Highlight the salient features of the Constitution (Seventy Third Amendment) Act, 1992

The Constitution (Seventy-Third Amendment) Act, 1992, is a significant piece of legislation in the context of Indian constitutional history.

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This amendment introduced a series of provisions aimed at strengthening local self-government in rural areas of India. Here are the salient features of the Seventy-Third Amendment Act:

1. Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs): The 73rd Amendment Act added a new Part IX to the Indian Constitution, which deals specifically with PRIs. It laid the foundation for the establishment of Panchayats at the village, intermediate, and district levels, giving constitutional recognition to these grassroots democratic institutions.

2. Three-tier Structure: The amendment mandated a three-tier structure of Panchayati Raj Institutions:

   a. Gram Panchayat at the village level

   b. Panchayat Samiti at the intermediate level (block or taluka)

   c. Zila Parishad at the district level

3. Reservation of Seats: One of the most significant features of this amendment is the reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in proportion to their population in each Panchayat. This was a landmark step towards promoting social justice and inclusivity in local governance.

4. Reservation for Women: The amendment also introduced a provision for the reservation of seats for women at all three levels of PRIs. Initially, one-third of the seats were reserved for women, both in general and reserved categories. This provision has played a crucial role in empowering women in rural areas.

5. State Election Commissions: Each state in India was required to establish a State Election Commission to conduct elections to PRIs. This move ensured that the elections to Panchayats were conducted independently and impartially.

6. Five-Year Term: Panchayati Raj Institutions were given a fixed five-year term, ensuring regular and consistent governance at the grassroots level.

7. Finance Commission: To strengthen the financial autonomy of PRIs, the amendment mandated the establishment of State Finance Commissions in every state. These commissions were tasked with recommending the distribution of financial resources between the state government and PRIs.

8. Functions and Powers: The amendment defined the functions and powers of PRIs, giving them authority over a range of local matters, including rural development, agriculture, education, health, and sanitation. This devolution of powers aimed to enhance local self-governance and decision-making.

9. Accountability and Transparency: The Seventy-Third Amendment Act included provisions for the establishment of District Planning Committees (DPCs) to consolidate the plans of PRIs and local authorities, promoting better coordination and planning. It also mandated the publication of audited accounts and reports to ensure transparency and accountability.

10. Strengthening Grassroots Democracy: By empowering PRIs with constitutional status and decentralizing power, the amendment aimed to promote grassroots democracy and ensure the participation of citizens in the decision-making process at the local level.

11. Strengthening Rural Development: The amendment recognized the importance of rural development and ensured that PRIs play a crucial role in planning and executing development programs in rural areas.

12. Empowerment of Marginalized Communities: Through provisions for reservation of seats for SCs, STs, and women, the amendment sought to empower historically marginalized communities and promote their representation in local governance.

13. Political Awareness and Participation: The 73rd Amendment Act contributed to increased political awareness and participation at the grassroots level, with more individuals, including women and marginalized groups, actively engaging in the democratic process.

In summary, the Constitution (Seventy-Third Amendment) Act, 1992, was a landmark piece of legislation that revolutionized local governance in India. It strengthened democracy at the grassroots level, empowered marginalized communities, and promoted social justice and gender equality through reservation of seats. This amendment significantly contributed to the decentralization of power and the promotion of self-governance in rural areas, ultimately leading to more inclusive and effective governance.

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