What is Written Constitution?
- Written Constitution refers to the constitution in which the laws are adequately enacted, duly framed, and stated in a single book.
- Written Constitution contains rules, articles, provisions that govern the political system.
- It also helps to recognize the rights of both citizens and the government.
- It is codified into a single legal document.
What are the seven features of the written Constitution?
Briefly let’s dive into the Seven Features of the Written Constitution.
Distinction between Laws
- In the Written Constitution distinction is made between provisions of the constitution (Constitutional laws) & the laws outside it (Statutory laws).
What are Constitutional and Statutory 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).
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.
Supremacy of Constitution
In Written Constitution it is the constitution that is supreme & not the parliament.
A Balance between the Sovereignty of Parliament and Judiciary
- Judiciary is very strong in Written Const because the Judiciary is the only one to read and interpret the constitution.
- If any bill or act goes against the constitution, the judiciary can declare the whole act unconstitutional and void.
- A particular body enacts a written constitution on a specific date.
Federal Structure of Written Constitution
- Such constitution can give rise to Federal Government or Unitary Government.
In Federal Government, the constitution distributes powers among both the center and the State.
In a Unitary Government setup, there is only one supreme body at the center. State Government is just the implementing arms of the Central Government.
Combination of rigidity and flexibility.
- Constitution in written form can be rigid or flexible or a combo of both.
Rigid -The United States has a written constitution that is very rigid.
Flexible – Sri Lanka has a flexible written constitution.
Rigid and Flexible – India’s written constitution is both challenging and flexible.
Areas where Indian Constitution is Rigid
In some aspects, the Indian constitution is very rigid. For Example, if there needs to be a change brought in the changing procedure for the president’s election in India. In some instances center cannot bring change unilaterally. They need to get a Special majority followed by 50% states should agree & acknowledge the procedure.
Areas where Indian Constitution is Flexible
For Example, Article 3 empowers the Indian parliament to form a new state by separating the territory from any state or uniting two or more states or parts of states. As recently, the status of Jammu & Kashmir is changed.
No bill is specifically needed to bring changes in such matters.
NOTE – Explanation is for understanding only.
Parliamentary Form of Government.
- The constitution which is written may have a parliamentary form of government, for example, India, Italy, etc.
What are the reasons for making a written constitution?
- The written constitution mainly lays down the framework that demarcates fundamental political code, structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles (DPSP’s), and the responsibilities of citizens.
- However, all such details are not always written in all the constitutions. Still, for a diverse country like India, such a lengthy framework serves a great purpose in promoting the whole country’s general welfare, liberty, and integrity.
What are the objectives of the written Constitution of India?
- The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and it also helps maintain integrity in society. It is used to promote unity among the citizens to build a great nation.
- The main objective of the Indian Constitution is to promote harmony throughout the nation.
Which country has the lengthiest constitution in the world?
- Indian constitution is the lengthiest constitution in the world. Also, it is taken from the constitutions of various countries, making it the most prolonged constitution in the world.
To read more about Indian Constitution, Click this link.
What are the Advantages of the Written Constitution?
There are several advantages of the Written constitution. Let us discuss some of them.
Reference to the Constitution
- If the constitution is written, it makes it very easy for citizens to reference the constitution, in case of controversy, as the only Supreme law of the land that should guide them.
- It will not be possible to find references when the constitution is not documented.
- Difficult to Change
- It is not easy to change or tamper with the constitution which is written. The reason being that it is very rigid. Due to rigidity, it becomes challenging to change the constitution. Hence it makes it very difficult for dictators to rule to state if written according to democratic principles.
Awareness in people about their Rights
- It is codified into a single document, unlike an unwritten constitution, after reading which people know their rights and duties.
- Also, people will be aware when their rights have been breached or when the acts of government or public officials are unconstitutional to protect themselves based on the provisions of the constitution.
Separation of powers
- Powers are more apparent in the constitution, which is written & with clear separation, it reduces the clashes between the arms of the government(legislature, executive, judiciary) as the constitution can be referred any time in case there is a conflict between them.
What are the Disadvantages of Written Constitution?
Now let us discuss some of the disadvantages of the Written Const.
Preferable for Diverse states
- A written constitution, especially a rigid constitution, is not suitable for every type of government.
- For instance, a unitary system of government where the powers are enjoyed by the center alone, which is usually tiny in size and suitable for a population that is not diverse, needs a flexible and readily amenable constitution for quick government decision-making.
- A written and rigid constitution is more suitable for a federal government, a diverse population with minorities and marginalized groups.
Work Load on Judiciary followed by delay in governmental activities
A written constitution is open to Public Interest litigations (PIL). As in the written constitution, citizens know when their rights have been breached and can always bring litigations to the courts. With the help of litigations, they can make the government liable to perform its governmental duties.
- But this may lead to delays in governmental activities, and it also presents the problem of interpretation of the provisions mentioned in the constitution followed by workload among the judges.
- The Judges might be liberal, visionary, forward-looking, and progressive; others may be conservative, timid in interpreting the constitution whereby slowing down the pace of legal reform and development of a country.
Written Constitution is Less Flexible
- As things and situations change with time in this world, a constitution should also be flexible so that it can adhere to changes to meet the demands of the new world. A written const. is usually interpreted strictly which makes it rigid. It does not allow for flexibility.
- Such rigid provisions may obstruct meeting the present and future needs of the country.
Not Easy to Amend
- Written Const. is difficult to amend. It is both an advantage and disadvantage at the same time.
- It can be rigid and raises question on how to amend them to make them suit for changing needs and time.
- When there is an urgent need to amend the constitution, it may not be possible where there is a constitution in writing form. This is because the constitution is rigid and may take a long time which is not wise.
Which Countries are having Written Constitution?
Examples of countries:
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