The 73rd and 74th Amendments, as well as the Reservation for Women

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, was introduced by the centre, marking a historic step towards reserving 33% of Lok Sabha and state Legislative Assemblies seats for women.

The 73rd and 74th Amendments:

  • Pioneering Amendments (1992): The Constitution (Seventy-third Amendment) Act of 1992 and the Constitution (Seventy-fourth Amendment) Act of 1992 established the legal framework for women’s reservation.
  • Narsimha Rao’s term in office: These reforms, enacted during the tenure of Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, mandated the reservation of one-third of seats for women in Panchayati Raj institutions and chairperson offices at all levels, as well as in urban local governments.
  • The modifications went into effect on April 24, 1993, and June 1, 1993, respectively.

The History of the Amendments

  • Committee of Balwantrai Mehta (1957): The Balwantrai Mehta Committee suggested that village-level institutions be established to reflect community concerns and carry out government development programmes. It advocated for elected local governments with delegated resources and authority.
  • The Asoka Mehta Committee (1977) suggested transforming Panchayati Raj into a political organisation. Bureaucratic opposition, political apathy, and role ambiguity were cited as elements hurting Panchayati Raj.
  • State Initiatives: Karnataka, West Bengal, and Andhra Pradesh passed laws to improve Panchayati Raj based on the Asoka Mehta Committee report. During Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s term, an attempt to implement a national strengthening law through The Constitution (Sixty-fourth Amendment) Bill in 1989 was unsuccessful in the Rajya Sabha.

The Amendments’ Key Features

  • Local Self-Government The 73rd and 74th Constitution Amendment Acts, respectively, established local self-government in rural and urban India.
  • Self-Government Institutions: Panchayats and municipalities were designated as “institutions of self-government.”
  • Empowering Gramme Sabha and Ward Committees: The gramme sabha was established as the fundamental unit of village democracy, while municipalities established “ward committees.” These bodies were made up of all adult people who were registered to vote and held the panchayat or municipality accountable.
  • Direct Elections: Direct elections were adopted for all three governmental tiers: village gramme panchayat, intermediate taluka or block panchayat, and district zila panchayat or parishad. States with populations of less than 20 lakh people were exempt.
  • Reservation for Women: One-third of the seats were reserved for women, with an extra 33% designated for SCs and STs. Office-bearer and chairman posts are likewise designated for women at all levels.
  • Each body had a five-year term, and elections for successor bodies had to be completed before the previous body’s term expired. Elections were to be held within six months of a dissolution.
  • State Election Commissions: Each state formed a State Election Commission to oversee the electoral roll.
  • Panchayats were responsible with developing economic growth and social justice plans for subjects listed in the Eleventh Schedule, including as agriculture, land, irrigation, animal husbandry, fisheries, cottage industries, and drinking water.
  • District Planning Committees were established by the 74th Amendment to aggregate plans generated by panchayats and municipalities.
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