The provisions of Part IX of the constitution relating to the Panchayats are not applicable to the Fifth Schedule areas. However, the Parliament may extend these provisions to such areas, subject to such exceptions and modifications as it may specify. Under this provision, the Parliament has enacted the “Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act”, 1996, popularly known as the PESA Act or the Extension Act.
The objectives of the PESA Act are as follows:
- To extend the provisions of Part IX of the Constitution relating to the panchayats to the scheduled areas with certain modifications
- To provide self-rule for the bulk of the tribal population
- To have village governance with participatory democracy and to make the gram sabha a nucleus of all activities
- To evolve a suitable administrative framework consistent with traditional practices
- To safeguard and to preserve the traditions and customs of tribal communities
- To empower panchayats at the appropriate levels with specific powers conducive to tribal requirements.
The major features (or the provisions) of the PESA Act are as follows:
- A state legislation on the Panchayats in the Scheduled Areas shall be in consonance with the customary law, social and religious practices and traditional management practices of community resources.
- A village shall ordinarily consist of a habitation or a group of habitations or a hamlet or a group of hamlets comprising a community and managing its affairs in accordance with traditions and customs.
- Every village shall have a Gram Sabha consisting of persons whose names are included in the electoral rolls for the Panchayat at the village level.
- Every Gram Sabha shall be competent to safeguard and preserve the traditions and customs of the people, their cultural identity, community resources and the customary mode of dispute resolution.
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