Explain the principle of subsidiary, its importance and discuss how the 73rd constitutional amendment act tries to achieve it.

Q. Explain the principle of subsidiary, its importance and discuss how the 73rd constitutional amendment act tries to achieve it.


The principle of subsidiary means that a central authority should not exercise functions which can be carried out efficiently by immediate or local level, rather it should support the latter and help coordinate its activity with the activities of the whole community.

It ensures that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen and that constant checks are made as to whether action at community level is justified in the light of the possibilities available at national, regional or local level.

Importance of the principle:
  • Greater democratic participation: Subsidiarity helps democratic system derive its full legitimacy and promotes self-reliance at the local level as well as greater ownership of programmes by the local communities.
  • Improved administrative and economic efficiency: People have better knowledge of problems in their localities. They also have better ideas on where to spend money and how to manage things more efficiently.
  • Clear delineation of responsibilities: Since whatever can be done best at a particular level should be done at that level only and not at higher levels, this necessitates a rational and realistic analysis of the functions that are required to be discharged at different levels. Thus, clearly delineating responsibilities at different levels.
  • Better decision and policy making: Once decision-making and its consequences are integrally linked at the local level, people can better appreciate that hard choices need to be made in governance.

Further, it also helps in formulating such policy which has the concurrence of all stakeholders.

Principles of subsidiary especially gains relevance for India due to large geographical expanse and diverse needs of various regions and communities which can be best addressed at the local level. The 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1993 tries to achieve the features of the principle of subsidiarity by:

  • Devolving greater power to the grass root levels through Panchayati Raj Institutions to handle 29 functional items (listed in Eleventh Schedule) like rural housing, poverty alleviation, drinking water, etc.
  • Greater participation of community through establishment of Gram Sabha of which all voters of the village are members. The Panchayat works under the overall supervision of Gram Sabha. Making provisions for effective transfer of funds (through State Finance Commission), functions and functionaries.
  • Making it constitutionally mandatory to hold regular elections to local government bodies through establishment of State Election Commission.
  • Barring interference of courts in the electoral matters of Panchayats.

States like Kerala, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh are good examples depicting how the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1993 can achieve the features of the principle of subsidiarity. Local government can be best realized only if the provisions of the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act are implemented in letter and spirit.

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