“The State shall take steps to organize village panchayats and endow them with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.” (Article–40)
In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Pradhan Sangh Kshettra Samiti[i], the Supreme Court observed that Article–40 does not give guidelines for organizing village panchayats. All that they require is that the village panchanyats howsoever organized have to be equipped with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.
The details of Panchayat Raj institutions as political system of local governance are found in abundance in the history of South-East Asia particularly in the countries of subcontinent like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Indian social system has tremendous vitality. Since racial, religious, cultural, linguistic, geographical and economic diversity has been coexisting and nurtured since ages, this provides a strong unity to social system. In simple understanding Culture is day to day pattern of living. In India the cultural diversity has been maintained as a social policy by the rulers in their polity.
The word ‘Panchayat’ literally means assembly or Ayat of five or panch elderly and wise persons. Panchayati Raj Institutions existed, functioned and contributed significantly. It is important to note that the village panchayats have always been elected bodies and functioned as units of local self-government. Gram panchayats are contrastingly apart and distinct from the unelected khap or caste panchayats prevalent in some parts of India.