Panchayat is an age-old institution of local governance to manage public affairs affairs: social, economic and political. As an institution, it has yielded enormous influence in nurturing democracy at the lowest rung of human settlements. It was the assembly (yat) of five (panch) wise and respected elders chosen by the community. Traditionally, these assemblies settled disputes between individuals and villages besides taking interest in social, religious and public affairs. On the pattern of village panchayats, municipal bodies also play a very vital role in managing public affairs in urban areas, more or less as what panchayats do at village level.
Appreciating the role of panchayats and municipal bodies in local-self governance, the State Governments had enacted laws for constitution and management of panchayats. However, there were several shortcomings in their working. Realizing the importance and te pivotal role such institutions can play at a grass root level, the Constitution of India was amended by two amendments, i.e. the 73rd Constitutional Amendment and the 74th Constitutional Amendment which provided constitutional guarantee three tier elected panchayati raj institutions and municipal bodies respectively. The constitutions amendment Acts laid firm foundation for establishment, functioning and sustainability of democratically elected panchayats and urban local bodies. Elections are required to be held every five years. Seats have been reserved for Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Women.
In order to conduct elections on a regular basis and in a free and fair manner, the Constitutional Amendment Acts have made provision for the constitution of State Election Commission consisting of a State Election Commissioner in every State.
Pursuant to the Constitutional Amendment Acts, 1992, all the State and the Union Territories have enacted laws for the management of panchayats and municipal bodies, conduct of elections to these institutions, constitution of State Election Commissions and appointment of State Election Commissioner.
Nearly twenty years have passed since the amendments were made. During tis period, the States have developed enormous experience in conducting local elections. A few have also introduced better practices leading to better management of elections. The Apex Court and High Courts have also passed important judgments which have enormous impact on the conduct of elections. However, it was noticed that there was no system of sharing of information and good practices amongst the State Election Commissions. In order to facilitate dissemination of information and exchange of ideas, the State Election Commissioners have decided to meet twice in a year by holding conference by rotation.
In order to facilitate the exchange of information and the best practices, the State Election Commissioner have decided to have a common website, where they can host information and data of common interest; hence this website.
The website has been constructed by the State Election Commission of Haryana, which would also maintain it on behalf of the State Election Commissioners. Suggestions and feedback are welcome so that the website could be improved for the benefit of all concerned and the public.