What is constitution?
Definition of the constitution: – A constitution is a basic design, which deals with the structure and powers of government. It also includes the rights and duties of citizens. Often a ‘constitution’ is understood as a document that is written and accepted at a particular time, but it is not the true meaning of the constitution, the constitution may be written or unwritten.
Sometimes it is found as an established body of rules, maxims, traditions, and practices according to which its government is organized and its powers are being exercised.
Every country should have a constitution because it helps and guides in the operation of a country. History suggests that since the origin of countries there have been some sort of rules and laws to maintain order and harmony. In every country it is necessary to be democratic or autocratic that rules should be accepted which will determine the role and organization of political institutions to save the society from chaos. And now, in modern states, these rules took the form of a constitution.
What is the definition of constitution by different political thinkers?
Definition of constitution by different scholars: –
- Aristotle: – According to him, definition of constitution is the way by which all citizens or constituent parts of the state are organized in relation to each other
- Sir James Mackintosh: – By the state constitution, a body of written or unwritten fundamental laws means those which regulate the most important rights of the High Magistrate which are the most essential privileges of subjects.
- George Cornewell Lewis: – He defined constitution as “system and distribution of sovereign power as community or government”.
- Leacock: – According to him, “Constitution is the form of government”.
- Austin: – stated the definition of constitution as, “It fixes the structure of supreme government.”
Therefore, based on the above definitions, we can say that,
- The constitution is the fundamental law of the land.
- Constitution may be written or unwritten.
- The constitution deals with the structure and power of government.
- The constitution deals with the rights of citizens.
- The constitution deals with the relationship between governments and people.
- The constitution is the supreme law that must be followed.
What is the need for a constitution?
Since the days of the American Revolution (1776), the idea of a constitution as an essential and important document was firmly rooted in every country. Today the constitution has become the foundation of democracy.
A constitution is required for the various reasons listed below: –
- To protect the rights of individuals
- For the establishment of the principle of ‘rule of law’.
- To save the state from anarchy.
- To define the operation of sovereign power of the state.
- To limit the vagaries of present and future generations.
- Curbing the powers of government by fundamental law.
What are the essentials of a good constitution?
It is possible that a particular type of constitution may prove useful for a particular country, but it may not prove useful for any other country. It depends on the social and economic set of the country. Every state has the right to decide its constitution.
According to the definition of constitution, good constitution should have the following essentials: –
- Clarity or definiteness: – Every sentence or clause written in the constitution should be in simple language. The meaning of each clause should be express clearly without leaving any scope for confusion.
- Brevity: – The formation should not be too long. It should only include important things. But this brevity should not make a difference in the constitution except for a few issues.
- Comprehensiveness: – The constitution should apply throughout the country. If it is a federation, it should demarcate the structure and power of the central and provincial governments.
- Flexibility: – The constitution should not be too rigid to interrupt the amendment process when needed.
- Declaration of rights: – People should have fundamental rights in a good constitution. Such declarations have been made in the constitution of countries like India, Russia, China, America and Japan.
- Independence of judiciary: – The independence of the judiciary is another quality of a good constitution. The judiciary must act independently and act as a protector of the fundamental rights of the people without any fear.
- Directive Principles of State Policy: – Directive principles of state policy have to be mentioned in a good constitution as it helps in the creation of a welfare state.
Classification of constitution
- Written and unwritten constitution
- Rigid and flexible constitution
1. Difference between written and unwritten constitution
|Written constitution||Unwritten constitution|
|The written constitution is found in legal documents duly maintained in the form of law.||An unwritten constitution contains principles of government that have never been implemented as law.|
|It is precise, definite and systematic. It is the result of efforts made by the people conscious and deliberate.||It is indefinite, unsystematic and un-precise. Such a constitution is not the result of the conscious and deliberate efforts of the people.|
|It is created by a representative body elected by the people at a particular period in history.||It is not created by a representative component assembly. So, it is sometimes called a developed or cumulative constitution.|
|It is always promulgated at a specific date in history.||It has no fixed date, as it has evolved over time.|
|The Constitution of India is the best example of a written constitution (announced on 26 January 1950).||The Constitution of England is the best example of an unwritten constitution.|
|A written constitution is generally rigid and its amendments require constitutional laws. In other words, the distinction between constitutional law and common law is maintained. The first is considered superior to the second.||The unwritten constitution is not rigid and its amendments do not require any law. In other words, the distinction between constitutional law and common law is not maintained.|
|A written constitution can also be called an enacted constitution.||An unwritten constitution can also be called an un-enacted constitution.|
2. Difference between rigid and flexible constitution
|Rigid constitution||Flexible constitution|
|A rigid constitution cannot be easily amended. It has very complex modification procedures.||A flexible constitution can be amended with the same ease as the general laws.|
|A rigid constitution cannot be accommodated according to the changing needs of society. No legislature can tamper with them, because they are superior to the common law.||A flexible constitution can be adjusted to suit the changing needs of people and society.|
|A rigid constitution is essentially a written constitution composed of experienced and learned people. Thus it is a symbol of national efficiency.||A flexible constitution is very useful for a developing country because it will not be a hindrance to progress due to its adaptability.|
|A rigid constitution does not develop and expand. People consider it as a sacred document and they are ready to work according to its provisions.||A flexible constitution grows and expands as nature matures.|
|A rigid constitution does not reflect the changing pulse of public opinion. In other words it represents the minds of experienced and learned people who initially implicated it.||A flexible constitution reflects the changing pulse of public opinion. In other words it represents the mind of the people.|
|Accordingly, legislatures should not have a constitution in their hands. So, a rigid constitution is based on the assumption that it is the perfect constitution for all time.||A flexible constitution is based on the sound assumption that there cannot be a right constitution for all time.|