Sources and Features of English Constitution
SOURCES OF THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION
The sources of the English Constitution are:
The workability of the English Constitution is based upon conventions without which it would become unworkable. These conventions are regarded as sacred law of the constitutions. Their importance lies in the fact that fundamental principles of the English Constitution like the sovereignty of Parliament and Ministerial responsibility to the Parliament upon which the successful working of democracy depends, are regulated by conventions. It has been rightly opined that without the conventions, the British Constitution is like skeleton without flesh and blood.
The second important source of the English Constitution are the great charters and agreements which define and regulate the powers of Crown and the rights of citizens, etc. Such charters have become historic documents and, therefore constitute an important part of the British Constitution.
The third important source of the English Constitution are the statutes (laws) passed by the Parliament from time to time. However, the Parliament has the power to change it whenever it likes. The important statutes are
· Reform Act of 1832
· Parliament Act of 1911
· Indian Independence Act of 1947
4) JUDICIAL DECISIONS
Judicial decisions are the judgments and interpretations of the British courts which define the scope and limitations of the different charters, statutes and common law of England. So great is the importance of the judicial decisions.
5) EMINENT WORKS
Some of the eminent works written by authorities on the subject also form a part and parcel of the Constitution. Dicey's Law of Constitution, Blackstone's Commentaries on English Constitution are some notable examples.
6) COMMON LAW
Common Law may be defined as an "assemblage of all those rules and important principles, which are the product of low process of long historical growth, being based upon the customs and traditions of English society, and later on recognized by the Courts of the country". Such rules are apart altogether from any Act of Parliament and include many of the most important features of the government and legal systems and are fully accepted and enforced as law.
SALIENT FEATURES OF THE ENGLISH CONSTITUTION
The salient features are:
1) PARTLY WRITTEN AND PARTLY UNWRITTEN
The first important feature of the British Constitution is its unwritten character. However, there several written parts of the British Constitution, like the Magna Carta, Bill of Right, etc, but the unwritten part is heavier than the written one.
The British Constitution has evolved itself gradually, expressing itself in different statutes, precedents, usages and traditions. It has grown like an organism from age to age. It is the oldest among existing Constitutions. England has not witnessed a revolution.
3) DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEORY AND PRACTICE
One of the unique features of the British Constitution is the gap that exists between constitutional theory and government practices. In theory, the Government of England is vested in the Crown. In practice, the king has become merely a figurehead. He reigns but does not rule. The truth is that the king, if he acts at all, acts only through Ministers.
4) PARLIAMENTARY SOVEREIGNTY
The sovereignty of the Parliament forms another important feature of the British Constitution. There is no law which the British Parliament cannot make or unmake. The British Parliament is both the law making and constituent authority. It can abolish monarchy and even prohibit the king to marry a woman of his choice. So far legality is concerned, the British Parliament is supreme and sovereign.
5) A UNITARY CONSTITUTION
The British Constitution is unitary. All the power is concentrated in a single Government centered at London. The local areas derive their powers from London Government.
6) A FLEXIBLE CONSTITUTION
The British Constitution is flexible in nature. There is no difference between the procedure for a constitutional law and that of an ordinary law in England. The British Parliament is empowered to pass and amend the ordinary law as well as the constitutional law through the same ordinary procedure.
7) RULE OF LAW
Another important feature of the British Constitution is the rule of law. It has never been expressly enacted as a statute, but is implicit in the various acts of parliament, judicial decisions and in the Common Law. The fundamental rights of the British people is secured through the rule of law. The citizens, the courts, the administrative officials, the king, are all subject to it.
8) PARLIAMENTARY FORM OF GOVERNMENT
England has a parliamentary form of Government. The king is the head of the State. The real functionaries are the Ministers who belong to the majority in the House of Commons. The Ministers are also the members of the Parliament, so there is coordination between the executive and legislative wings of the Government. The parliamentary system of England is called the "Mother of Parliaments".
9) SEPERATION OF POWERS COMBINED WITH CONCENTRATION OF RESPONSIBILITY
The British governmental structure is based on separation of powers. The Crown is the executive; Parliament is the legislature; the Courts form the judiciary. None of the institution is responsible to the other for their work.
10) A BLEND OF MONARCHY, ARISTOCRACY AND DEMOCRACY
The British Constitution has blended itself with the three features of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. The British king represents the monarchy, the House of Lords is the aristocracy and the House of Commons is the democracy.
11) BICAMERAL LEGISLATURE
The Parliament is bicameral. The House of Commons, the lower house, composed of six hundred and fifty-one members and the House of Lords comprised of over eleven hundred members. The House of Common is more powerful than the House of Lords.