|Part of||Panchayat Raj system|
Gram Panchayat (English: Village council) is a basic village-governing institute in Indian villages. It is a democratic structure at the grass-roots level in India. It is a political institute, acting as cabinet of the village. The Gram Sabha work as the general body of the Gram Panchayat. The members of the Gram Panchayat are elected by the Gram Sabha.
There are about 250,000 Gram Panchayats in India.
Established in various states of India, the Panchayat Raj system has three tiers: Zila Parishad, at the district level; Nagar Palika, at the block level; and Gram Panchayat, at the village level. Rajasthan was the first state to establish Gram Panchayat, Nagur village being the first village where Gram Panchayat was established, on 2 October 1959.
The failed attempts to deal with local matters at the national level caused, in 1992, the reintroduction of Panchayats for their previously used purpose as an organisation for local self-governance.
Gram Panchayats are at the lowest level of Panchayat Raj institutions (PRIs), whose legal authority is the 73rd Constitutional Amendment of 1992, which is concerned with rural local governments.
The Gram Panchayat is divided into wards and each ward is represented by a Ward Member or Commissioner, also referred to as a Panch or Panchayat Member, who is directly elected by the villagers. The Panchayat is chaired by the president of the village, known as a Sarpanch. The term of the elected representatives is five years. The Secretary of the Panchayat is a non-elected representative, appointed by the state government, to oversee Panchayat activities.
According to Section. 6 (3) of the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj Act of 1994, that state's gram sabha has to conduct a meeting at least twice a year.
A Gram panchyat's term of office is five years. Every five years elections take place in the village. All people over the age of 18 who are residents of the territory of that village's Gram panchayat can vote.
For women's empowerment and to encourage participation of women in the democratic process, the government of India has set some restrictions on Gram panchayat elections, reserving one-third of the seats for women, as well as reserving seats for scheduled castes and tribes.