Twenty-five Years of the Constitution Seventy-fourth Amendment Act (74th CAA),1992: Promise and Performance

Date01 June 2020
Published date01 June 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Twenty-five Years of
the Constitution
Amendment Act
(74th CAA),1992:
Promise and Performance
D. Ravindra Prasad1 and Y. Pardhasaradhi1
The Constitution (Seventy-fourth Amendment) Act, 1992, completed 25 years
of implementation. All states in India amended the municipal laws in conformity
with the Act and are implementing them. As a consequence, provisions have
been made to hold urban local body elections regularly, reservations to women
and weaker sections, constitute election and finance commissions, and district
and metropolitan planning committees. However, a closer analysis, after 25 years
of its implementation, brings out certain deficiencies. The states seem to be half-
hearted to decentralise democracy, reluctant to empower urban local bodies,
functionally and financially and unwilling to clothe them with autonomy. It is time
to revisit the Act, review its performance based on 25 years of experience and
suggest measures to achieve the objectives that lay behind its enactment.
Constitution Seventy-fourth Amendment Act, State Election Commission, State
Finance Commission, Urban Local Bodies
The Context
The local bodies in India, both urban and rural, lacked constitutional status
until 1992. As local government is a state subject,1 there were variations in
Indian Journal of Public
66(2) 159–178, 2020
© 2020 IIPA
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/0019556120923900
1 Former Directors, Regional Centre for Urban and Environmental Studies (RCUES), Osmania
University, Hyderabad, Telangana, India.
Corresponding author:
D. Ravindra Prasad, Aditya Sunshine, Kothaguda, Hyderabad, Telangana 500084, India.
160 Indian Journal of Public Administration 66(2)
nomenclature, structure and working of local bodies across states. In most
states, they suffered prolonged neglect and became weak and ineffective. The
state governments resorted to supersession of Urban Local Bodies (ULBs)
(Sivaramakrishnan, 2000, p. 47) and elections were not held for long periods.
The ULBs were characterised by weak institutional framework, functional frag-
mentation, inadequate finances, absence of space for citizens’ voice in govern-
ance, lack of professionalism, low public image, etc. They lacked vibrancy and
suffered from inadequate devolution of powers, functions and finances. Local
governance was state-centric, which persisted for over a century. It was in this
context, efforts were initiated to provide constitutional status to the rural and
ULBs to strengthen them administratively, functionally and financially.
Accordingly, for Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) and ULBs, the Constitution
sixty-fourth and sixty-fifth amendment bills, respectively, were introduced in
Lok Sabha on 7 August 1989 and were passed but were defeated in Rajya Sabha
on 13 October 1989. With the dissolution of Lok Sabha in 1989, the Bills lapsed.
They were enacted, after the elections to the tenth parliament, as the Constitution
(Seventy-third Amendment) Act, 1992 (73rd CAA) and the Constitution
(Seventy-fourth Amendment) Act, 1992 (74th CAA). The two legislations are
complementary. The 74th CAA came into force on 1 June 1993 and the Act
provided 1 year for the states to amend their municipal laws in conformity with
the 74th CAA.
Failure to hold regular elections, prolonged supersessions and inadequate devo-
lution of powers and functions to ULBs are cited as reasons for enacting the 74th
CAA. The objectives of 74th CAA include setting up of a mechanism to facilitate
decentralisation, define the functions and role of ULBs, provide representation to
Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and women, ensure continuity
of ULBs, etc. The aim is to put state–ULB relations on a firmer footing through
specifying functional domain, regular elections to ULBs with fixed 5-year tenure,
taxation powers, share in state revenues, constitution of Ward Committees (WCs,
Article243 S) in cities with more than three lakh population to create space for
closer citizen engagement in civic affairs and governance at sub-city level. The
Act provides for the constitution of the State Election Commission to conduct
elections fairly and regularly, State Finance Commission (SFC) to recommend
principles and measures to share state revenues, District Planning Committees
(DPCs) and Metropolitan Planning Committees (MPCs) to prepare district and
metropolitan plans respectively for economic development and social justice. It
lists out 18 core functions in the Twelfth Schedule of the Constitution for devolu-
tion to the ULBs. The states, in compliance with the 74th CAA, amended their
municipal Acts, organised the ULBs in their new form, which became functional
with effect from 1 June 1994.2 Some states, however, have separate legislations
for SECs, SFCs, DPCs, MPCs,3 etc.
The 74th CAA, popularly called Nagarpalika Act, considered as historic,
revolutionary and path breaking, has completed 25 years of implementation.
It provides a common framework for ULBs in the country to strengthen their
finances, functions and functioning and to make them effective democratic insti-
tutions. Its implementation evoked mixed response, which needs discussion and
analysis. This article discusses the status of ULBs before 1992, the Constitutional
Amendment, its promise and performance, the National Urban Policy Framework

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