The Distinction Between a Written and Unwritten Constitution is a False One. Discuss this Statement. - Political Science

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Short Note

The distinction between a written and unwritten constitution is a false one. Discuss this statement.

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(i) The essential features of a written constitution and an unwritten constitution are as follows: 

(1) Written Constitution:

  • A written constitution means a constituion written in the form of a book or a series of documents combined in the form of a book.
  • It provides for a definite design of Government institutions, their organisations, powers, functions and inter-relationships.
  • It is consciously planned and enacted constitution which is formulated and adopted by a constituent assembly or a council or convention or a legislature.

(2) Unwritten Constitution:

  • An unwritten constitution means a constitution is not in the written form of a book and it is not drafted or enacted by a constituent assembly.
  • The Government is organised and it functions in accordance with the several well settled laws and several unwritten conventions.
  • The people know their constitution and they accept and obey it, but they do not possess it in the written form. 

(ii) Constitutions are classified as written and unwritten. Such a classification is, however, of little practical importance. As Wheare observes, “we cannot agree that there is any country, least of all, the United Kingdom, which has a system of government embodied solely in written rules or solely in unwritten rules.” The distinction between written and unwritten constitution is illusory. The bulk of the rules regulating the fundamental political institutions of a country may be written down in a document or documents. The written constitutions are framed by a representative body called, Constituent Assembly. For example, the USA and India have a written constitutional document. On the other hand, the constitution of a country is said to be unwritten, when most of the rules governing its fundamental political institutions are found in customs, usages and conventions, as is the case in U.K.

It follows therefore, that constitutions can hardly be classified into written and unwritten types in absolute term. The distinction is really a superfluous one.

Concept: Meaning of Constitution
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2014-2015 (March) Set 1

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