bank accounts and Permanent Account Number, if any, in the name of the party.
(x)Duly completed CHECK LIST alongwith requisite documents prescribed therein.
3. The application along with all the required documents mentioned above should reach the Secretary to the Commission within 30 days following the date of formation of the party.
4. Any application made after the said period will be time-barred.
Q.4. What are the criteria for recognition of a party? Ans. A political party shall be treated as a recognised political party in a State, if and only if either the conditions specified in Clause (A) are, or the condition specified in Clause (B) is, fulfilled by that party and not otherwise, that is to say-
(A) that such party –
has been engaged in political activity for a continuous period of five years; and has, at the last general election in that State to the House of the People, or, as the case may be, to the Legislative Assembly of the State, returned- either ( i ) at least one member to the House of the People for every twenty-five members of that House or any fraction of that number from that State;
or (ii) at least one member to the Legislative Assembly of that State for every thirty members of that Assembly or any fraction of that number;
(B) that the total number of valid votes polled by all the contesting candidates set up by such party at the last general election in the State to the House of the People, or as the case may be, to the Legislative Assembly of the State, is not less than six per cent of the total number of valid votes polled by all the contesting candidates at such general election in the State.
2. The conditions in Clause (A) or Clause (B) above shall not be deemed to have been fulfilled by a political party, if a member of the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State becomes a member of that political party after his election to that House or, as the case may be, that Assembly.
3. ‘State’ includes the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the Union Territory of Pondicherry.
4. If a political party is treated as a recognised political party in four or more States, it shall be known as a `National Party’ throughout the whole of India, but only so long as that political party continues to fulfill thereafter the conditions for recognition in four or more States on the results of any subsequent general election either to the House of the People or to the Legislative Assembly of any State.
5. If a political party is treated as a recognised political party in less than four States, it should be known as a `State Party’ in the State or States in which it is so recognised, but only so long as that political party continues to fulfill thereafter the conditions for recognition on the results of any subsequent general election to the House of the People or, as the case may be, to the Legislative Assembly of the State, in the said State or States.
The Constitution makers also considered this system to be very important and made provisions for it in the Directive Principles of State Policy. The Constitution states that the State shall take steps to organize Village Panchayats and empower them with such powers and authorities as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of local self-government.
As a follow-up, the present day Panchayats began functioning under the Community Development Programme introduced during the first Five year Plan. To make the system more effective a Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of Balwant Rai Mehta that went into its details. The Balwant Rai Mehta Committee in its report submitted in 1957 recommended the establishment of a three-tier Panchayati Raj System: Gram Panchayats at the village level, the Panchayat Samitis at the block level or intermediate level and the Zila Parishad at the district level. In 1958, the National Development Council also recommended a similar structure of local government where the village was at the bottom of the system and district at the top. However, it is the 73rd Constitutional Amendment 1992 that provided the present shape to the Panchayati Raj System. Now the Panchayati Raj Institutions in most of the States have been set up at three levels, village, intermediate and district levels. But in smaller States having a population of less than 20 lakh, there are only two tiers, the village level, and the district level.
The 73rd Constitutional Amendment 1992
The passage of the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992 marks a new era in the federal democratic set up of the country and provides constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). The main features of the Act are:
(i) establishment of a three-tier structure: Village Panchayat (Gram Panchayat); intermediate panchayat (Panchayat Samiti; and the district panchayat (Zila Parishad); (ii) regular elections, every five years; (iii) reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population; (iv) not less than one-third reservation of seats for women at three different levels of PRIs; (v) establishment of State Finance Commissions to recommend measures to improve the finances of panchayats;
(vi) establishment of State Election Commissions to conduct election to the PRIs; (vii) establishment of District Planning Committees to prepare development plans for the districts; (viii) preparation of plans for economic development and social justice and their execution concerning 29 subjects listed in the 11th Schedule of the Constitution; (ix) establishment of Grama Sabha (village assemblies) and their empowerment as a decision making body at the village level; and (x) rotation in accordance with the reservation of seats for women and the Scheduled Castes in the PRIs.
By the Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, the Panchayati Raj Institutions have been given such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function. It contains provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities related to (a) the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice; and (b) the implementation of such schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them.
Do You know
Consequent upon the enactment of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, almost all the States/UTs, except J&K, NCT Delhi, and Uttaranchal have enacted their legislation. Moreover, almost all the States/UTs have held local body elections. As a result, 2,32,278 Panchayats at village level; 6,022 Panchayats at the intermediate level and 535 Panchayats at the district level have been constituted in the country. These Panchayats are being manned by about 29.2 lakh elected representatives of Panchayats at all levels. This is the broadest representative base that exists in any country in the world.
Panchayati Raj is an important feature of the Indian Political The system which ensures direct participation of people at the grassroots level. Though panchayats have been in existence in India since ancient times, they suffered a setback during British rule. After independence, the framers of the Constitution decided to give them the importance and directed the states to “organize village panchayats as units of self-government ” (Article 40). Following this directive, the various state governments took steps to organize village panchayats as units of rural self-government. Greater importance was attached to the panchavat system after the adoption of the five year plan and launching of the Community Development Programme.
In 1956. the National Development Council appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Balwantrai G. Mehta to suggest measures for the better working of the Community Development Programme and the National Extension Sen ice. The committee submitted its report in 1957 in which it recommended:
a three-tier structure consisting of the village at the bottom, district at the top and an intermediary structure in between;
genuine transfer of power and responsibility to these institution;
adequate resources to all bodies to enable them to discharge their responsibilities;
that all social and economic development programmes be channelised through these agencies;
that a system be evolved to effect further dissolution and dispersal of pow er.
The recommendations of the Committee were approved by the National Development Council in January. 1958. This set the stage for the launching of Panchayati Raj institutions throughout the country. Although the broad fundamentals were to be identical, it did not insist on rigidity regarding the form and pattern. The states were free to evolve their own patterns suitable to local conditions.
The three-tier system of Panchayati Raj was first adopted by Rajasthan on October 2.1959. This was followed by Andhra Pradesh, Bihar. Gujarat. Himachal Pradesh. Maharashtra, Punjab. Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal Gradually, the Panchayati Raj system was adopted by most states even though the system differed in matters of detail.
The three-tier system of local self-government envisages panchayat at the village level Panchayat Samitis at the block level and Zilla Parishad at the district level. Each tier is organically linked to the next tier through the system of indirect elections. However, elections to panchayats at the village level are direct. The organization and functions of various Panchayati Raj institutions are as follows:
1. Village Panchayat This is the lowest rung of the three-tier system and consists of the elected representatives of the people. Membership usually varies from 5 to 31. In addition to elected members, scats arc also reserved for Scheduled Castes. Scheduled Tribes, women, etc. The chairman of the panchayat is known as the sarpanch. who is elected by members of the panchayat from among themselves? Some panchayats also have an up-sarpanch. The panchayat is accountable for all its actions to theGram Sakha. the general body of villagers.
Panchayats are responsible for the formulation and implementation of developmental programmes at the village level. They also perform certain administrative functions such as taking care of village sanitation, public health, street lighting, the construction and maintenance of bridges, wells and ponds, village roads, village schools, etc. They also try to promote agriculture, animal husbandry, rural and cottage industries, cooperative societies, etc. The panchayats also maintain village statistics, etc.
The Gram Sabha is the general body of the village. It consists of all the adults residing within the jurisdiction of the panchayat. It exercises general supervision over the working of the panchayat and lays down necessary guidelines for its working. It controls the finances of the panchayat, imposes various taxes, and examines its accounts. The Gram Sabha usually meets twice a year and examines and approves the various development schemes of the panchayat.
2. Block and Panchayat Samiti The block is the intermediary unit of the three-tier structure. It is administered through a Panchayat Samiti consisting of indirectly elected members of village panchayats under the block, comprising 20 to 60 villages. The Panchayat Samiti is known by different names in different states such as Janpad Panchayat, Taluka Panchayat, Ancha! Panchayat, etc. Generally, the Panchayat Samiti consists of the sarpanches of village panchayats under the block. Besides, it also contains certain members who represent Scheduled Castes. Scheduled Tribes, women, representatives of cooperatives, representatives of small municipalities within the jurisdiction of the block, etc. The Panchayat Samiti elect its own chairman from amongst its members who are known as the Pradhan.
The main function of the Panchayat Samiti is to coordinate the working of the various panchayats under its jurisdiction. It performs important developmental functions such as preparation of plans for the development of the area under its control and implementation of these plans after they have been approved by the state government. It is responsible for the implementation of Community Development Programmes within its jurisdiction.
The chief sources of income of the Panchayat Samiti arc grants and loans provided by the state gov comment/Zilia Parishad. for the implementation of various schemes. In addition, it gets a share of the cess of land revenue from the Gram Panchayat and Zilla Parishad The Panchayat Samiti is responsible for its working to Gram Panchayats as well as Gram Sabhas.
3. Zilla Parishad The Zilla Parishad is the top level of the three-tier structure and is also known as the District Panchayat, District Development Council, etc. The composition of the Zilla Parishad also differs from state to state. Generally, the Zilla Parishad consists of representatives of the Panchayat Samiti under its jurisdiction, local members of the state legislature, members of Parliament representing a part or whole of the district, co-opted members representing Scheduled Castes. Scheduled Tribes, women, etc., representatives of cooperative bodies, district level officers of the medical, public health, public works, engineering, agriculture, education, veterinary and other development departments. The Zilla Parishad elects its own chairman from amongst its members who is known as tare Pradhan.
The Zilla Parishad performs mainly coordinating and supervisory functions. It coordinates the work of the Panchayat Samitis under its jurisdiction and ensures the implementation of the various developmental schemes within its jurisdiction. It also examines and approves the budget of Panchayat Samitis under it. The Zilla Parishad also performs important administrative functions which include the establishment and maintenance of primary and secondary schools, hospitals and dispensaries, irrigation works, execution and maintenance of roads, etc. The Zilla Parishad does not possess any independent sources of income and is entirely dependent on the state government for grants. Its other sources include a share in cesses on land revenue, stamp duties, etc.
Strengthening The PRIs
The 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments marked a watershed in the history of decentralised governance, planning, and development in India as these made panchayat bodies the third tier of government with reasonable power and authority in addition to creating space for women and marginalised groups in the federal set-up. Decentralised democracy was also extended to Fifth Schedule areas through the provisions of another Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 known as the Extension Act which not only made the gram sabha a strong body, but also put ‘jal, jungle, and jamin’ (water, forest, and land) under its control.
These central acts, however, instead of clearly specifying the powers and functions of panchayats and municipalities, have left it to the discretion of state governments. Articles 243 G and 243 W of these acts decree that the legislature of a state may, by law, endow the panchayats/municipalities with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government. Such law may also contain provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon panchayats/municipalities, subject to such conditions as may be specified therein, with respect to the preparation of plans and implementation of such schemes for economic development and social justice as may be entrusted to them. These may include inter alia schemes and plans in relation to socio-economic development and providing basic services as listed in the Eleventh and Twelfth Schedules of the Constitution.
Article 243 ZD of the 74th Amendment Act providing for constitution of district planning committees (DPC) by the state government in every district is a milestone in decentralised planning with people’s participation. These committees are expected to consolidate the plans prepared by the panchayats and municipalities in the district and prepare a draft development plan for the district as a whole. DPCs have been set up in most of the states. Much of the implementation of these panchayat acts, i.e., power-sharing with panchayat bodies are left to the states. Over the years, the panchayat bodies have not been strengthened in terms of functions, finances and functionaries (triple Fs) with regard to the preparation of plans and the listed subjects. The Economic Survey 2014–15 suggests the following steps towards strengthening the PRIs:
(i) The panchayat bodies have the potential to become true vehicles for carrying out the government’s slogan of “less government–more governance” if states show consensus. (ii) In order to convert outlays of the local-centric programmes into outcomes, these institutions need greater awareness, responsibility, and accountability, which will also enable better connect of these programmes with the common man. (iii) Greater devolution of powers to the panchayats and municipalities is the need of the hour, in respect of the ‘triple Fs’ in a phased manner. (iv) Majority of panchayat/municipalitycentric programmes do have earmarked funds for awareness generation and capacity building. These funds across ministries need to be pooled together under the Panchayati Raj Ministry and Ministry of Urban Development to make infrastructure and capacity building of panchayats and municipalities a continuous and regular process.
These steps will create the following possibilities in the local bodies:
(a) Enable them to understand not only their role and rights but also their responsibilities and will make them accountable, bringing about qualitative improvement in governance at decentralised level. (b) Transform them into vibrant institutions and enable them to perform their envisaged role in participatory planning, implementation, execution, monitoring, and supervision and also carry out social audit of all panchayat/ municipality-centric programmes.
Government has given high priority to ‘inclusion’ factor—through the ideas of “inclusive growth” (as outlined by the 11th Plan, 2007-12) and the “third generation of economic reforms” (launched 2002, on the margins of the 10th Plan, 2002-07)—it is officially decided to use the PRIs as the main tool. In this way, it is essential for the governments (centre and states, both) to use the untapped potential of the PRIs as the vehicle of decentralising the fruits of growth and development to the ‘grass-root’ level. For this the PRIs need strengthening—newly created ‘think tank’, the NITI can play as an instrumental role in it (through its platform, the ‘Governing Council’)—in reaching a broad consensus among the governments regarding it.
The term Panchayati Raj in India signifies the system of rural local self-government. It has been established in all the states of India by the Acts of the state legislatures to build democracy at the grass root level1. It is entrusted with rural development. It was institutionalized through the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992.
EVOLUTION OF PANCHAYATI RAJ
Balwant Rai Mehta Committee
In January 1957, the Government of India appointed a committee to examine the working of the Community Development Programme (1952) and the National Extension Service (1953) and to suggest measures for their better working. The chairman of this committee was Balwant Rai G Mehta. The committee submitted its report in November 1957 and recommended the establishment of the scheme of ‘democratic decentralization’, which ultimately came to be known as Panchayati Raj. The specific recommendations made by it are:
Establishment of a three-tier Panchayati Raj system—gram panchayat at the village level, panchayat samiti at the block level and Zila Parishad at the district level. These tiers should be organically linked through a device of indirect elections.
The village panchayat should be constituted with directly elected representatives, whereas the Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad should be constituted with indirectly elected members.
All planning and development activities should be entrusted to these bodies.
The panchayat samiti should be the executive body while the Zila Parishad should be the advisory, coordinating and supervisory body.
The district collector should be the chairman of the zilaparishad.
There should be a genuine transfer of power and responsibility to these democratice bodies.
Adequate resources should be transferred to these bodies to enable them to discharge their functions and fulfil their responsibilities.
A system should be evolved to effect further devolution of authority in future.
These recommendations of the committee were accepted by the National Development Council in January 1958. The council did not insist on a single rigid pattern and left it to the states to evolve their own patterns suitable to local conditions. But the basic principles and broad fundamentals should be identical throughout the country.
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.
Though most of the states created Panchayati Raj institutions by mid-1960s, there were differences from one state to another with regard to the number of tiers, the relative position of Samiti and Parishad, their tenure, composition, functions, finances and so on. For example, Rajasthan adopted the three-tier system while Tamil Nadu adopted the two-tier system. West Bengal, on the other hand, adopted the four-tier system. Further, in the Rajasthan–Andhra Pradesh pattern, panchayat Samiti was powerful as the block was the unit of planning and development, while in Maharashtra–Gujarat pattern, Zila Parishad was powerful as the district was the unit of planning and development. Some states also established Nyaya panchayats, that is, judicial panchayats to try petty civil and criminal cases.
Study Teams and Committees
Since 1960, many study teams, committees, and working groups have been appointed to examine the various aspects of the functioning of the Panchayati Raj system. They are mentioned below in Table 34.1.
Study Teams and Committees on Panchayati Raj
Name of the study Team / Committee
Committee on Rationalisation of Panchayat Statistics
Working Group on Panchayats and Cooperatives
Study Team on Panchayati Raj Administration
Study Team on Nyaya Panchayats
Study Team on the Position of Gram Sabha in Panchayati Raj Movement
Study Group on Budgeting and Accounting Procedure of Panchayati Raj Institutions
M. Rama Krishnayya
Study Team on Panchayati Raj Finances
Committee on Panchayati Raj Elections
Study Team on the Audit and Accounts of Panchayati Raj Bodies
Committee on Panchayati Raj Training Centres
Study Team on Involvement of Community Development Agency and Panchayati Raj Institutions in the Implementation of Basic Land Reform Measures
Working Group for Formulation of Fifth Five Year Plan on Community Development and Panchayati Raj
Committee on Community Development and Panchayati Raj1961
Smt. Daya Choubey
Ashok Mehta Committee
In December 1977, the Janata Government appointed a committee on panchayati raj institutions under the chairmanship of Ashok Mehta. It submitted its report in August 1978 and made 132 recommendations to revive and strengthen the declining panchayati raj system in the country. Its main recommendations were:
The three-tier system of panchayati raj should be replaced by the two-tier system, that is, zilaparishad at the district level, and below it, the mandal panchayat consisting of a group of villages with a total population of 15,000 to 20,000.
A district should be the first point for decentralisation under popular supervision below the state level.
Zila parishad should be the executive body and made responsible for planning at the district level.
There should be an officialparticipation of political parties at all levels of panchayat elections.
The panchayati raj institutions should have compulsory powers of taxation to mobilise their own financial resourses.
There should be a regular social audit by a district level agency and by a committee of legislators to check whether the funds allotted for the vulnerable social and economic groups are actually spent on them.
The state government should not supersede the panchayati raj institutions. In case of an imperative supersession, elections should be held within six months from the date of supersession.
The nyaya panchayats should be kept as separate bodies from that of development panchayats. They should be presided over by a qualified judge.
The chief electoral officer of a state in consultation with the chief election commissioner should organise and conduct the panchayati raj elections.
Development functions should be transferred to the zilaparishad and all development staff should work under its control and supervision.
The voluntary agencies should play an important role in mobilising the support of the people for panchayati raj.
A minister for panchayati raj should be appointed in the state council of ministers to look after the affairs of the panchayati raj institutions.
Seats for SCs and STs should be reserved on the basis of their population.
A constitutional recognition should be accorded to the Panchayati Raj institutions. This would give them the requisite status (sanctity and stature) and an assurance of continuous functioning.
Due to the collapse of the Janata Government before the completion of its term, no action could be taken on the recommendations of the Ashok Mehta Committee at the central level. However, the three states of Karnataka, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh took steps to revitalize the Panchayati Raj, keeping in view some of the recommendations of the Ashok Mehta Committee.
G V K Rao Committee
The Committee on Administrative Arrangement for Rural Development and Poverty Alleviation Programmes under the chairmanship of G.V.K. Rao was appointed by the Planning Commission in The Committee came to the conclusion that the developmental process was gradually bureaucratized and divorced from the Panchayati Raj. This phenomenon of bureaucratization of development administration as against the democratization weakened the Panchayati Raj institutions resulting in what is aptly called ‘grass without roots’. Hence, the Committee made the following recommendations to strengthen and revitalize the Panchayati Raj system:
(i) The district level body, that is, the Zila Parishad should be of pivotal importance in the scheme of democratic decentralization. It stated that “the district is the proper unit for planning and development and the Zila Parishad should become the principal body for management of all development programmes which can be handled at that level.” (ii) The Panchayati Raj institutions at the district and lower levels should be assigned an important role with respect to planning, implementation and monitoring of rural development programmes. (iii) Some of the planning functions at the state level should be transferred to the district level planning units for effective decentralized district planning. (iv) A post of District Development Commissioner should be created. He should act as the chief executive officer of the Zila Parishad and should be in charge of all the development departments at the district level. (v) Elections to the Panchayati Raj institutions should be held regularly. It found that elections became overdue for one or more tiers in 11 states.
Thus the committee, in its scheme of the decentralized system of field administration, assigned a leading role to the Panchayati Raj in local planning and development. It is in this respect that the recommendation of the G.V.K. Rao Committee Report (1986) differed from those of the Dantwala Committee Report on Block-Level Planning (1978) and the Hanumantha Rao Committee Report on District Planning (1984). Both the committees have suggested that the basic decentralized planning function should be done at the district level. The Hanumantha Rao Committee advocated separate district planning bodies under either the District Collector or a minister. In both the models, the Collector should play a significant role in the decentralized planning through the Committee stated that Panchayati Raj institutions would also be associated with this process (of decentralized planning). The committee recommended that the Collector should be the coordinator, at the district level, of all developmental and planning activities. Thus the Hanumantha Rao Committee differed in this respect from those of Balwantray Mehta Committee, the Administrative Reforms Commission of India, the Ashok Mehta Committee and finally the G.V.K. Rao Committee which recommended the reduction in the developmental role of the District Collector and which assigned a major role to the Panchayati Raj in development administration.
L M Singhvi Committee
In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi government appointed a committee on ‘Revitalisation of Panchayati Raj Institutions for Democracy and Development’ under the chairmanship of L M Singhvi. It made the following recommendations. (i) The Panchayati Raj institutions should be constitutionally recognized, protected and preserved. For this purpose, a new chapter should be added in the Constitution of India. This will make their identity and integrity reasonably and substantially inviolate. It also suggested constitutional provisions to ensure regular, free and fair elections to the Panchayati Raj bodies. (ii) Nyaya Panchayats should be established for a cluster of villages. (iii) The villages should be reorganized to make Gram Panchayats more viable. It also emphasized the importance of the Gram Sabha and called it as the embodiment of direct democracy. (iv) The Village Panchayats should have more financial resources. (v) The judicial tribunals should be established in each state to adjudicate controversies about the election to the Panchayati Raj institutions, their dissolution and other matters related to their functioning.
Rajiv Gandhi Government The Rajiv Gandhi Government introduced the 64th Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha in July 1989 to constitutionalize Panchayati Raj institutions and make them more powerful and broad-based. Although the Lok Sabha passed the bill in August 1989, it was not approved by the Rajya Sabha. The bill was vehemently opposed by the Opposition on the ground that it sought to strengthen centralization in the federal system.
V P Singh Government The National Front Government, soon after assuming office in November 1989 under the Prime Ministership of V P Singh, announced that it would take steps to strengthen the Panchayati Raj institutions. In June 1990, a two-day conference of the state chief ministers under the chairmanship of V P Singh was held to discuss the issues relating to the strengthening of the panchayati raj bodies. The conference approved the proposals for the introduction of a fresh constitutional amendment bill. Consequently, a constitutional amendment bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in September 1990. However, the fall of the government resulted in the lapse of the bill.
Narasimha Rao Government The Congress Government under the prime ministership of P V Narasimha Rao once again considered the matter of the constitutionalization of Panchayati Raj bodies. It drastically modified the proposals in this regard to deleting the controversial aspects and introduced a constitutional amendment bill in the Lok Sabha in September 1991. This bill finally emerged as the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1992 and came into force on 24 April 1993.
73RD AMENDMENT ACT OF 1992
Significance of the Act
This act has added a new Part-IX to the Constitution of India. It 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 has given a practical shape to Article 40 of the Constitution which says that “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 units of self-government.” This article forms a part of the Directive Principles of State Policy.
The act gives constitutional status to the Panchayati Raj institutions. It has brought them under the purview of the justiciable part of the Constitution. In other words, the state governments are under constitutional obligation to adopt the new Panchayati Raj system in accordance with the provisions of the act. Consequently, neither the formation of panchayats nor the holding of elections at regular intervals depends on the will of the state government anymore.
The provisions of the act can be grouped into two categories—compulsory and voluntary. The compulsory (mandatory or obligatory) provisions of the act have to be included in the state laws creating the new Panchayati Raj system. The voluntary provisions, on the other hand, may be included at the discretion of the states. Thus the voluntary provisions of the act ensure the right of the states to take local factors like geographical, politico-administrative and others, into consideration while adopting the new Panchayati Raj system.
The act is a significant landmark in the evolution of grassroots democratic institutions in the country. It transfers the representative democracy into participatory democracy. It is a revolutionary concept to build democracy at the grassroot level in the country.
The salient features of the act are:
Gram Sabha 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 consisting of all the registered voters in the area of a panchayat. It may exercise such powers and perform such functions at the village level as the legislature of a state determines.
Three-Tier System The act provides for a three-tier system of Panchayati Raj in every state, that is Panchayats at the village, intermediate, and district levels. Thus, the act brings about uniformity in the structure of Panchayati raj throughout the country. However, a state having a population not exceeding 20 lakh may not constitute panchayats at the intermediate level.
Election of Members and Chairpersons All the members of panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels shall be elected directly by the people. Further, the chairperson of panchayats at the intermediate and district levels shall be elected indirectly—by and from amongst the elected members thereof. However, the chairperson of a panchayat at the village level shall be elected in such manner as the state legislature determines.
Reservation of Seats 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 the proportion of their population to the total population in the panchayat area. Further, the state legislature shall provide for the reservation of offices of the chairperson in the panchayat at the village or any other level for the SCs and STs.
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 act also authorizes the legislature of a state to make any provision for reservation of seats in any Panchayat or offices of the chairperson in the panchayat at any level in favour of backward classes.
Duration of Panchayats 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 the case of dissolution, before the expiry of a period of six months from the date of its dissolution.
Disqualifications 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.
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. His conditions of service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment.
The state legislature may make provision with respect to all matters relating to elections to the panchayats.
Powers and Functions 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. Such a scheme may contain provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon Panchayats at the appropriate level with respect to (a) the preparation of plans for economic development and social justice; (b) 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 The state legislature may (a) authorize 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 money of the panchayats.
Finance Commission The governor of a state shall, after every five years, constitute a finance committee to review the financial position of the panchayats. It shall make the following recommendations to the Governor:
The principles that should govern: (a) The distribution between the state and the panchayats of the net proceeds of the taxes, duties, tolls, and fees levied by the state. (b) The determination of taxes, duties, tolls, and fees that may be assigned to the panchayats. (c) The grants-in-aid to the panchayats from the consolidated fund of the state.
The measures needed to improve the financial position of the panchayats.
Any other matter referred to it by the governor in the interests of sound finance of the panchayats.
The state legislature may provide for the composition of the commission, the required qualifications of its members and the manner of their selection.
The governor shall place the recommendations of the commission along with the action taken report before the state legislature.
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 (on the basis of the recommendations made by the finance committee of the state).
Audit of Accounts The state legislature may make provisions with respect to the maintenance of accounts by the panchayats and the auditing of such accounts.
Application to Union Territories The president of India may direct that the provisions of this act shall apply to any union territory subject to such exceptions and modifications as he may specify.
Exempted States and Areas The act does not apply to the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram and certain other areas. These areas include, (a) the scheduled areas and the tribal areas in the states5; (b) the hill area of Manipur for which a district council exists; and (c) Darjeeling district of West Bengal for which Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council exists.
However, the Parliament may extend the provisions of this Part to the scheduled 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 (PESA).
Continuance of Existing Laws and Panchayats All the state laws relating to panchayats shall continue to be in force until the expiry of one year from the commencement of this act. In other words, the states have to adopt the new Panchayati Raj system based on this act within the maximum period of one year from 24 April 1993, which was the date of the commencement of this act. However, all the Panchayats existing immediately before the commencement of the action shall continue till the expiry of their term, unless dissolved by the state legislature sooner.
Consequently, the majority of states passed the Panchayati Raj acts in 1993 and 1994 to adopt the new system in accordance with the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992.
Bar to Interference by Courts in Electoral Matters The act bars the interference by courts in the electoral matters of panchayats. 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 panchayat is to be questioned except by an election petition presented to such authority and in such manner as provided by the state legislature.
Eleventh Schedule It contains the following 29 functional items placed within the purview of panchayats:
Agriculture, including agricultural extension
Land improvement, implementation of land reforms, land consolidation and soil conservation
Minor irrigation, water management and watershed development
Animal husbandry, dairying and poultry
Social forestry and farm forestry
Minor forest produce
Small-scale industries, including food processing industries
Khadi, village and cottage industries
Fuel and fodder
Roads, culverts, bridges, ferries, waterways and other means of communication
Rural electrification, including distribution of electricity
Non-conventional energy sources
Poverty alleviation programme
Education, including primary and secondary schools
Technical training and vocational education
Adult and non-formal education
Markets and fairs
Health and sanitation including hospitals, primary health centres and dispensaries
Women and child development
Social welfare, including welfare of the handicapped and mentally retarded
Welfare of the weaker sections, and in particular, of the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes
Public distribution system
Maintenance of community assets.
COMPULSORY AND VOLUNTARY PROVISIONS
Now, we will identify separately the compulsory (obligatory or mandatory) and voluntary (discretionary or optional) provisions (features) of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act (1992) or the Part IX of the Constitution:
A. Compulsory Provisions
Organisation of Gram Sabha in a village or group of villages.
Establishment of panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels.
Direct elections to all seats in panchayats at the village, intermediate and district levels.
Indirect elections to the post of chairperson of panchayats at the intermediate and district levels.
21 years to be the minimum age for contesting elections to panchayats.
Reservation of seats (both members and chairpersons) for SCs and STs in panchayats at all the three levels.
Reservation of one-third seats (both members and chairpersons) for women in panchayats at all the three levels.
Fixing tenure of five years for panchayats at all levels and holding fresh elections within six months in the event of supersession of any panchayat.
Establishment of a State Election Commission for conducting elections to the panchayats.
Constitution of a State Finance Commission after every five years to review the financial position of the panchayats.
B. Voluntary Provisions
Giving representation to members of the Parliament (both the Houses) and the state legislature (both the Houses) in the panchayats at different levels falling within their constituencies.
Providing reservation of seats (both members and chairpersons) for backward classes in panchayats at any level.
Granting powers and authority to the panchayats to enable them to function as institutions of self-government (in brief, making them autonomous bodies).
Devolution of powers and responsibilities upon panchayats to prepare plans for economic development and social justice; and to perform some or all of the 29 functions listed in the Eleventh Schedule of the Constitution.
Granting financial powers to the pachayats, that is, authorizing them to levy, collect and appropriate taxes, duties, tolls and fees.
Community Development Programme starts on 2nd October
Balvantrai Mehta Committee, appointed in January, submits its report on 24 November
Several state governments enact new Panchayat Acts bringing in three-tier panchayat system
Jawaharlal Nehru inaugurates the first generation panchayat at Nagaur in Rajasthan on 2nd October Kerala District Council Bill is introduced in Kerala Assembly; lapses after Assembly is dissolved
Decline of first generation Panchayati Raj Institutions
II. Growth and Decline of Second Generation Panchayats
Panchayat elections are held in West Bengal on party basis on 4th June—marking the beginning of second generation of Panchayati Raj. Ashok Mehta Committee on working of panchayats, appointed on 12 December 1977, submits its report on 21 August
Karnataka government enacts new PR Act
Hanumantha Rao Committee on district level planning, appointed by Planning Commission in September 1982, submits its report in May
Karnataka PR Act receives President’s assent in July; comes into force on 14th August
G.V.K. Rao Committee on administrative aspects of rural development, appointed by Planning Commission on 25 March, submits its report in December
Andhra Pradesh follows West Bengal and Karnataka Panchayati Raj Model
Karnataka holds panchayat elections in January
Panchayats are dissolved and brought under administrators in Karnataka
III. Constitutionalisation of Panchayati Raj
L.M. Singhvi Committee submits its report on 27 November; recommends constitutional status for panchayats
Consultative Committee of Parliament appoints a sub-committee under chairpersonship of P.K. Thungon to consider Constitutional Amendment
64th Constitutional Amendment Bill is introduced in Parliament on 15 May; is defeated in Rajya Sabha on 15 October
74th Constitutional Amendment Bill is introduced in Parliament on 7 September; lapses on dissolution of Lok Sabha
72nd (Panchayats) and 73rd (Municipalities) Amendment Bills are introduced in Parliament; referred to the Parliament’s Joint Select Committee in September
Lok Sabha passes both the Bills on 22 December; Rajya Sabha passes them on 23 December
73rd Amendment Act, 1992 comes into force on 24 April 74th Amendment Act, 1992 comes into force on 1 June
All state governments pass Conformity Acts between 30 May, 1993 and 23 April, 1994
Madhya Pradesh holds panchayat elections under the 73rd Amendment dispensation on 30 May
Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, extending 73rd Amendment Act to Scheduled Areas, comes into force on 24 December. Kerala launches People’s Plan Campaign on 16 August
Bihar holds panchayat elections after 23 years (11-30 April)
83rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 2000 amends Art. 243-M to dispense with reservations for Scheduled Castes in Arunachal Pradesh—paving way for panchayat elections in the only state yet to hold them under the new dispensation
Under this system, the welfare of its citizens is the responsibility of the state. India was not a welfare state before independence. The British rule was not very interested in protecting and promoting the welfare of the people. Whatever it did was in keeping with the interests of the British colonial government and not in the interests of the people of India.
When India attained independence, it had innumerable problems and challenges. The social and economic inequality was all pervasive. Economically, India’s situation was miserable. Socially also India was having a number of problems. There were social inequalities and all the vulnerable sections of the society such as women, Dalits, children were deprived of basic means of living. The Constitution makers were very much aware of the problems. That is why they decided that India would be a welfare state. As you must have seen, India is described as a “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution. Accordingly, the Constitution has extensive provisions to ensure the social and economic welfare of the people of India. In this regard two specific provisions have been made, one in the form of Fundamental Rights and the other as Directive Principles of State Policy.
The Fundamental Rights embodied in Part III of the Indian Constitution act as a guarantee that all Indian citizens can and will enjoy civil liberties and basic rights. These civil liberties take precedence over any other law of the land. They are individual rights commonly included in the Constitutions of liberal democracies. Some of these important rights are: equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of association and peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, and the right to constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights. But this was not enough. Indian citizens also needed opportunities for economic and social development. That is why Part IV on Directive Principles of State Policy was included in the Indian Constitution.
Fundamental Duties After going through the Fundamental Rights, you must have observed and realized that in return for every right, the society expects the citizens to do certain things which are collectively known as duties. Some such important duties have been incorporated in the Indian Constitution also. The original Constitution enforced on 26th January, 1950 did not mention anything about the duties of the citizen. It was expected that the citizens of free India would perform their duties willingly. But things did not go as expected. Therefore, ten Fundamental Duties were added in Part-IV of the Constitution underArticle 51-A in the year 1976 through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment. However, whereas Fundamental Rights are justiciable, the Fundamental Duties are non-justiciable. It means that the violation of fundamental duties, i.e. the non-performance of these duties by citizens is not punishable. The following ten duties have been listed in the Constitution of India:
1. to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag, National Anthem;
2. to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
3. to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
4. to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do;
5. to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
6. to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
7. to protect and improve the natural environments including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife;
8. to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
9. to safeguard public property and not to use violence; and
10. to serve towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity.
Besides, a new duty has been added after the passage of Right to Education Act,“A parent or guardian has to provide opportunities for the education of his child/ward between the age of six and fourteen years.
Nature of Fundamental Duties
These duties are in the nature of a code of conduct. Since they are unjustifiable, there is no legal sanction behind them. As you will find, a few of these duties are vague. For example, a common citizen may not understand what is meant by ‘composite culture’, ‘rich heritage’ ‘humanism’, or ‘excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activities’. They will realize the importance of these duties only when these terms are simplified A demand has been made from time to time to revise the present list, simplify their language and make them more realistic and meaningful and add some urgently required more realistic duties. As far as possible, they should be made justiciable.
Do You Know
1. Proper upbringing of the children and maintenance of the parents in their old age were included in the list of Fundamental Duties in the Soviet Constitution of 1977.
2. To educate the children, not to interfere with public welfare, to pay the taxes and the right to work has been included in the Constitution of Japan.
Though the rights and duties of the citizens are correlative and inseparable, the original constitution contained only the fundamental rights and not the fundamental duties. In other words, the framers of the Constitution did not feel it necessary to incorporate the fundamental duties of the citizens in the Constitution. However, they incorporated the duties of the State in the Constitution in the form of Directive Principles of State Polity. Later in 1976, the fundamental duties of citizens were added in the Constitution. In 2002, one more Fundamental Duty was added.
The Fundamental Duties in the Indian Constitution are inspired by the Constitution of erstwhile USSR. Notably, none of the Constitutions of major democratic countries like USA, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and so on specifically contain a list of duties of citizens. Japanese Constitution is, perhaps, the only democratic Constitution in the world which contains a list of duties of citizens. The socialist countries, on the contrary, gave equal importance to the fundamental rights and duties of their citizens. Hence, the Constitution of erstwhile USSR declared that the citizen’s exercise of their rights and freedoms was inseparable from the performance of their duties and obligations.
SWARAN SINGH COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS
In 1976, the Congress Party set up the Sardar Swaran Singh Committee to make recommendations about fundamental duties, the need, and necessity of which was felt during the operation of the internal emergency (1975–1977). The committee recommended the inclusion of a separate chapter on fundamental duties in the Constitution. It stressed that the citizens should become conscious that in addition to the enjoyment of rights, they also have certain duties to perform as well. The Congress Government at Centre accepted these recommendations and enacted the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act in 1976. This amendment added a new part, namely, Part IVA to the Constitution. This new part consists of only one Article, that is, Article 51A which for the first time specified a code often fundamental duties of the citizens. The ruling Congress party declared the non-inclusion of fundamental duties in the Constitution as a historical mistake and claimed that what the framers of the Constitution failed to do was being done now.
Though the Swaran Singh Committee suggested the incorporation of eight Fundamental Duties in the Constitution, the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act (1976) included ten Fundamental Duties.
Interestingly, certain recommendations of the Committee were not accepted by the Congress Party and hence, not incorporated in the Constitution. These include:
The Parliament may provide for the imposition of such penalty or punishment as may be considered appropriate for any non-compliance with or refusal to observe any of the duties.
No law imposing such penalty or punishment shall be called in question in any court on the ground of infringement of any of Fundamental Rights or on the ground of repugnancy to any other provision of the Constitution.
Duty to pay taxes should also be a Fundamental Duty of the citizens.
LIST OF FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES
According to Article 51 A, it shall be the duty of every citizen of India:
(a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem; (b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals that inspired the national struggle for freedom; (c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India; (d) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so; (e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women; (f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of the country’s composite culture; (g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures; (h) to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform; (i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence; (j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement; and (k) to provide opportunities for education to his child or ward between the age of six and fourteen years. This duty was added by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2002.
FEATURES OF THE FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES
Following points can be noted with regard to the characteristics of the Fundamental Duties:
Some of them are moral duties while others are civic duties. For instance, cherishing noble ideals of freedom struggle is a moral precept and respecting the Constitution, National Flag and National Anthem is a civic duty.
They refer to such values which have been a part of the Indian tradition, mythology, religions and practices. In other words, they essentially contain just a codification of tasks integral to the Indian way of life.
Unlike some of the Fundamental Rights which extend to all persons whether citizens or foreigners1, the Fundamental Duties are confined to citizens only and do not extend to foreigners.
Like the Directive Principles, the fundamental duties are also non-justiciable. The Constitution does not provide for their direct enforcement by the courts. Moreover, there is notlegal sanction against their violation. However, the Parliament is free to enforce them by suitable legislation.
CRITICISM OF FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES
The Fundamental Duties mentioned in Part VIA of the Constitution have been criticised on the following grounds:
The list of duties is not exhaustive as it does not cover other important duties like casting vote, paying taxes, family planning and so on. In fact, duty to pay taxes was recommended by the Swaran Singh Committee.
Some of the duties are vague, ambiguous and difficult to be understood by the common man. For example, different interpretations can be given to the phrases like ‘noble ideals’, ‘composite culture’, ‘scientific temper’ and so on.
They have been described by the critics as a code of moral precepts due to their nonjusticiable character. Interestingly, the Swaran Singh Committee had suggested for penalty or punishment for the non-performance of Fundamental Duties.
Their inclusion in the Constitution was described by the critics as superfluous. This is because the duties included in the Constitution as fundamental would be performed by the people even though they were not incorporated in the Constitution.
The critics said that the inclusion of fundamental duties as an appendage to Part IV of the Constitution has reduced their value and significance. They should have been added after Part III so as to keep them on par with Fundamental Rights.
SIGNIFICANCE OF FUNDAMENTAL DUTIES
In spite of criticisms and opposition, the fundamental duties are considered significant from the following viewpoints:
They serve as a reminder to the citizens that while enjoying their rights, they should also be conscious of duties they owe to their country, their society and to their fellow citizens.
They serve as a warning against the anti-national and antisocial activities like burning the national flag, destroying public property and so on.
They serve as a source of inspiration for the citizens and promote a sense of discipline and commitment among them. They create a feeling that the citizens are not mere spectators but active participants in the realization of national goals.
They help the courts in examining and determining the constitutional validity of a law. In 1992, the Supreme Court ruled that in determining the constitutionality of any law, if a court finds that the law in question seeks to give effect to a fundamental duty, it may consider such law to be ‘reasonable’ in relation to Article 14 (equality before law) or Article 19 (six freedoms) and thus save such law from unconstitutionality.
They are enforceable by law. Hence, the Parliament can provide for the imposition of appropriate penalty or punishment for failure to fulfil any of them.
H R Gokhale, the then Law Minister, gave the following reason for incorporating the fundamental duties in the Constitution after twenty- six years of its inauguration: ‘In post-independent India, particularly on the eve of emergency in June 1975, a section of the people showed no anxiety to fulfil their fundamental obligations of respecting the established legal order ….. the provisions of chapter on fundamental duties would have a sobering effect on these restless spirits who have had a host of anti-national subversive and unconstitutional agitations in the past’.
Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, justified the inclusion of fundamental duties in the Constitution and argued that their inclusion would help to strengthen democracy. She said, ‘the moral value of fundamental duties would be not to smoother rights but to establish a democratic balance by making the people conscious of their duties equally as they are conscious of their rights’.
The Opposition in the Parliament strongly opposed the inclusion of fundamental duties in the Constitution by the Congress government. However, the new Janata Government headed by Morarji Desai in the post-emergency period did not annul the Fundamental Duties. Notably, the new government sought to undo many changes introduced in the Constitution by the 42nd Amendment Act (1976) through the 43rd Amendment Act (1977) and the 44th Amendment Act (1978). This shows that there was an eventual consensus on the necessity and desirability of including the Fundamental Duties in the Constitution. This is more clear with the addition of one more Fundamental Duty in 2002 by the 86th Amendment Act.
VERMA COMMITTEE OBSERVATIONS
The Verma Committee on Fundamental Duties of the Citizens (1999) identified the existence of legal provisions for the implementation of some of the Fundamental Duties. They are mentioned below:
The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act (1971) prevents disrespect to the Constitution of India, the National Flag and the National Anthem.
The various criminal laws in force provide for punishments for encouraging enmity between different sections of people on grounds of language, race, place of birth, religion and so on.
The Protection of Civil Rights Act4 (1955) provides for punishments for offences related to caste and religion.
The Indian Penal Code (IPC) declares the imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration as punishable offences.
The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967 provides for the declaration of a communal organisation as an unlawful association.
The Representation of People Act (1951) provides for the disqualification of members of the Parliament or a state legislature for indulging in corrupt practice, that is, soliciting votes on the ground of religion or promoting enmity between different sections of people on grounds of caste, race, language, religion and so on.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972 prohibits trade in rare and endangered species.
The Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980 checks indiscriminate deforestation and diversion of forest land for non-forest purposes.
Another important feature of the Indian political system is its parliamentary form of government both at the union and state levels. There are two forms of government: presidential and parliamentary. In presidential system, the three organs of government are independent of one another. There is absence of close relationship between the executive and the legislature. The United States of America has a presidential form of government. But, in a parliamentary form of government, there is a very close relationship between the executive and the legislature. United Kingdom has a parliamentary form of government. In fact, the Constitution makers of India adopted the British model, as the system of government that operated in India before 1947 was to a great extent quite similar to the British parliamentary government. In India, we have parliamentary form of government both at the central and state level. The Indian system reflects all the main features of a parliamentary government: (i) close relationship between the legislature and the executive, (ii) responsibility of the executive to the legislature, (iii) the executive having a Head of the State as the nominal executive, and a Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister as the real executive.
1. Close Relationship between the Legislature and the Executive: In India, there is a close relationship between the executive, i.e. the Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head and the legislature, i.e. the Parliament. Only the leader of the majority party or coalition of parties can be appointed as the Prime Minister. All the members of the Council of Ministers must be the Members of Parliament. It is only on the advice of the Council of Ministers that the President can summon and prorogue the sessions of both Houses of Parliament and even dissolve the Lok Sabha. All the elected Members of the Parliament participate in the election of the President and he/she can be removed from office only when an impeachment motion against him/her is passed by both the Houses of Parliament.
2. Responsibility of the Executive to the Legislature: The Council of Ministers is collectively responsible to Lok Sabha. It means that the responsibility of every Minister is the responsibility of the entire Council of Ministers. It is responsible to Rajya Sabha also. In fact, both the Houses have powers to control the Council of Ministers. They do it by asking questions and supplementary questions on the policies, programmes and functioning of the government. They debate on the proposals of the government and also subject its functioning to intensive criticism. They can move adjournment motion and calling attention notices. No bill tabled by the Council of Ministers can become law unless it is approved by the Parliament. The annual budget also is to be passed by the Parliament. In real terms, the tenure of the Council of Ministers depends on the Lok Sabha. The Council of Ministers has to resign if it looses the confidence of Lok Sabha, which means the support of the majority in that House. The Council of Ministers can also be removed from office by the Lok Sabha through a vote of no-confidence.
3. Nominal and Real Executive: There are two parts of the executive in India, nominal executive and real executive. The President who is the Head of the State is the nominal and formal executive. Theoretically, all the executive powers are vested by the Constitution in the President of India. But, in practice these are not exercised by him/her. These are actually used by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers. The Council of Ministers with the Prime Minister at the head is the real executive. The President can not act without the advice of the Council of Ministers.
4. Prime Minister as the real executive: It is the Prime Minister who is the pivot of the parliamentary executive. All the members of the Council of Ministers are appointed by the President on the recommendations of the Prime Minister. The allocation of portfolios among the Ministers is the prerogative of the Prime Minister. He/She presides over the meetings of the Cabinet and is the only link between the Council of Ministers and the President. Any Minister can be removed from office if the Prime Minister decides. When the Prime Minister resigns, the entire Council of Ministers has to go.
The parliamentary system in India has been functioning quite satisfactorily. The parliamentary governments in States also are structured on the pattern of the Central government. The executive consists of the Governor and the Council of Ministers with Chief Minister at the head. Whereas, the Governor functions as the Head of the State, the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers act as the real executive. State legislatures are bicameral (State Assembly and Legislative Council) in only a few States; in most of the States, these are unicameral (Legislative Assembly).
FEATURES OF PARLIAMENTARY GOVERNMENT
The features or principles of parliamentary government in India are:
Nominal and Real Executives The President is the nominal executive (de jure executive or titular executive) while the Prime Minister is the real executive (de facto executive). Thus, the President is head of the State, while the Prime Minister is head of the government. Article 74 provides for a council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister to aid and advise the President in the exercise of his functions. The advice so tendered is binding on the President1.
Majority Party Rule The political party which secures majority seats in the Lok Sabha forms the government. The leader of that party is appointed as the Prime Minister by the President; other ministers are appointed by the President on the advice of the prime minister. However, when no single party gets the majority, a coalition of parties may be invited by the President to form the government.
Collective Responsibility This is the bedrock principle of parliamentary government. The ministers are collectively responsible to the Parliament in general and to the Lok Sabha in particular (Article 75). They act as a team, and swim and sink together. The principle of collective responsibility implies that the Lok Sabha can remove the ministry (i.e., council of ministers headed by the prime minister) from office by passing a vote of no confidence.
Political Homogeneity Usually members of the council of ministers belong to the same political party, and hence they share the same political ideology. In case of coalition government, the minister are bound by consensus.
Double Membership The ministers are members of both the legislature and the executive. This means that a person cannot be a minister without being a member of the Parliament. The Constitution stipulates that a minister who is not a member of the Parliament for a period of six consecutive months ceases to be a minister.
Leadership of the Prime Minister The Prime Minister plays the leadership role in this system of government. He is the leader of council of ministers, leader of the Parliament and leader of the party in power. In these capacities, he plays a significant and highly crucial role in the functioning of the government.
Dissolution of the Lower House The lower house of the Parliament (Lok Sabha) can be dissolved by the President on recommendation of the Prime Minister. In other words, the prime minister can advise the President to dissolve the Lok Sabha before the expiry of its term and hold fresh elections. This means that the executive enjoys the right to get the legislature dissolved in a parliamentary system.
Secrecy The ministers operate on the principle of secrecy of procedure and cannot divulge information about their proceedings, policies and decisions. They take the oath of secrecy before entering their office. The oath of secrecy to the ministers is administered by the President.
FEATURES OF PRESIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT
Unlike the Indian Constitution, the American Constitution provides for the presidential form of government. The features of the American presidential system of government are as follows:
(a) The American President is both the head of the State and the head of government. As the head of State, he occupies a ceremonial position. As the head of government, he leads the executive organ of government. (b) The President is elected by an electoral college for a fixed tenure of four years. He cannot be removed by the Congress except by impeachment for a grave unconstitutional act. (c) The President governs with the help of a cabinet or a smaller body called ‘Kitchen Cabinet’. It is only an advisory body and consists of non-elected departmental secretaries. They are selected and appointed by him, are responsible only to him, and can be removed by him any time. (d) The President and his secretaries are not responsible to the Congress for their acts. They neither possess membership in the Congress nor attend its sessions. (e) The President cannot dissolve the House of Representatives—the lower house of the Congress. (f) The doctrine of separation of powers is the basis of the American presidential system. The legislative, executive and judicial powers of the government are separated and vested in the three independent organs of the government.
MERITS OF THE PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
The parliamentary system of government has the following merits:
Harmony Between Legislature and Executive The greatest advantage of the parliamentary system is that it ensures harmonious relationship and cooperation between the legislative and executive organs of the government. The executive is a part of the legislature and both are interdependent at work. As a result, there is less scope for disputes and conflicts between the two organs.
Responsible Government By its very nature, the parliamentary system establishes a responsible government. The ministers are responsible to the Parliament for all their acts of omission and commission. The Parliament exercises control over the ministers through various devices like question hour, discussions, adjournment motion, no-confidence motion, etc.
Prevents Despotism Under this system, the executive authority is vested in a group of individuals (council of ministers) and not in a single person. This dispersal of authority checks the dictatorial tendencies of the executive. Moreover, the executive is responsible to the Parliament and can be removed by a no-confidence motion.
Ready Alternative Government In case the ruling party loses its majority, the Head of the State can invite the opposition party to form the government. This means an alternative government can be formed without fresh elections. Hence, Dr. Jennings says, ‘the leader of the opposition is the alternative prime minister’.
Wide Representation In a parliamentary system, the executive consists of a group of individuals (i.e., ministers who are representatives of the people). Hence, it is possible to provide representation to all sections and regions in the government. The prime minister while selecting his ministers can take this factor into consideration.
DEMERITS OF THE PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
In spite of the above merits, the parliamentary system suffers from the following demerits:
Unstable Government The parliamentary system does not provide a stable government. There is no guarantee that a government can survive its tenure. The ministers depend on the mercy of the majority legislators for their continuity and survival in office. A no-confidence motion or political defection or evils of multiparty coalition can make the government unstable. The Government headed by Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V P Singh, Chandra Sekhar, Deva Gowda and I K Gujral are some such examples.
No Continuity of Policies The parliamentary system is not conducive for the formulation and implementation of long-term policies. This is due to the uncertainty of the tenure of the government. A change in the ruling party is usually followed by changes in the policies of the government. For example, the Janata Government headed by Morarji Desai in 1977 reversed a large number of policies of the previous Congress Government. The same was repeated by the Congress government after it came back to power in 1980.
Dictatorship of the Cabinet When the ruling party enjoys an absolute majority in the Parliament, the cabinet becomes autocratic and exercises nearly unlimited powers. HJ Laski says that the parliamentary system gives the executive an opportunity for tyranny. Ramsay Muir, the former British Prime Minister, also complained of the ‘dictatorship of the cabinet’. This phenomenon was witnessed during the era of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
Against Separation of Powers In the parliamentary system, the legislature and the executive are together and inseparable. The cabinet acts as the leader of the legislature as well as the executive. As Bagehot points out, ‘the cabinet is a hyphen that joins the buckle that binds the executive and legislative departments together.’ Hence, the whole system of government goes against the letter and spirit of the theory of separation of powers. In fact, there is a fusion of powers.
Government by Amateurs The parliamentary system is not conducive to administrative efficiency as the ministers are not experts in their fields. The Prime Minister has a limited choice in the selection of ministers; his choice is restricted to the members of Parliament alone and does not extend to external talent. Moreover, the ministers devote most of their time to parliamentary work, cabinet meetings and party activities.
Now, let us compare the parliamentary and presidential systems in terms of their features, merits, and demerits.
Comparing Parliamentary and Presidential Systems
Features: 1. Dual executive. 2. Majority party rule 3. Collective responsibility. 4. Political homogeneity 5. Double membership. 6. Leadership of prime minister. 7. Dissolution of Lower House. 8. Fusion of powers.
Features: 1. Single executive. 2. President and legislators elected separately for a fixed term. 3. Non-responsibility 4. Political homogeneity may not exist. 5. Single membership 6. Domination of president. 7. No dissolution of Lower House. 8. Separation of powers.
Merits: 1. Harmony between legislature and executive. 2. Responsible government. 3. Prevents despotism. 4. Wide representation.
Demerits: 1. Conflict between legislature and executive. 2. Non-responsible government. 3. May lead to autocracy. 4. Narrow representation.
Demerits: 1. Unstable government. 2. No continuity of policies. 3. Against separation of powers 4. Government by amateurs.
Merits: 1. Stable government. 2. Definiteness in policies. 3. Based on separation of powers. 4. Government by experts
REASONS FOR ADOPTING PARLIAMENTARY SYSTEM
A plea was made in favor of the US presidential system of government in the Constituent Assembly. But, the founding fathers preferred the British parliamentary system due to the following reasons:
Familiarity with the System The Constitution-makers was somewhat familiar with the parliamentary system as it had been in operation in India during the British rule. KM Munshi argued that ‘For the last thirty or forty years, some kind of responsibility has been introduced in the governance of this country. Our constitutional traditions have become Parliamentary. After this experience, why should we go back and buy a novel experience.’
Preference to More Responsibility Dr. B R Ambedkar pointed out in the Constituent Assembly that ‘a democratic executive must satisfy two conditions: stability and responsibility. Unfortunately, it has not been possible so far to devise a system which can ensure both in equal degree. The American system gives more stability but less responsibility. The British system, on the other hand, gives more responsibility but less stability. The Draft Constitution in recommending the parliamentary system of Executive has preferred more responsibility to more stability.’
Need to Avoid Legislative—Executive Conflicts The framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid the conflicts between the legislature and the executive which are bound to occur in the presidential system prevalent in the USA. They thought that an infant democracy could not afford to take the risk of a perpetual cleavage, feud or conflict or threatened conflict between these two organs of the government. They wanted a form of government that would be conducive to the manifold development of the country.
Nature of Indian Society India is one of the most heterogeneous States and most complex plural societies in the world. Hence, the Constitution-makers adopted the parliamentary system as it offers greater scope for giving representation to various section, interests, and regions in the government.
This promotes a national spirit among the people and builds a united India.
Whether the parliamentary system should be continued or should be replaced by the presidential system has been a point of discussion and debate in our country since the 1970s. This matter was considered in detail by the Swaran Singh Committee appointed by the Congress government in 1975. The committee opined that the parliamentary system has been doing well and hence, there is no need to replace it by the presidential system.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN INDIAN AND BRITISH MODELS
The parliamentary system of government in India is largely based on the British parliamentary system. However, it never became a replica of the British system and differs in the following respects:
India has a republican system in place of British monarchical system. In other words, the Head of the State in India (that is, President) is elected, while the Head of the State in Britain (that is, King or Queen) enjoys a hereditary position.
The British system is based on the doctrine of the sovereignty of Parliament, while the Parliament is not supreme in India and enjoys limited and restricted powers due to a written Constitution, federal system, judicial review, and fundamental rights.
In Britain, the prime minister should be a member of the Lower House (House of Commons) of the Parliament. In India, the prime minister may be a member of any of the two Houses of Parliament.
Usually, the members of Parliament alone are appointed as ministers in Britain. In India, a person who is not a member of Parliament can also be appointed as minister, but for a maximum period of six months.
Britain has the system of legal responsibility of the minister while India has no such system. Unlike in Britain, the ministers in India are not required to countersign the official acts of the Head of the State.
‘Shadow cabinet’ is an unique institution of the British cabinet system. It is formed by the opposition party to balance the ruling cabinet and to prepare its members for future ministerial office. There is no such institution in India.
The main advantage of the parliamentary form of government is that
(a) the executive and legislature work independently.
(b) it provides continuity of policy and is more efficient.
(c) the executive remains responsible to the legislature.
(d) the head of the government cannot be changed without election.
The Constitution of India provides for a parliamentary form of government, both at the Centre and in the states. Articles 74 and 75 deal with the parliamentary system at the Centre and Articles 163 and 164 in the states.
Modern democratic governments are classified into parliamentary and presidential on the basis of nature of relations between the executive and the legislative organs of the government. The parliamentary system of government is the one in which the executive is responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts. The presidential system of government, on the other hand, is one in which the executive is not responsible to the legislature for its policies and acts, and is constitutionally independent of the legislature in respect of its term of office.
The parliamentary government is also known as cabinet government or responsible government or Westminster model of government and is prevalent in Britain, Japan, Canada, India among others. The presidential government, on the other hand, is also known as the non-responsible or non-parliamentary or fixed executive system of government and is prevalent in the USA, Brazil, Russia, Sri Lanka among others.
Ivor Jennings called the parliamentary system as ‘cabinet system’ because the cabinet is the nucleus of power in a parliamentary system. The parliamentary government is also known as ‘responsible government’ as the cabinet (the real executive) is accountable to the Parliament and stays in office so long as it enjoys the latter’s confidence. It is described as ‘Westminster model of government’ after the location of the British Parliament, where the parliamentary system originated.
In the past, the British constitutional and political experts described the Prime Minister as ‘primus inter pares’ (first among equals) in relation to the cabinet. In the recent period, the Prime Minister’s power, influence, and position have increased significantly vis-a-vis the cabinet. He has come to play a ‘dominant’ role in the British politico-administrative system. Hence, the later political analysts, like Cross-man, Mackintosh, and others have described the British system of government as ‘prime ministerial government’. The same description holds good in the Indian context too.
As you may have found, whenever there is a discussion on the nature, structure and processes of political system in India, it is said that India is a federal state. There are generally two types of states in the world. The state that has only one government for the entire country, which is known as unitary state. The United Kingdom has a unitary system. But there are states like United States of America and Canada which have governments at two levels: one at the central level and the other at the state level. Besides having two sets of government, a federal system must have three other features: (i) a written constitution, (ii) division of powers between the central government and the state governments, and (iii) supremacy of judiciary to interpret the constitution. India also has a federal system having all these features, but with a difference. Let us examine the nature of the Indian federation.
Characteristics of the Indian Federal System
1. Two-tier Government: You must have heard that there are two sets of government created by the Indian Constitution: one for the entire nation called the union government (central government) and another for each unit or State, called the State government. Sometimes, you may also find the reference of a three-tier government in India, because besides the Union and State governments, local governments-both rural and urban- are also said to constitute another tier. But constitutionally India has a two-tier government. The Constitution does not allocate separate set of powers to the local governments as these continues to be under their respective State governments.
2. Division of Powers: Like other federations, both the Union and the State governments have a constitutional status and clearly identified area of activity. The Constitution clearly divides the powers between the two sets of governments, so that the Centre and the States exercise their powers within their respective spheres of activity. None violates its limits and tries to encroach upon the functions of the other. The division has been specified in the Constitution through three Lists: the Union List, the State List and the Concurrent List. The Union List consists of 97 subjects of national importance such as Defence, Railways, Post and Telegraph, etc. The State List consists of 66 subjects of local interest such as Public Health, Police, Local Self Government, etc. The Concurrent List has 47 subjects such as Education, Electricity, Trade Union, Economic and Social Planning, etc. On this List both the Union government and State governments have concurrent jurisdiction. However, the Constitution assigns those powers on the subjects that are not enumerated under Union List, State List and Concurrent List to the Union government. Such powers are known as Residuary Powers. If there is any dispute about the division of powers, it can be resolved by the Judiciary on the basis of the constitutional provisions.
3. Written Constitution: As we have earlier seen, India has a written Constitution which is supreme. It is also the source of power for both the sets of governments, the Union and the State. These governments are independent in their spheres of governance. Another feature of a federation is the rigid constitution. Although the Indian Constitution is not as rigid as the US Constitution, it is not a flexible constitution. As mentioned earlier, it has a unique blend of rigidity and flexibility.
Do You Know
Whereas there have been only 27 Amendments in the Constitution of the United States of America since it was ratified on 21 June 1788, 120 Amendment Bills to the Indian Constitution since 26 January 1950 have been introduced out of which 98 have become Acts till January 2013. (source: india.gov.in)
4. Independence of Judiciary: Another very important feature of a federation is an independent judiciary to interpret the Constitution and to maintain its sanctity. The Supreme Court of India has the original jurisdiction to settle disputes between the Union and the States. It can declare a law as unconstitutional, if it contravenes any provision of the Constitution. The judiciary also has the powers to resolve disputes between the Union government and the State governments on the constitutional and legal matters related to the division of powers.
Indian Federal System with a Strong Centre
In view of the above provisions, the Indian system appears to have all the features of a federal system. But have you gone through a statement which says that “India is federal in form but unitary in spirit”? In fact, Indian federal system has a strong Union government. This was deliberately done in the context of the prevailing situation on the eve of independence and in view of the socio-political situations. Apart from India being a vast country of continental dimensions, it has diversities and social pluralities. The framers of the Constitution believed that we required a federal constitution that would accommodate diversities and pluralities. But when India attained independence, it was faced with challenges like maintaining unity and integrity and bringing about social, economic and political change. It was necessary for the Centre to have such powers because India at the time of independence was not only divided into Provinces created by the British but it also had more than 500 Princely States which had to be integrated into existing States or new States had to be created.
In fact, the Central government has been made strong deliberately. Besides the concern for unity, the makers of the Constitution also believed that the socioeconomic problems of the country needed to be handled by a strong central government in cooperation with the States. Poverty, illiteracy, social inequalities and inequalities of wealth were some of the problems that required unified planning and coordination. Thus, the concerns for unity and development prompted the makers of the Constitution to create a strong central government. Let us look at the important provisions that have created a strong central government:
1. The First Article of the Constitution itself hints at Indian federal system being different. It states that India shall be “a Union of States”. Nowhere does the Constitution describe India as a federal state. The Central government has sole power on the territory of India. The very existence of a State, including its territorial integrity is in the hands of the Parliament. The Parliament is empowered to ‘form a new State by separation of territory from any State or by uniting two or more States. It can also alter the boundary of any State or even its name. However, the Constitution provides for some safeguards. The Central government must secure the view of the concerned State legislature on such decisions.
2. Secondly, the division of powers is in favour of the Union government. The Union List contains all the key subjects. Besides, even in relation to the Concurrent List the Constitution has assigned precedence to the Centre over States. In the situation of a conflict between laws made on any subject of the Concurrent List by a State and also by the Parliament, the law made by the Parliament would be effective. The Parliament may legislate even on a subject in the State List, if the situation demands that the Central government needs to legislate. This may happen, if the move is ratified by the Rajya Sabha.
3. Thirdly, the federal principle envisages a dual system of Courts. But, in India we have unified or integrated judiciary with the Supreme Court at the apex.
4. Fourthly, the Union government becomes very powerful when any of the three kinds of emergencies are proclaimed. The emergency can turn our federal polity into a highly centralised system. The Parliament also assumes the power to make laws on subjects within the jurisdiction of the States. In yet another situation, if there are disturbances in any State or part thereof, the Union Government is empowered to depute Central Force in the State or to the disturbed part of the State.
5. As you will study in the lesson on “Governance at the State Level, the Governor of the State is appointed by the President of India, i.e. the Union government. He/She has powers to report to the President, if there is a constitutional breakdown in the State and to recommend the imposition of President’s Rule. When the President’s Rule is imposed on the State, the State Council of Ministers is dismissed and the Governor rules over the State as a representative of the Central government. The State legislature also may be dissolved or kept in suspended animation. Even in normal circumstances, the Governor has the power to reserve any bill passed by the State legislature for the assent of the President. This gives the Central government an opportunity to delay the State legislation and also to examine such bills and veto them completely.
6. The Central government has very effective financial powers and responsibilities. In the first place, items generating revenue are under the control of the Centre. The States are mostly dependent on the grants and financial assistance from the Central government. Moreover, India has adopted planning as the instrument of rapid economic progress and development after independence. This also has led to considerable centralisation of decision making.
7. Finally, according to the constitutional provisions, the executive powers of the Centre are superior to those of the States. The Central government may choose to give instructions to the State government. Moreover, we have an integrated administrative system. The All-India Services are common for the entire territory of India and officers chosen for these services serve in the administration of the States. Thus, an IAS officer who becomes the collector or an IPS officer who serves as the Commissioner of Police, are under the control of the Central government. States cannot take disciplinary action nor can they remove these officers from service.
From the above discussion, it is clear, that there is a tilt in favor of the Centre at the cost of the States. The States have to work in close co-operation with the Centre. This has lent support to the contention that the Indian Constitution is federal in form but unitary in spirit. Constitutional experts have called it a ‘semi-federal’ or a ‘quasi-federal’ system.
Consult books or surf the internet and make a list of the States of India and find out the year in which each of the States was created.
Demand for Greater Autonomy to States
The working of the Indian federation over the last six decades clearly shows that primarily because of the centralized federal system, the relations between the Centre and the States have not always been cordial. It is quite natural that the States would expect a greater role and powers in the governance of the State and the country as a whole. Which is why, from time to time, States have demanded that they should be given more powers and more autonomy. With a view to seeksolution, the Administrative Reforms Commission, Sarkaria Commision and several other Commissions were appointed by the Government of India, the latest being the Commission on Centre-State Relations in March, 2010.
The core of important recommendations of various Commissions has accepted that there is no need to bring about changes in the fundamental fabric of the Constitution. However, the need to have a permanent Inter-State Council has been felt. In addition, it is desired that both the Centre and the States should have a concern for the development of backward territories or areas. If economic development of these backward regions is undertaken in a planned manner, the separatist tendencies will be automatically controlled. Differences between the Union and the States should be resolved by mutual consultation. The view on the demand of the States to provide more financial resources at their disposal has found favor. In order to improve Centre-State relations in the country, recommendations have been made for economic liberalization and suitable amendments to the Constitution.
Do you remember reading about the Indian Councils Act 1892, which enlarged the legislature by adding members to the Central Legislative Assembly? The Council Act of 1909 was an extension of the 1892 reforms, also known as the Morley-Minto Reforms after the names of the then Secretary of State (Lord Morley) and the then Viceroy (Lord Minto). It increased the members of the Legislative Assembly from sixteen to sixty. A few non-elected members were also added. Though the members of the Legislative Council were increased, they had no real powers. They remained mainly advisory in character. They could not stop any bills from being passed. Nor did they have any power over the budget.
The British made another calculated move to sow the seed of communalism in Indian politics by introducing separate electorates for the Muslims. This meant that from the constituencies dominated by Muslims only Muslim candidates could be elected. Hindus could only vote for Hindus, and Muslims could only vote for Muslims. Many leaders protested against this communal electorate policy of the British to ‘Divide and Rule’.
This is a very straight forward Question . For such low hanging fruits one should learn the Preamble by heart . We have Written an article on Constitutional Values . this will be very helpful in solving simmillar questions
The Preamble embodies the fundamental values and the philosophy on which the constitution is based. The Preamble contains in a nutshell the ideals and aspirations of the people. The Preamble provides for certain minimal rights as liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. These are guaranteed against all the authorities of the State by Part III of the Constitution. Article 19guarantees protection of rights of freedom of speech, expression etc. Articles 25-28 embody right to freedom of religion including that of belief, faith, and worship. In this positive connotation, liberty would mean freedom of the individual to do what he likes. Thus, the Preamble to the Constitution embody liberty of thought, expression, belief ,faith and worship, not economic liberty. Economic justice is envisaged in Preamble, not economic liberty.
5. One of the implications of equality in society is the absence of
Answer is ‘A’
Article 18 of the constitution justifies this. Under Right to equality, A18 abolishes titular privileges (except military or academic) granted to citizens of India.
Privilege is a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group. It is a right or advantage gained by birth, social position, effort, or concession, thus, not enjoyed by everyone. On the contrary, equality means the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities. Thus, one of the implications of equality in society is the absence of privilege.
1. In the first Lok Sabha, the single largest party in the opposition was the Swatantra Party.
2. In the Lok Sabha, a “Leader of the Opposition” was recognized for the first time in 1969.
3. In the Lok Sabha, if a party does not have a minimum of 75 members, its leader cannot be recognized as the Leader of the Opposition.
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 2 only
(c) 2 and 3 only
(d) 1, 2 and 3
Answer is ‘B’
The Point no . 3 ie is Enough to answer “ In the Lok Sabha, if a party does not have a minimum of 75 members, its leader cannot be recognized as the Leader of the Opposition.” is sufficient to answer . As we know , The leader of the largest Opposition party having not less than one-tenth seats of the total strength of the House is recognized as the leader of the Opposition in that House . So 10% of 545 ( Seats in Lok Sabha ) is 54.5 . So 55 seats are required by a party to have its leader of opposition ( of course it should be largest party among the opposition . )
First Lok Sabha of independent India did not had a recognised “Leader of Opposition” due to lack of any opposition party having 10% seats. First time Lok Sabha got recognised “Leader of Opposition” in 1969 in the form of Ram Subhag Singh from INC (O). In order to get formal recognition, the concerned party must have at least 10% of the total strength of the House (55 seats in the Lok Sabha). If any party fails to get 10% seats in opposition, the House will not have recognised leader of the opposition.
For future leader of the Opposition are not mentioned in the Constitution of India, they are mentioned in the Rules of the House and Parliamentary Statute respectively
Topics to be seen
Leader of Opposition
Rules of the House
Food for thought , Who was the founder of Swatantra Party , and what happened to the party after his death ?