India had Village Panchayats since early times but they lost their importance during the British regime due to centralization of power. However in the first decade of the 20th century growing need was felt for the establishment of local-self government to a limited degree to dispose popular discontent. With this view an Act was passed in 1915 and implemented in 1920, by establishing a few gram panchayats. Their supervision was entrusted to the District Council.

Village Panchayats Act, 1946.

The Village Panchayat Act of 1946, enforced in the same year established gram panchayats with membership varying between  five and 15 on the basis of male adult franchise. It provided  for the election of a Sarpanch' and an Up-sarpanch by the members from among themselves. The revenue patil of the village was made an ex-officio member.

The Act divided the duties of the village panchayats into obligatory and optional. Whereas the obligatory duties included sanitary and health measures, construction of and repairs to roads, maintenance of birth and death registers, provision of water-supply and undertaking of such other works for public convenience, the optional duties involved construction and maintenance of dharmashalas, development of agriculture, co-operation, veterinary services etc.; only if the finances of the gram panchayats permitted, the latter works were to be undertaken.

A few of the gram panchayats also performed judicial functions under this Act. They were authorised to impose fines not exceeding Rs. 20 and conduct civil suits not exceeding Rs. 100 in value. District and sessions judge heard appeals against their  decisions. The panchayats were empowered to appoint the Secretaries and other necessary staff.

Village Panchayats Act,1958.

The Bombay Village Panchayats Act of 1958, was made applicable to the district on the reorganisation of States. Under the Act which came into force from June 1, 1959 in the district, women were given representation in the panchayats. The Act abrogated the ex-officio membership of the revenue patils and made panchayats responsible for all-round development of the village. It has given wide powers to the village panchayats.

The maximum and minimum number of members of Village Panchayat is 15 and 7, respectively, and the members are to be elected by universal adult franchise. Provision has been made to reserve seats to represent the Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes. However, in every Panchayat two seats are reserved for women. The term of office of a Panchayat is 4 years which could be extended by one year by the orders of the Collector when found necessary. In the first meeting of the Panchayat, after general elections, the Sarpanch and Up-sarpanch arc elected from amongst the members and the term of office begins from this date.

The vacant seats which cannot be filled in by election are to be filled in by nomination by the Standing Committee of the Zilla Parishad. The Sarpanch is the executive head of a village panchayat and presides over its meetings. Every panchayat shall have a Secretary appointed by the Chief Executive Officer, Zilla Parishad. At present 251 Assistant Gram Sevaks are working as the Secretaries, each looking after the work of 3 to 4 Gram Panchayats. The remaining Gram Panchayats have Gram Sewaks. The Secretary is responsible for the maintenance of records and accounts of the Village Panchayat under section 61 of the Bombay Village Panchayats Act. For want of sufficient number of Secretaries (Assistant Gram Sewaks), the Sarpanchas in the district in general and the scheduled areas, i.e., Gadhchiroli, Sironcha and Rajura Talukas in particular find it difficult to maintain proper records due to illiteracy. The Panchayat has powers to appoint servants for the discharge of its duties. The powers and functions of Village Panchayats are enumerated under section 45 of the Bombay Village Panchayats Act.

In addition to the income derived from taxation as provided in section 124 of the Bombay Village Panchayats Act, every Panchayat is eligible for 30% of the land revenue collected in the village as land revenue grant and land equalisation grant worked out at rupee one per capita minus the land revenue grant paid, from government for utilising the same in development activities. Under section 127 of the Act, every Panchayat is entitled to get a minimum cess of 20 paise per rupee of the land revenue.  Under section 62 of the Act, a Panchayat has to submit each  year a budget showing the opening balance and estimated income  and expenditure on establishment and for the discharge of its  duties under section 45, to the Panchayat Samiti for approval and to follow the same scrupulously.

A District Village Panchayat Officer has been appointed to control the administration of Village Panchayats in Chandrapur district. He assists the Collector in his functions and duties in respect of administration of village panchayats with the aid of District Auditor, five sub-Auditors and other necessary staff. Besides, two Social Welfare Inspectors have been allotted to the district as supervisory staff.

With the formation of the Zilla Parishad the District Panchayat Mandal has been abolished and the Village Panchayat Officer now works with the Zilla Parishad. The control of the village panchayats now vests in the Zilla Parishad through Panchayat Samitis.

The coverage programme under village panchayats as envisaged under second five-year plan is now complete in the district. There are 1,179 Village Panchayats covering 3,310 villages out of 3,359 villages. The remaining 49 villages are forest villages which are situated in forest areas and away from the regularly settled other villages. These forest villages are meagrely populated and they are economically backward to have an independent Panchayat. It is also equally impossible and inconvenient to form them into group village panchayats due to long distances. However, proposals are under consideration to cover up these 49 forest villages also by village panchayats by grouping them with the nearest panchayats.

There is to be a Nyaya Panchayat for the administration of civil and criminal justice in a group of village panchayats of not less than five in number as the State Government may by notification in the official Gazette determine and it shall be called by such name as may be specified in the notification.

The Nyaya Panchayat consists of one member elected by such a panchayat which is to elect out of the members of the gram sabha of that village, one person for the purpose of constituting the Nyaya Panchayat. Thus the minimum number of members of Nyaya Panchayat will be five. Any member of gram sabha except the sarpanch and the up-sarpanch has the right to contest the Nyaya Panchayat elections. The voters are the members of the panchayats concerned. The term of a Nyaya Panchayat is to expire with the term of the village panchayat. The State Government have powers to remove any member of a Nyaya Panchayat for reasons of misconduct in the discharge of his duties, or any disgraceful conduct, or for neglect or for incapacity in regard to the performance of his duties.

Elections to all the Nyaya Panchayats in the district took place during the year 1964-65 but actual functioning has not started as yet. There are 207 Nyaya Panchayats in this district. As per section 65 of the Bombay Village Panchayats Act, term of office of a member of the Nyaya Panchayat expires with that of the Panchayat which elected him. The term of most of the Village Panchayats in this district expired in 1965 and 1966 and hence general elections of Panchayats were held during the year 1967. According to section 65 of the Act, the terms of most of the Nyaya Panchayats are deemed to have expired and fresh elections are due. The Secretary of the Village Panchayat works as judicial clerk of the Nyaya Panchayat.

With the formation of the Zilla Parishad with effect from 1st June 1962, all the Village Panchayats have come under the Zilla Parishad which has given impetus to the tempo of developmental activities. Though major portion of this district is backward, without communication facilities, the Village Panchayats are improving slowly but steadily. This is evident from the income and expenditure statistics pertaining to the years 1961-62 and 1964-65 which are given below:-




(2) (3)



1.Total income 14,25,855


2.Total expenditure 12,76,893