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Right from the Vedic Ages to modern times there have been the references to Panchayats and they have played a vital role in the local Self-Governing institutions. Mahatma Gandhi's dream that every village should be a republic having powers of self-governance has been adopted in Article 40 of the Constitution of India as a Directive Principle of State Policy. It provides that "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."

For this purpose, the programme of Community Development through people's participation and state aid was introduced on 2nd October 1952. On the basis of Shri Balwant Rai Mehta committee in 1959 the concept of democratic decentralization was adopted and a three tier system of Panchayats was introduced. In course of time the Panchayati Raj Institution and also the urban local bodies, started failing in the responsibilities devolved on them, owing to the paucity of funds and delay in the conduct of timely election to such bodies. Different Committees recommended that constitutional status should be accorded to Panchayati Raj and Local Bodies institutions and the election to these institutions be conducted by separate Election Commission. Consequently, 73rd and 74th amendments come in effect in year 1993.

By these two amendments, the Constitution of India conferred constitutional status to these institutions of local self government both in the rural and urban areas. Now, regular elections to these Institutions after five years are ensured under State Election Commission through the provisions of Articles 243E and 243U of the Constitution.

After the formation of State of Uttarakhand on 9th November, 2000, the State Election Commission, Uttarakhand was constituted on 30th July, 2001 under the provision of Article 243 K of the Constitution of India. Since the Government of Uttarakhand has not made its own acts and rules for the functioning of Rural and Urban local bodies yet, it has adopted all the acts and rules prevalent in the State of U.P.

Under the provision of Article 243-K and 243 ZA of the constitution of India and other relevant acts and rules the election of Panchayatas and local bodies in Uttarakhand are conducted in the superintendence, direction and control of State Election Commission, Uttarakhand.

The functioning of the Panchayat Raj Bodis is governed by the two separate acts, one for Gram Panchayat and the other for the Kshetra Panchayats and Zila Panchayats. According to section 12BB of the U.P. Panchayat Raj Act 1947 (As adopted & Amended in Uttarakhand), the superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of the election to the office of Pradhan, Up-Pradhan and a Member of a Gram Panchayat are vested in the State Election Commission. Under Section 12 BC, subject to the supervision and control of the State Election Commission, the District Magistrate supervises the conduct of all elections of the Pradhan, Up-Pradhan and a Member of a Gram Panchayats in the district. Similarly, according to section 246-B(2) of the U.P. Kshetra Panchayats and Zila Panchayats adhiniyam, 1961(As adopted & Amended in Uttarakhand), the superintendence, direction and control to conduct the election to the office of a Adhyaksh, Upadhyaksh and a Member of Zila Panchayat and of a Pramukh, Up-Pramukh and a Member of Kshetra Panchayats vests in the State Election Commission.

Like rural local bodies, the Urban local bodies in the State are governed by two separate Acts, one governing the municipalities including Nagar Panchayats and the other for Municipal Corporations. According to Section 13-B of the U.P.Municipalities Act, 1916 (As adopted & Amended in Uttarakhand) and section 45 of the U.P.Municipal Corporation Adhiniyam 1959(As adopted & Amended in Uttarakhand), the superintendence, direction and control of the conduct of the election to the Municipalities and elections of the Nagar Pramukh, Up-nagar Pramukh and Sabhasad of the Corporation vest in the State Election Commission.

The electoral rolls are prepared according to the rules prepared under the provisions of related Acts and the guidelines & instructions given by the State Election Commission. There are specific provisions to this effect under section 9 of the Panchayat Raj Act, 1947 whereas section 11-B and 12-C of the Panchayat Raj Act, deal with the provision for the election of Pradhan and Up-Pradhan and Members of the Gram Panchayat.

The section 6B and 6C of the U.P. Kshetra Panchayats and Zila Panchayats adhiniyam, 1961(As adopted & Amended in Uttarakhand) deal with preparations of electoral roll for kshetra Panchayat and section 18B & 18C of the aforesaid Act pertain to the preparation of electoral rolls for zila Panchayats.

Like wise section 12 & 13 of the Municipalities Act, 1916 (As adopted & Amended in Uttarakhand) deal with the preparation of Election rolls & elections of the members of Municipalities respectively. The section 43 of the Act deal with the election of Chairperson of the Municipalities respectively while section 35 & 40 of the U.P.Municipal Corporation Adhiniyam 1959(As adopted & Amended in Uttarakhand) deals with the preparation of electoral rolls of the Municipal Corporation and section 11A, 12 & 27 of the aforsaid Act provide for the elections of Nagar Pramukh, Up-Nagar Pramukh and Sabhasad of the Municipal Corporation.

In the new state of Uttarakhand the first General Elections of Local Bodies were successfully conducted by State Election Commission, Uttarakhand in the month of January to February, 2003 in all 13 Districts of the state. While the General Elections of Three Tier Panchayat were held in the month of February to April, 2003 in 12 Districts in state (Excluding District-Haridwar). General Election to the Three Tier Panchayat in the District of Haridwar were conducted by State Election Commission in the month of September to October, 2005. In the year 2008, in all 13 districts of the state, the elections of Local bodies i.e. Mayor and 60 ward members of 1 (one) Municipal Corporation and 32 chairpersons and 402 members of 32 Nagar Palika Parishads, 27 Chairpersons and 172 members, 27 Nagar Panchayats in which 1417341 voters used their franchise were successfully conducted by State Election Commission, Uttarakhand.

In the year 2008, in three tier panchayat elections of the 12 district of the state, 46559 members of Gram Panchayat, 3075 members of Kshetra Panchayat, 371 members of Zila Panchayat and 7239 Pradhan Gram Panchayats in which 4344573 voters exercised their franchise were successfully conducted by State Election Commission, Uttarakhand. Apart from this, the election of 89 Pramukh, 89 Jestha Up Pramukh, 89 Kanistha Up Pramukh, 12 Adhyakshs and 12 Upadhayaks of 12 Zila Panchayats and 7211 Up Pradhan were also successfully conducted by State Election Commission, Uttarakhand.

In year 2008 for the first time the State Election Commission, Uttarakhand introduced EVMs in Dehradun Nagar Nigam (Municipal Corporation) Elections and succeeded in conducting free, fair and peaceful poll.

For the first time in the elections of local bodies and three tier panchayats in the state, the election result were successfully displayed on internet directly from vote-counting centres.

Efforts are being made to make provisions in the Panchayati Raj Acts and Rules for the use of EVMs in three tier panchayat elections and the proposals are under consideration of State Government.

 

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