Unwritten Constitution


    Unwritten Constitution

    unwritten constitution not codified
    1. What is Unwritten Constitution?

    • An Uncodified or Unwritten Constitution is a constitution that is not contained or documented in a single document. They made it by passing laws at different intervals of time.
    • An unwritten constitution is flexible and easy to amend.
    • An Unwritten constitution is also called an uncodified constitution.
    • The understanding in Unwritten constitution comes through reading commentary by the judiciary, government committees, and legal experts who interpret the constitution on a case to case basis.

    Seven Features of the Unwritten Constitution

    features of unwritten constitution

    Briefly let’s dive into the Seven Features of the Unwritten Constitution.

    1. No Distinction Between laws in Unwritten Constitution

    • In, Unwritten Constitution they made no distinction between the Constitutional laws & the laws outside it (Statutory laws).
    • For example, In Britain, every enactment of Britain’s parliament becomes part of their constitution.
    1. What are Constitutional and Statutory Laws?


    Constitutional Laws

    Constitutional Laws regarding India, are those laws which are initially made and passed by Constitutional Assembly.

    Example – Constitutional Laws include Fundamental Rights (such as Article 14, Article 15, and so on).

    Statutory Laws

    Anything which is legally enforceable is considered as law. Parliament passes such laws and these laws are known as statutory laws. Such laws are outcome of the constitution only.

    Example of Statutory laws-

    Motor Vehicle Act.
    Indian Penal Code, 1860
    Armed forces Special Power Act (AFSPA).
    Right to Education act 2009

    NOTE – Explanation is for understanding only.

    1. Supremacy of the Parliament in Unwritten Constitution.

    • In Unwritten Constitution, it is the parliament that is supreme. Since every act of parliament becomes part of their constitution.
    1. Limited Powers of Judiciary in Unwritten Constitution.

    • Here in Unwritten Constitution, Judiciary has limited powers and Legislators(law-making body) are supreme.

      For Example, In Britain Judiciary cannot declare law/enactment of the parliament as unconstitutional or void. The laws made there are outcomes of the constant evolution.
    1. Strengthened over period

    • Unwritten constitution is not an enacted constitution. No single body had created it, rather it is developed over the long period.
    1. Gives rise to unitary Setup

    unitary system in unwritten constitution
    • Unwritten constitution gives rise only to a unitary system of government.
    1. Highly Flexible

    • Unwritten Constitution is always flexible because parliament can bring change at any point in time.
    1. Parliamentary form of Government.

    • The constitution which is not written may have a parliamentary form of government.
    • For Example, Britain has a Parliamentary form of government.

    Features of Britain’s Unwritten constitution

    features of Britain unwritten Constituiton

    Britain’s Constitution is one example of an Unwritten Const. Unlike in most countries, they have not tried to codify such arrangements into a single document.

    Additionally let’s read some features of the Britain’s Unwritten Const.

    1. No Single Document

    • British Constitution is not written in any single document. Politicians and lawyers have relied on constitutional authorities to locate and understand the constitution.
    1. Parliament Enacts Law

    • In Britain, whatever the Queen of Parliament enacts, it becomes law. The Parliament here, by using power of the Crown, enacts a law that no other body(Executive or Judiciary) can challenge. 
    1. Parliamentary Sovereignty

    • Parliamentary sovereignty is commonly regarded as defining principle of the British Constitution. This is an ultimate lawmaking power vested in a democratically elected Parliament to create or abolish any law.
    1. Rule of Law

    rule of law origin
    • The “Rule of law” concept came from England. A. V DICEY gave this concept.
    • Rule of Law is a part of the basic structure along with Right to equality of the Constitution of India.
    • It means “Law Is Supreme” i.e. Lex Supremus and absolute supremacy of the law against the arbitrary powers.

    Aspirants can read more about “rule of law” from this linked article.

    1. Separation of Powers

    • They separated the powers among legislators, executives, and Judiciary. These are the three wings of the government.
    • The separation is done in order to prevent the state from being oppressive and safeguarding individual liberty. But in Britain, the legislators have supreme control over lawmaking.
    separation of powers

    Explanation –

    How they separated powers?

    They separated among:

    1. Legislators
    2. Executives
    3. Judiciary

    Why there is a need for the Separation of Powers?

    The separation of power is done in order to avoid encroaching the rights of the citizens.

    Let us understand with the help of examples:

    NOTE – The explanation given below is for India, not for Britain.

    Example when Judiciary can stop the legislature:
    Suppose the government passed a law. Law states that the citizens have to share 3 months of their data from social sites (such as WhatsApp, Facebook) with the government for security reasons.

    The result will be:

    Some people will fight against this law on grounds of the Right to Privacy and in the end, Judiciary can declare the law void and unconstitutional. 

    The passed law will be declared unconstitutional because it is against the privacy of people

    Example when legislators can stop executives:

    Under AFSPA, officers can arrest anyone.

    They even have an order to shoot someone under suspicion and also the inquiry against officers cannot happen normally.

    Not always, but many times, officers misuse AFSPA,.

    In certain cases, legislators can punish them.

    Example when legislators
    exercise power over judiciary:

    Judiciary is integrated and independent in India, but only the Parliament can remove any judge from his/her office. This is because of ‘checks and balances‘ in India.

    You can read about how Judges can be removed in India in this linked article:

    Can executives have powers over judiciary?

    Not absolutely, but President has some say in the appointment of the Chief Justice of India & other Judges in the Supreme Court under clause (2) of Article 124 of the constitution.

    So we can say that the executive has some influence over Judiciary.

    NOTE – The explanation is for understanding only.

    1. Unitary State 

    • There is existence of a unitary state in Britain, meaning Center/Parliament having ultimate powers and ‘the states’ are just the implementing arms of the centre. 
    1. Highly Flexible

    Britain parliament is flexible
    • Britain’s Parliament is very flexible in making constitutional reforms.

    Example for Britain parliament flexibility.

    Advantages of the Unwritten Constitution

    1. Flexibility

    • This is evidently the biggest advantage of the unwritten Const. It is flexible enough to meet the present and future demands of the country.
    1. Easy to amend

    • Amending or making constitutional reforms in Unwritten Constitution is very easy.
    • When there is an urgent need for the constitution to be amended, it may be possible only if the constitution is unwritten.
    1. Less Delay in Governmental Activities

    less delay in governmental activities in unwritten constitution
    • An Unwritten const. is also helpful because it does not give rise to unnecessary litigation. The absence of litigation will reduce the government’s accountability and will provide better stability.
    • Government can exercise their powers to bring changes smoothly possible because of less restraint.

    Disadvantages of Unwritten Constitution

    1. Uncertainty in Unwritten Constitution

    uncertainty in unwritten constitution
    • An unwritten Const. is usually unclear. It does not contain rules and regulations which guide the state in one document,
    • Many times there is uncertainty what the law actually is. Hence, it becomes subjected to individual opinion and the interpretation may have a negative impact.
    1. State can become Authoritarian

    • If the Civil Society is not active, then it might encourage the infringement of the rights of citizens, who are not aware enough to know about the position of the law.
    1. People are Unaware of Rights and Duties

    people are unaware of their rights and duties
    • Due to absence of education and awareness among the people, an unwritten constitution does not allow individuals to know their rights, duties and obligations. This is one of the biggest disadvantages of having an unwritten constitution.
    1. Can Encourage Dictatorship

    • It may encourage dictatorship through manipulation and exploitation of its imprecise and unwritten provisions. As already stated, where the constitution is not written, the laws are what parliament declares. The law might not based on any legal principle or statute.

    Example of countries with an unwritten constitution


    Britain flag
    • The British, who ruled India for nearly 2 centuries, do not have the constitution in written form. The Parliament can change the laws made by Parliament in Britain according to the time and circumstances.


    • Israel, which became independent in the year 1948, does not even have its own written constitution. Although the exercise to make a constitution in Israel was started here after the country became independent, but they could not create it because of differences in parliament. 

    New Zealand

    new zealand unwritten constitution
    • New Zealand, the beautiful island in the South-Western Pacific Ocean, also does not have a written constitution. It has an unwritten constitution, based on which the justice and administrative system runs here. They conduct governance in New Zealand-based on laws made earlier.

    Saudi Arabia

    Saudi Arabia flag
    • We always hear certain kinds of strange laws in Saudi Arabia, but the country does not have a written constitution of its own.
    • They took here the Decision after considering the things written in the Quran as the highest.

    Congratulations, you have read the complete article about Unwritten Const. If you have any doubts or queries, feel free to leave a comment below. We will respond as soon as possible.

    Or Email Us At

    More Articles: 

    Written Constitution – Easy ExplanationArticle 16
    Right to Equality Article[14-18]Right to Freedom Article [19-22]

    Any topic you want us to cover. Let us know.

    Share this blog

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.