The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996
The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996, also known as PESA, extends Part IX of the Constitution of India to Scheduled Areas. It came into effect on December 24, 1996.
The Constitution (Seventy-Third Amendment) Act, 1992 inserted Part IX into the Constitution, which stipulates the creation of governing structures at the village, intermediate and district levels. This Act was meant to strengthen rural self-governance but did not apply to Scheduled Areas. It left it to parliament to make another law that would extend Part IX to these areas.In 1994, the central government set up a committee chaired by Lok Sabha member of parliament Dilip Singh Bhuria to examine various dimensions of tribal self-rule and recommend how Part IX could be applied to Scheduled Areas. Based on these recommendations, the Indian parliament enacted PESA in 1996.
What are Scheduled Areas?
Scheduled Areas are referred to in Article 244 (1) and Schedule V (Part C) of the Constitution of India. The president has the power to declare an area a Scheduled Area. Such areas are subject to the provisions of Part C and the executive powers of the State.
The criteria for Scheduled Areas, though not spelt out in the Constitution, have been established over time. They are: a predominantly tribal population, compactness and reasonable size, under-development and economic backwardness.
How is a village defined by the Act?
Section 4(b) of the Act states that a village consists of a habitation or a group of habitations, or a hamlet or a group of hamlets, comprised of a community managing its affairs in accordance with traditions and customs.
What is a gram sabha under PESA?
As per Section 4(c) of the Act, a gram sabha consists of people whose names are on the electoral roll of the village-level panchayat area. The sabha safeguards people’s traditions and customs, their cultural identity, community resources, and the customary mode of dispute resolution.
What are the executive functions of a gram sabha under PESA?
Under this Act, the gram sabha has the authority to approve plans, programmes and projects for social and economic development before the panchayat implements them at the village level. It can also identify persons who will receive benefits from poverty reduction and other programmes.
What are the powers of a gram sabha and a panchayat in Scheduled Areas?
Section 4(m) states that state legislatures must give gram sabhas and panchayats the following powers to function as institutions of self-government: preventing the alienation of land; regulating the sale of intoxicants; exercising control over local plans, the use of resources for these plans, and moneylending to Scheduled Tribes, among others.
Section 4(i) says that gram sabhas and panchayats should be consulted before land is acquired for development and the people affected are rehabilitated and resettled. According to section 4(k), consulting these bodies is mandatory before licenses or mining leases for minor minerals are granted in Scheduled Areas.
How do reservations in panchayats work in Scheduled Areas?
Section 4(g) says that the reservation of seats in panchayats at all levels (village, intermediate and district) should be in proportion to the population of the communities for which it is being sought. The Section stipulates that the seats reserved for the Scheduled Tribes should not be less than half and all the seats for chairpersons should be reserved for STs.
Focus and Factoids Vasundhara Kamath.
Ministry of Law and Justice
Government of India, New Delhi
24 Dec, 1996