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SALIENT FEATURES OF BRITISH

CONSTITUTION

SUBMITTED TO:-

Dr. B.K. MAHAKUL


(FACULTY MAJOR POLITICAL SYSTEM)

SUBMITTED BY:ATUL VERMA


(ROLL NO-35, SEM-IV)

HIDAYATULLAH NATIONAL LAW


UNIVERSITY
UPARWARA, NEW RAIPUR (C.G)

Declaration

I ATUL VERMA hereby declare that the project work entitled " SALIENT FEATURES OF
BRITISH CONSTITUTION " is record of an original work done by me under the guidance of
Faculty Member Dr. B.K. Mahakul.

Certificate

This is to be certified that this project work entitled SALIENT FEATURES OF


BRITISH CONSTITUTION is the record of Bona fide research work done by ATUL
VERMA under my supervision and guidance. The project work has not previously

formed the basis for the award of any degree, diploma, associate ship, fellowship or
other similar title of recognition.

Date: 12/02/2016

Dr. B.K.Mahakul
(Faculty member Major Political System),
Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur
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Acknowledgements:
I feel highly elated to work on the topic SALIENT FEATURES OF BRITISH

CONSTITUTION .The practical realization of this project has obligated the


assistance of many persons. I express my deepest regard and gratitude towards Dr.
B.K. Mahakul, faculty of Major Political System for giving me the opportunity to work
on this project. His invaluable guidance has been of immense help in understanding
and carrying out the nuances of the project.

I take this opportunity to also thank the University and the Vice Chancellor for providing
extensive database resources in the Library and for the Internet facilities provided by the
University.
Some printing errors might have crept in, which are deeply regretted. I would be grateful to
receive comments and suggestions to further improve this project report.

Atul verma
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Roll No: 35
Semester IV
TABLE OF CONTENTS:1- INTRODUCTION 6
2- SALIENT FEATURES OF BRITISH CONSTITUTION 7
3- CONCLUSION .14

INTRODUCTION
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a
state or other organization is governed1. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the
entity is. When these principles are written down into a single document or set of legal
documents, those documents may be said to embody a written constitution; if they are written
down in a single comprehensive document, it is said to embody a codified constitution.
Constitutions concern different levels of organizations, from sovereign states to companies and
unincorporated associations. A treaty which establishes an international organization is also its
constitution, in that it would define how that organization is constituted. Within states, a
constitution defines the principles upon which the state is based, the procedure in which laws are
made and by whom. Some constitutions, especially codified constitutions, also act as limiters of
state power, by establishing lines which a state's rulers cannot cross, such as fundamental rights.
An example is the constitution of the United States of America.

Generally, every modern written constitution confers specific powers to an organization or


institutional entity, established upon the primary condition that it abide by the said constitution's
limitations. According to Scott Gordon, author of Controlling the State: Constitutionalism from
Ancient Athens to Today a political organization is constitutional to the extent that it "contains
institutionalized mechanisms of power control for the protection of the interests and liberties of
the citizenry, including those that may be in the minority2.

1 The New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edn., Erin McKean (editor), 2051
pages, May 2005, Oxford University Press
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Lord Bryce states:


The constitution of a state or a nation consists of those of its rules or laws which the determine
the form of its government and respective rights and duties of it towards the citizens and of
citizens towards Government.

SALIENT FEATURES OF BRITISH CONSTITUTION

Mother of all the Constitution:


British constitution is an inspiration to most of the constitution of the world. It is the oldest
constitution of the world, that is why it is rightly termed as Mother of all Constitutions.

Organic & Evolutionary Growth:


British Constitution is the result of more than fifteen centuries and it is still growing. It is of an
evolutionary growth. It would be very precise to call it a child of wisdom and chance. It has
grown gradually and no fixed time or a fixed number of people created it.

Non-codified:
This is the most important and most distinguishing feature of it. It is based on Conventions and

2 Gordon, Scott (1999). Controlling the State: Constitutionalism from Ancient Athens
to Today. Harvard University Press. p. 4
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Customs that have been prevailing from a long time in UK. Such unwritten sources form the
major part of the constitution3.
There are many Acts, Treaties which are in written form and they make it partly written and even
then Non-codified. These were also gradually added and adopted. The first written piece
being Magna Carta 1215, Bill of Rights 1689, Parliamentary Acts of 1911 & 1949 and
so many others.

Difference Between Theory & Appearance:


This is another significant feature of British Constitution. Theory states that no Law is effective
without the Assent of Queen, while in practice, Queen must sign all the bills presented to her.
According to Ogg:
The Government in UK is in ultimate theory an absolute Monarchy, in form a limited
constitutional Monarchy and in actual character a Democratic Republic.

The King in theory has all the powers and can exercise them but in reality he is a mere signatory
figure. He works on the advice of Prime Minister. As Walter Bagehot quotes,
The British Queen reigns but does not rule.

3 1 Codifying or Not Codifying the United Kingdom Constitution: A Literature


Review (Centre for Political and Constitutional Reform, Kings College London, 2011).
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Unreality:
Apart disparity between theory and practice, there is also an element of unreality. Things are
not what they look like. There exists a great divergence in its theory.

Nature of Conventions:
Conventions are deeply rooted in the British Constitution. If anyone wants to know the British
Constitution, must study the conventions carefully. There are many conventions which are only
known to the Cabinet, Judiciary and Parliament. These form the excessive unwritten part and
being an important feature are also a major source of Constitution.
E.g.
1. Prime Minister is chosen from House of Commons.
2. Queen must give her assent to all the bills passed by Parliament.
3. House of Lords benches are red, while House of commons benches are Green.

Flexibility of Constitution:
Though the constitution is not in a proper codified form, it has a great adaptability character. It is
very easy to amend and make new laws. It requires a simple majority to pass an amendment.
Regardless of its flexibility, there have been a very few changes made till date.

Unitary State:
It is called a Unitary state because there are no units in Britain. All powers are concentrated into
one Single central Authority4.

Bicameralism:
It literally means divided into two parts. British Legislative authority, the Parliament is divided
as follows:

House of Lords:It consists of 26 Bishops and Archbishops of Church of England called as Spiritual Peers;. There
are 92 Hereditary Peers, 1 Irish Peer, 16 Scottish Peers and several hundred Life Peers5.
These are nominated by the Crown on the advice of PM.

House of Commons6:It consists of 650 members elected by citizens of Britain. This house is more powerful than the
House of Lords. Money bills can only originate from House of Commons. PM is also selected
from House of Commons.

4 A. W. Bradley and K. D. Ewing, Constitutional and Administrative Law, pp. 232-59.


5 Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords, A House for the Future
(Stationery Office, London, 2000), Cm 4534, p.50
6 http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/5-DPM-Devolution
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Sovereignty of Parliament:
British Parliament is very powerful and Supreme. Following are the major points that describe it
and clarify its character:
1. There is no Law which British Parliament cannot make or undo.
2. No Court can challenge the acts or laws passed by the parliament.
3. It rules the monarch and can decide its fortune and acts.
4. It can prohibit the King to marry a woman of his choice.
5. It can change the hereditary rule of throne by just one simple act.
6. It can abolish monarchy, abolish House of Lords and distribute Powers to its Citizens.
7. It can do anything, except make a man a woman and conversely.

Rule of Law:
It is said that Law is above everyone and applies to everybody. It is a very fundamental concept
having following aspects7:

Legality:All state actions must be authorized. Laws should not be arbitrary.

Certainty:Laws should be clear, certain and predictable.

7 T. R. S. Allen, Constitutional Justice: A Liberal Theory of the Rule of Law (Oxford,


Oxford University Press, 2001); D. Edlin, Judges and Unjust Laws, Common Law
Constitutionalism and the Foundation of Judicial Review (University of Michigan
Press, Ann Arbor, 2008)
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Consistency:The Laws should be applied equally to all, no one is above the Law.

Accountability:Laws are necessary to provide a standard to measure the action of the state.

Due Process and Access to Justice:No one should be punished without a trial. It must be a fair trial and held before an independent
and impartial tribunal.
This can be viewed by the various Acts of Parliament, judicial decisions and by virtue of
common law.

Merger of Powers:
UK is a good example of merger of powers. There are three pillars of its government.
Executive: It is the body which executes Laws, proposes and enforces them. It comprises of the
Monarch, Prime Minister.
Legislative: It is the body which makes or amends Law.
Judiciary: It interprets Laws.

In Britain, Executive and Legislative are fused into one and another forming Cabinet.
Before 2009, UK could be seen as a complete merger of powers. Now Supreme Court is also
established separately in UK. Earlier, Executive the Crown & PM, The Judiciary and the
Legislative bodies were combined together in Westminister, Uk.

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Blended Constitution:
This is a very unique feature of the British Constitution. It is a mixture of Monarchy, Aristocracy
and Democracy.
Monarchy: Due to existence of Crown
Aristocracy: Due to existence of House of Lords
Democracy: Due to existence of House of Commons.

Conservative Nature:
The long driven conventions are a proof of their conservative nature. This has made their
Constitution even stronger.

Rights of Citizen:
Britain has recognized broad liberties to its citizens. These fundamental Rights are embodied in
Bill of Rights 1689.
Element of Adjust ability:
Adaptability and Adjust ability of the British Political Institutions are remarkable traits of her
political life. Transition from Feudalism to Capitalism, Absolute Monarchy to Constitutional
Monarchy and from a Police State to a Welfare State have been peaceful and Gradual.

Fundamental Rights
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Fundamental rights of the citizen has not been incorporated in the from of a list in the English
constitution.
Consitution law is not creator but a product of fundamental rights, which have been
recognized from time to time by the courts.

Two Party System


Two party system is very important in any democratic system8. It is against the dictator ship. The
party selected by majority gets elected. Two parties in British polictical system are
a) Conservation Party
b) Labour Party

Contrast Between Theory and Practice


There is considerable gap between theory and practice in Britain e.g according to convention of
the majority party in the newly elected parliament to form the cabinet, while all the ministers are
appointed by the Prime Minister.

Collective Responsibility
Ministers must stand together and they cannot oppose the Government policy. Every minister is
also individually responsible to the house of commons and the crown.

8 Democrat Party, London, 2007), Policy Paper 83, p.21


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CONCLUSION

To conclude, I can say, that British Constitution in neither absolutely unwritten nor absolutely
written. It is a combination of both and has made a circuit for the globe and has become the
common possession of civilized man. Thus British constitution is one of the unique constitution
among Nations.

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