Panchayats in Punjab, of which the present area of Union Territory of Chandigarh was a part, operated under the Punjab Panchayat Act of 1912 and later, of 1921. This was followed by the Punjab Village Panchayat Act, 1939, which consolidated the law relating to Panchayats and enlarged the scope of their administrative and judicial functions. After Independence, this enactment was replaced by the Gram Panchayat Act, 1952 in keeping with the spirit of Article 40 of the Constitution. As this law provided for a uni-tier Panchayat system, a new law was brought in for creating two higher tiers – Panchayat Samitis and Zila Parishads, which was entitled the Punjab Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad Act, 1961 and was subsequently extended to Union Territory, Chandigarh on its formation. At present, the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 is applicable in U.T. Chandigarh
Developments Prior to 73 rd Constitutional Amendment Constitution (73rd Amendment) Act, 1992
73rd Amendment in the Constitution was brought in by the Govt. of India with the definite objective of providing the PRIs with :-
- Full term of 5 years and protection against frequent dissolution.
- Reservation in seats for S.C. and other weaker sections like women, backward classes etc.
- Reservation for SC and women in offices of Sarpanch, Chairperson, Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishads.
- Clear-cut set of functions to be performed by the PRIs for rural development and elevate.
Accordingly, the States framed their laws in consonance with the 73rd Amendment. The State of Punjab introduced Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 which was made applicable in U.T. Chandigarh w.e.f. 23.4.1994.
PRIs in Chandigarh
At present, there are 12 Gram Panchayats for 13 villages. These Gram Panchayats were elected under the provisions of the Punjab Panchayati Raj Act,1994 ( as extended to U.T. Chandigarh with Ministry of Home Affairs Notification dated 23.4.1994) in December, 2003, for a period of five years. Out of total 12 elected Sarpanches, two belong to the S.C. category. There are six women Sarpanches, out of one Women Sarpanch belongs to S.C. category. Out of 92 elected Panches, 11 are from S.C. category. There are 22 women Panches, out of which 2 belong to S.C. category.
The term of the Gram Panchayats expires in December, 2008 and election shall be held, as per provisions of the law.
Section 10 of the Act of 1994 stipulates that every Gram Sabha, comprising a village or a group of villages with a minimum population of 200 shall elect from among its members, a Gram Panchayat consisting of a Sarpanch and five to thirteen members, in accordance with its population.
The entire rural area of Union territory, Chandigarh has been constituted into one block, which makes for the establishment of one Panchayat Samiti. As per latest amendment in the Act of 1994, a Panchayat Samiti shall consist of 15 members from the territorial constituencies. The elections in this regard have been held in December, 2006 after a term of 5 years. Out of the total 15 members, 4 members belong to Scheduled Caste category. There are 6 women members, out of which 2 belong to S.C. category. The Member Parliament (Lok Sabha), representing U.T. Chandigarh is also a Member of the Panchayat Samiti, Chandigarh. The Chairperson of Panchayat Samiti is from S.C. women category.
The entire rural area of the Union Territory has been constituted into Chandigarh district. One Zila Parishad was constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Panchayat Samitis and Zila Prishads Act, 1961 (as made applicable to Union Territory, Chandigarh). Under Sections 162 and 163 of Punjab Panchayati Raj Act, 1994, the Zila Parishad has been constituted and it has started functioning in full fledged manner from December, 2006. There are 6 elected members of the Zila Parishad, Chandigarh, because the total constituency area of 4 Zila Parishad members was included in the area of Municipal Corporation, Chandigarh. Out of the 6 Zila Parishad members, 2 belong to S.C. category. There is one woman member. In addition, the Chairman, Panchayat Samiti, Chandigarh and Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) representing the Union Territory, Chandigarh are also members of the Zila Parishad, Chandigarh.
Reservation of Seats (PRI’s)
Seats are reserved for the Scheduled Castes in the same proportion to the total number of seats, as the population of the S.C. bears to the total population of the area. Not less than one third of the total number of seats are reserved for SC are to be reserved for S.C. women. Further, not less than one third (including number of seats reserved for women belonging to S.C.) of the total number of seats are reserved for women.
Functions of Panchayati Raj Institution
As per the indicative list of 29 items included in the Eleventh Schedule to the Constitution brought in by 73rd Amendment, the Act of 1994 enumerates these functions. The obligatory functions to be performed by Gram Panchayats are listed under section 30 of the Act :-
Besides, the Administrator may assign such functions to Gram Panchayats as may be considered desirable. Panchayat Samiti and Zila Parishad can also delegate functions to the Gram Panchayats.
Like-wise, the functions and duties which Panchayat Samiti shall perform, have been enumerated under Section 119 of the Act of 1994. Section 180 of the Act enlists the functions, which shall be performed by Zila Parishad.
- Preparation of annual plans/budgets for the development of Panchayat area, removal of encroachments on public property,
- Construction, repair and maintenance of community assets like public roads, sanitation, cremation grounds, providing and maintaining public latrines, street lighting, dharamshala, libraries and supply of water for domestic use.
- Promotion and development of agriculture, horticulture, waste land, animal husbandry, dairying, poultry, fisheries, forestry and non-conventional energy schemes,
- Promotion of khadi and village industries, rural housing, educational and cultural activities, welfare of scheduled castes,
- Implementation and monitoring of public health and family welfare schemes, social welfare program, poverty alleviation program and public distribution system.