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Karnataka - Government

Under Article 154 of the Constitution of India, the executive power of the State vests with the Governor. He is the constitutional head of the State and the Government is carried on in his name and is appointed for a period of five years. Although in theory the Governor is the repository of all executive authority, he seldom exercises his authority directly except under extraordinary circumstances. In practice the council of ministers exercises all the executive powers of the state. The council is assisted by the Secretariat in running the administration efficiently. Likewise, there is a separate Secretariat to the Governor headed by a secretary.

The State legislature consists of two Houses viz. the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. The Legislative Assembly consists of 224 members with one member nominated by the Governor to represent the Anglo-Indian community. The term of office of the members is five years and they are elected by adult franchise. The term of office of a member elected to the council is six years. The council has 75 members of which 25 are elected from the Legislative Assembly, 25 by Local Bodies, 7 by Registered Graduates, 7 by Registered Teachers and 11 nominated by the Governor. The Assembly sessions are presided by the Speaker who is elected by the Assembly, while the Council elects the Chairman.

The Chief Minister is generally the leader of the legislative assembly. The Constitution also provides for a Council of ministers with the Chief Minister as the head to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions. The Chief Minister who is leader of the majority party is appointed by the Governor and the other ministers are appointed on his advice. The Council of Ministers which is collectively called the Cabinet consists of Cabinet Ministers, Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers. As per the election commissions direction the size of the council of minsters is restricted to only 15% of the total elected members of the legislature and accordingly the state government can have a Ministry restricted to 34 members since 2004.

The Chief Minister will exercise powers in guiding, directing, controlling and coordinating the activities of other ministers. He combines in himself the roles of the leader of the party, the leader of the House and the leader of the Government. The Chief Secretary is the head of the administrative services. He, together with the Chief Minister will equally share and also assist him in effectively discharging the administrative responsibilities.

The three major branches of the State Government are: 1. The Minister 2. The Secretary 3. The Executive Head of the department. The Minister will decide the policy, the Secretary provides advice, and the Executive head will implement the decisions. Two major functionaries – the Minister and the Secretary are served by the Secretariat Organisation. At the head of the Secretariat is the Chief Secretary to the Government who is responsible for the proper and efficient functioning of the administrative setup. He is assisted by Additional Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary or Secretaries to Government who in turn have under them Additional Secretary/Joint Secretary, Deputy and Under Secretaries to Government.

By the Karnataka Civil Courts Act of 1964 a three-tier system of courts under uniform designation prevailed. They were District Court (district level); Civil Judge’s Court (district or smaller area); and Courts of Munsiff in respect of Civil Justice and District and Sessions Judge (District level) and the Judicial Magistrate First Class (other places) in respect of criminal cases. In metropolitan areas, the Chief Magistrate is to be designated as Chief Metropolitan Magistrate. Besides there are Special Tribunals like Land Tribunals(for each taluk) and the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal, Labour Courts, Karnataka Administrative Tribunal (in Bengaluru), Consumer’sRedressal Forums, Consumer Courts, Income Tax Tribunal, Educational Tribunal etc.

From the beginning, Karnataka has imbibed a rich and incessant heritage of self-governing civic institutions keeping in harmony with the changing socio-economic and political conditions in the course of history. In the erstwhile princely state of Mysore, the idea of local self-governance emerged as early as 1874, with the establishment of ‘local fund committees’ in each district, for taking up construction of roads and subsidiary works. But these committees did not evoke local interest and initiative because of the dominance of the official members.

The Mysore Local Boards Act of 1902, which sought to correct this shortcoming, provided for a three-tier local self-government structure consisting of the village panchayat with a nominated chairman, a taluk board with the subdivision officer as president and a district board with the Deputy Commissioner as president. Since even these measures did not lessen the hold of the bureaucracy, the Mysore Local Boards and Village Panchayat Act was enacted in 1918 to provide for elected members and elected vice presidents at these levels.

In 1926, the Mysore District and Mysore Village Panchayats Act was enacted, providing panchayats with adequate powers, finances and resources, and eliminating taluk boards from the system. All these measures were intended to loosen the hold of bureaucrats and to induct people’s representatives into local government. During the early 1950s there were further attempts to make these institutions people oriented and more representative. The Mysore Village Panchayats and Local Boards Act, 1959 was enacted, within the broad framework of the Balwanthrai Mehta Committee Report, to provide for village panchayats, taluk development boards and district development councils.

The decentralised system that was put in place under the 1983 Act was really radical, in the sense, that many powers were devolved to the people to govern themselves and to promote local development. It made the PR bureaucracy accountable to the people’s representatives, rather than the state bureaucracy. There was substantial reservation for women and backward classes.

Attempts have been made in recent times to strengthen PRIs by adopting measures to promote good governance and accountability through ‘enhanced people’s participation, citizen orientation, responsiveness, improved service delivery, improved fi nancial management and greater downward accountability’ (RDPR, Government of Karnataka, 17.5.2004). The Karnataka Panchayat Raj Act, 1993 was amended in October 2003 and the 47 amendments thus effected were intended to facilitate people’s participation and to make PRIs more accountable to their constituents. Conceptually, gram sabhas provide a space for grassroots participation. In reality, their functioning has often been neither democratic nor participatory. The poor, women, the SCs and STs remained marginalised and voiceless.

The Achilles’ heel of decentralised government is taxation. Decentralised governmental units, on their part, have not taken a proactive role, either in raising the resources to increase allocation to social sector expenditures, or in increasing the effectiveness of spending programmes by improving the delivery systems.

The Election Commission is an autonomous, constitutionally established federal authority responsible for administering all the electoral processes in the State. Under the supervision of the commission, free and fair elections have been held at regular intervals as per the principles enshrined in the Constitution. The Election Commission has the power of superintendence, direction and control of all elections to the state legislatures, the Zilla Panchayats and Taluk Panchayats and elections to all other local bodies like Muncipalities, Corporations etc.

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Page last modified: 16-04-2018 18:45:33 ZULU