Definition of constitution


Definition of constitution

   A constitution is defined as a body
of agreed rules and principles stating how to
powers of governing a country are given and
how these powers are to be exercised. Constitution is
establishes a basic framework or fundamental law of the land. By so doing, it checks and sets limits not only to the actions of government but also to the actions of ordinary citizens. The constitution also states the rights, duties, and obligations of the citizens.

1. History of the people: The history of the people must be considered in preparing the basic rules that govern them. Past political developments do form a part of their history.

2. Acts of parliament: The laws or enactments by parliaments form part of constitutional framing.

3. Customs and traditions: They are the
beliefs, institutions, norms, and values of the
people and these are important in the
formulation of the constitution.

4. Past constitutions: Past constitutions and
Constitutions of other countries most often
form the basis of any new constitution. For
example, the American Constitution provided a model for the 1979 Constitution of Nigeria.

5. Conventions: These are accepted political
precepts and practices which often form a
part of the instruments of a country’s

Unwritten Constitution
        It is defined as one in which the
fundamental principles of the organization and powers of government are not codified in one document. It is usually a combination of statutes, judicial principles, customs, and conventions that guide the operation of government. The constitution of Great Britain is a good example. However, the English (Britain) has left different parts of their constitution without attempting to bring them together, to classify or codify them into a coherent whole. For example, the Magna Carta Actof1215, the Bill of Rights of1689., the Reform Act of1832, Parliaments Acts of 1911 and 1949 respectively are part of the British Constitution that was written down but
not codified in one document.

        Merits of an unwritten constitution
1. It is flexible: It does not require a special
procedure for its amendment. It can be done
in the same way ordinary laws are made.

2. It can be changed quickly: Since it is
flexible, it can be changed as quickly as the
people might desire.

3. Few individual cases: Cases involving
individuals, institutions, etc may not be as
frequent as in a written constitution.
Quick decisions: Decisions are easily made
and taken too.

4. Easy to interpret: It Is flexible and not rigid
and so the constitution can easily be

5. Issue of flexibility: This can help to reduce
friction among the three organs of

6. Emergencies: Flexible constitutions are
suitable in a time of emergencies.

          Demerits of an unwritten constitution
1. No checks and balances: Unwritten
the constitution does not have checks and
balances which are usually entrenched in
written constitution.

2. Arbitrary Government: This could be made
possible in the exercise of powers and
functions by political leaders.

3. It can easily encourage arbitrarily
changes: Since the parliament is supreme,
unwritten constitution creates a way for them
to act arbitrarily; they have the power to
manipulate and change the constitution easily.

4. Not easily known: Since the customs,
conventions, statutes, etc making up an
the unwritten constitution is not contained in a
a single document, they are not easily known.

5. No ease of reference: It cannot be easily
turned to or studied the way we study a
written constitution.

6. Violation of the rights of citizens: This
could be made possible in the process of
arbitrary changes of the constitution.

Written Constitution
       A written constitution is defined as
a document or set of a document establishing the selection of rules embodied in a document in which the fundamental principles concerning the organization of a political system, powers of its various agencies are written down and codified.
Thus the constitution ofU.S.A. (1789) outlines
the composition of the legislature, the executive and the judiciary and their powers, the fundamental rights of citizens, and also mentions a method for its amendment.

Demerits of a written Constitution
1. Written constitutions are generally
rigid: They are not easily adaptable to
changing situations.

2. It can discourage reforms: The process
of an amendment can take a very long time and
this may discourage necessary reforms.

3. Change cannot be effected quickly:
Change cannot be effected quickly as the
people might desire.

Reasons why some countries adopt written
constitution or merits of written Constitution

1. Proper documentation: it allows for proper
documentation and entrenchment of
fundamental human rights.

2. It prevents the fear of domination: It protects the minority interests against domination by the majority.

3. Procedure for amendment: This is clearly
stated so that no one group can change the
constitution to suit their selfish purpose.

4. Prevents conflict in the exercise of
power: This is possible because the
the constitution has stated clearly and separately the powers and functions of each organ of government.

5. Provides a means of assessment: Constitution helps
in measuring and assessing the performance of the government as the principles governing their operations are written down.

Delegated legislation is also one of the topics under “Constitution”.

Leave a Comment