Constitutional Variations Across Nations

  • 04 Pages
  • Published On: 05-12-2023

Introduction

Constitution is the governing soul of any state that is sovereign in nature which functions as a guiding light and creates a structure for the development of the legislation. The Constitution merely provides and idea or a set of rules that help in establishing further laws based on the core principles or rules set out by it. Any political and legal structure is formed on a framework which is provided by the Constitution. However, the nature of Constitution differs in different countries, some have a long-written Constitution Like India and some have absolutely unwritten Constitution, like the United Kingdom. Even though, UK’s unwritten Constitution owes to the massive history behind it. Thus, in case of a codified Constitution, the written set of principles define all the laws that are to be made but for any unwritten Constitution, the laws naturally develop out of a continuous adherence of practice and custom, which almost regulates as a habit amongst people. If we recall history, the development of Magna Carta in 1215 was the first document that embodied the virtue of UK Constitution and the rights of people were given acknowledgement by the King in order to claim Justice. The Petition of Rights in 1628, The Bill of Rights (1689) were all documents that established some form of limitations on the king and prohibited them from acting out of sheer will and authority. However, the UK Constitution was largely derived from Legislations, Case laws and judicial decisions, Constitutional Conventions and the Royal prerogatives. Given the virtue of such an unwritten Constitution, there is sufficient room for change and allows a flexible functioning of the Constitution which therefore allows changes and amendments to be carried out in a flexible manner without resorting to complex procedures for such amendments as required with changing time and needs.

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How far is the Constitution Flexible?

If we look into the flexibility UK Constitution comprises, we must analyze the sources that act significantly in framing the legislative structure and act on behalf of the uncodified Constitution. Firstly, taking into account the role of Statutes, the laws that are devised by the Parliament are all subject to change provided they are passed through the process of Simple Majority and receives Royal Assent which is reasonably a simpler process in comparison to other States having to follow a more rigid form of amendment process. Legislative Statutes like the Bill of Rights 1689 brought fundamental changes to the functioning of Constitution and allowed the Parliament to function more freely without the interference of the Queen. Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949 or the European Communities Act, 1972, Scotland Act, 1998 brought diverse changes within the core functioning of UK law which wouldn’t have evolved as much as it has today without the flexible nature of the Constitution, that UK possesses. Secondly, the Judicial decisions procured via case laws have tremendous impact on the evolving UK law. The rapid growth and development in the social, political and cultural or moral perspectives of a particular society is diverse and is constantly growing and changing. As Dicey has forwarded that the British Constitution is basically the product of a Judge-made law, allowing the decisions that are given out by the Judiciary to provide a reflection of the societal and political influences that progresses with time. Especially, the judges have their own


  1. Bogdanor, V., Khaitan, T., & Vogenauer, S. (2007). Should Britain have a written constitution? POLITICAL QUARTERLY, 78(4), 499–517.
  2. Blackburn Robert, 2015 Magna Carta ,British Library, “ Britain’s unwritten Constitution” < https://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/britains-unwritten-constitution# > accessed on 11th March, 2021
  3. interpretation to the Statutes that govern us, allowing different perspectives to add changes and interprets the law that is in consonance with the present time. Today’s British Laws are highly influenced by the evolving common laws like Right to Freedom of Speech or Personal liberty, restricting the powers of the State in case of any misappropriation of such powers as held in the case of Entick v. Carrington, contesting unlawful detention, right to free trial and fair hearing etc. are all evolved laws that has developed over a period of time. Thirdly, The Constitutional Conventions are binding in nature even if they are not legally enforceable. Conventions ideally form the ultimate crux of UK Constitution but they may be formed and incorporated within the legal framework. Few conventions that have been ingrained in the system are like the royal assent given by the Monarch to any Bill that must be passed by the Parliament or collective and individual responsibility of Ministers, The Monarch is the titular head therefore, does not comprise an active role in the political decisions etc. Fourthly, The Royal Prerogative can be considered as a source of Constitution that is not necessarily legal in nature but are exercised by the Government which have been followed by the Monarch for a long time and that has become the order of the day until today. Since there are no formal procedures that are attached to the Royal Prerogative, it is relatively easy to incorporate without going through the process of Simple Majority while amending the Acts of Parliament. Generally, the Royal Prerogative powers vary from decisions in foreign Affairs or declaring war, Summoning Parliament etc.

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    Conclusion

    The flexible nature of the British Constitution has been considered to have advantages as well as disadvantages. Discussions around that have been out for a long time, as the laws that have been accepted and ingrained in the core of the political and social structure cannot be easily repealed. Even though, there is room to change, the practical application of such changes take a lot longer time than on the surface of it, as well as the

  4. Entick v. Carrington [1765] EWHC KB J98
  5. Supra 2
  6. House of Commons, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, (2015) ‘ The UK Constitution: Summary with Options of Reform”< https://www.parliament.uk/globalassets/documents/commons-committees/political-and-constitutional-reform/The-UK-Constitution.pdf > accessed on 11th March, 2021
  7. Ibid
  8. Conventions that have been followed for so long cannot be easily replaced or uprooted from the practice culture. However, it is also undeniable that such changes are possible and the uncodified British Constitution has influenced many other countries and have been in existence to be easily replaced. Especially, the increasing demands make it suitable to have such a flexible governing Constitution.

REFERENCES

Bogdanor, V., Khaitan, T., & Vogenauer, S. (2007). Should Britain have a written constitution? POLITICAL QUARTERLY, 78(4), 499–517.

Blackburn Robert, 2015 Magna Carta ,British Library, “ Britain’s unwritten Constitution” < https://www.bl.uk/magna-carta/articles/britains-unwritten-constitution# > accessed on 11th March, 2021

House of Commons, Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, (2015) ‘ The UK Constitution: Summary with Options of Reform”< https://www.parliament.uk/globalassets/documents/commons-committees/political-and-constitutional-reform/The-UK-Constitution.pdf > accessed on 11th March, 2021

Entick v. Carrington [1765] EWHC KB J98

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