In terms of Entry 3 of Union List (Schedule VII) of the Constitution of India, Urban Self Governance of the Cantonments and the Housing Accommodation therein is the subject matter of the Union of India. There are 62 Cantonments in the country which have been notified under the Cantonments Act, 1924 (succeeded by the Cantonments Act, 2006). The overall municipal administration of the notified Cantonments is the function of the Cantonment Boards which are democratic bodies. The Station Commander of the Cantonment is the ex-officio President of the Board and an officer of the IDES or Defence Estates Organisation is the Chief Executive Officer who is also the Member-Secretary of the Board. The Board has equal representation of the elected and nominated/ex-officio members to balance the official representation with the democratic composition. This unique structure of Cantonment Boards is being maintained successfully keeping in view the fact that the Cantonment areas were and are primarily meant to accommodate the military population and their installations. Cantonments are different from the Military Stations in that the Military Stations are purely meant for the use and accommodation of the armed forces and these are established under an executive order whereas the Cantonments are areas which comprise of both military and civil population.
There are four categories of Cantonments which depend on the size of population residing inside a Cantonment. The Cantonments, despite having financial and land constraints especially towards their permissible use for residential and commercial activities, today represent the green areas which strive to maintain ecological balance while at the same time providing better civic facilities to the residents.
DGDE is an Inter Services Organisation of the Ministry of Defence which directly controls the Cantonment Administration. Some of the functions performed by DGDE towards the Cantonment Administration are as follows:-