Municipal bodies have a long history in India. The first such Municipal Corporation was set-up in the former Presidency Town of Madras in 1688; and was followed by similar corporations in the then Bombay and Calcutta in 1726. The Constitution of India has made detailed provisions for ensuring protection of democracy in Parliament and in the state legislatures. However, Constitution did not make the local self-government in urban areas a clear-cut constitutional obligation. While the Directive Principles of State Policy refer to village Panchayats, there is no specific reference to Municipalities except the implicitly in Entry 5 of the State List, which places the subject of local self-governments as a responsibility of the states.
In order to provide for a common framework for urban local bodies and help to strengthen the functioning of the bodies as effective democratic units of self-government, Parliament enacted the Constitution (74th Amendment) Act, 1992 relating to municipalities in 1992. The Act received the assent of the President on 20 April 1993. The Government of India notified 1 June 1993 as the date from which the said Act came into force. A new part IX-A relating to the Municipalities has been incorporated in the Constitution to provide for among other things, constitution of three types of Municipalities, i.e., Nagar Panchayats for areas in transition from a rural area to urban area, Municipal Councils for smaller urban areas and Municipal Corporation for large urban areas, fixed duration of municipalities, appointment of state election commission, appointment of state finance commission and constitution of metropolitan and district planning committees. State/UTs have set-up their election Commissions. Elections to municipal bodies have been completed in all States/UTs except Jharkhand and Puducherry.
Article 40 of the Constitution, which enshrines one of the Directive Principles of State Policy, lays down that the State shall take steps to organise village panchayats and endow them with such powers and, authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as units of self-government.
In the light of the above, a new Part IX relating to the Panchayats has been inserted in the Constitution to provide for among other things, Gram Sabha in a village or group of villages; constitution of Panchayats at village and other level or levels; direct elections to all seats in Panchayats at the village and intermediate level, if any, and to the offices of Chairpersons of Panchayats at such levels; reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their population for membership of Panchayats and office of Chairpersons in Panchayats at each level; reservation of not less than one-third of the seats for women; fixing tenure of five years for Panchayats and holding elections within a period of six months in the event of super session of any Panchayat.
The superintendence, direction and control of preparation of electoral rolls for, and the conduct of, elections to Parliament and State Legislatures and elections to the offices of the President and the Vice-President of India are vested in the Election Commission of India. It is an independent constitutional authority. Since its inception in 1950 and till October 1989, the Commission functioned as a single member body consisting of the Chief Election Commissioner. On 16 October 1989, the President appointed two more Election Commissioners on the eve of the General Election to the House of the People held in November- December 1989. However, the said two Commissioners ceased to hold office on 1 January 1990 when those two posts of Election Commissioners were abolished. Again on 1 October 1993, the President appointed two more Election Commissioners. Simultaneously, the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners (Conditions of Service) Act, 1991 was amended to provide that the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners will enjoy equal powers and will receive equal salary, allowances and other perquisites as payable to a judge of the Supreme Court of India. The Act further provided that in case of difference of opinion amongst the Chief Election Commissioner and/or two other Election Commissioners, the matter will be decided by the Commission by majority. The validity of that Act (renamed in 1993 as the Election Commission) (Conditions of Service of Election Commissioners and Transaction of Business) Act, 1991 was challenged before the Supreme Court. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of five judges, however, dismissed the petitions and upheld the provisions of the above law by a unanimous judgment on 14 July 1995.
Independence of the Election Commission and its insulation from executive interference is ensured by a specific provision under Article 324(5) of the Constitution that the Chief Election Commissioner shall not be removed from his office except in like manner and on like grounds as a Judge of the Supreme Court and conditions of his service shall not be varied to his disadvantage after his appointment. The other Election Commissioners cannot be removed from office except on recommendation of the Chief Election Commissioner. The term of office of the Chief Election Commissioner and other Election Commissioners is six years from the date he/she assumes office or till the day he/she attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier.
Source: India Book - A Reference Annual