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Constitutional law is a body of law which defines the role, powers, and structure of different entities within a
state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...
, namely, the
executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), branch of government that has authority and responsibility for the administration of state bureaucracy * Executive, a senior management role in an organization ** Chief exec ...
, the
parliament In modern politics and history, a parliament is a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of ...

parliament
or
legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
, and the
judiciary The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authori ...
; as well as the basic rights of citizens and, in federal countries such as the United States and
Canada Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its Provinces and territories of Canada, ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, Pacific and northward into the Arctic Oce ...
, the relationship between the central government and state, provincial, or territorial governments. Not all
nation state A nation state is a political unit where the state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (news ...
s have codified
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

constitution
s, though all such states have a ''
jus commune ''Jus commune'' or ''ius commune'' is Latin for "common law" in certain jurisdictions. It is often used by Civil law (legal system), civil law jurists to refer to those aspects of the civil law system's invariant legal principles, sometimes called ...
'', or law of the land, that may consist of a variety of imperative and consensual rules. These may include
customary law A legal custom is the established pattern of behavior that can be objectively verified within a particular social setting. A claim can be carried out in defense of "what has always been done and accepted by law". Customary law (also, consuetudina ...
, conventions,
statutory law Statutory law or statute law is written law passed by a body of legislature. This is as opposed to Oral law, oral or customary law; or regulatory law promulgated by the Executive (government), executive or common law of the judiciary. Statutes may ...
,
judge-made law A precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case A legal case is in a general sense a dispute between opposing parties which may be resolved by a court, or by some equivalent legal process. A legal case is typically based ...
, or international rules and norms. Constitutional law deals with the fundamental principles by which the government exercises its authority. In some instances, these principles grant specific powers to the government, such as the power to tax and spend for the welfare of the population. Other times, constitutional principles act to place limits on what the government can do, such as prohibiting the arrest of an individual without sufficient cause. In most nations, such as the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...
,
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...

India
, and
Singapore Singapore (), officially the Republic of Singapore, is a sovereign state, sovereign island city-state in maritime Southeast Asia. It lies about one degree of latitude () north of the equator, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, bor ...
, constitutional law is based on the text of a document ratified at the time the nation came into being. Other constitutions, notably that of the United Kingdom, rely heavily on uncodified rules, as several legislative statutes and constitutional conventions, their status within constitutional law varies, and the terms of conventions are in some cases strongly contested.


State and legal structure

Constitutional laws can be considered second order rule making or rules about making rules to exercise power. It governs the relationships between the judiciary, the legislature and the executive with the bodies under its authority. One of the key tasks of constitutions within this context is to indicate hierarchies and relationships of power. For example, in a
unitary state A unitary state is a State (polity), state governed as a single entity in which the central government is ultimately supreme. The central government may create (or abolish) administrative divisions (sub-national units). Such units exercise only ...
, the constitution will vest ultimate authority in one central administration and
legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
, and
judiciary The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authori ...
, though there is often a delegation of power or authority to local or municipal authorities. When a constitution establishes a
federal state A federation (also known as a federal state) is a political entity characterized by a union of partially self-governing provinces, states, or other regions under a central federal government (federalism Federalism is a mixed or compou ...
, it will identify the several levels of government coexisting with exclusive or shared areas of jurisdiction over lawmaking, application and enforcement. Some federal states, most notably the United States, have separate and parallel federal and state judiciaries, with each having its own hierarchy of courts with a supreme court for each state.
India India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by area, seventh-largest country by area, the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous ...
, on the other hand, has one judiciary divided into district courts, high courts, and the
Supreme Court of India The Supreme Court of India (IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scie ...

Supreme Court of India
.


Human rights

Human rights or
civil liberties Civil liberties are guarantees and freedoms that governments commit not to abridge, either by constitution, legislation Legislation is the process or product of enrolled bill, enrolling, enactment of a bill, enacting, or promulgation, promulgat ...
form a crucial part of a country's constitution and uphold the rights of the individual against the state. Most jurisdictions, like the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
and
France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a List of transcontinental countries, transcontinental country spanning Western Europe and Overseas France, overseas regions and territories in the Ame ...

France
, have a codified constitution, with a
bill of rights A bill of rights, sometimes called a declaration of rights or a charter of rights, is a list of the most important rights Rights are legal Law is a system of rules created and law enforcement, enforced through social or governmental ...
. A recent example is the
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union A charter is the grant of authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social scien ...
which was intended to be included in the
Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (TCE; commonly referred to as the European Constitution or as the Constitutional Treaty) was an unratified international treaty A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement betw ...
, that failed to be ratified. Perhaps the most important example is the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is an international document adopted by the United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six p ...
under the
UN Charter The Charter of the United Nations (also known as the UN Charter) is the foundational treaty A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public internation ...
. These are intended to ensure basic political, social and economic standards that a nation state, or intergovernmental body is obliged to provide to its citizens but many do include its governments. Some countries like the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
have no entrenched document setting out fundamental rights; in those jurisdictions the constitution is composed of
statute A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative A legislature is an assembly Assembly may refer to: Organisations and meetings * Deliberative assembly A deliberative assembly is a gathering of members (of any kind of collective) ...

statute
,
case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority to judge, adjudicate on, or determine claims or disputes—whether or not it is calle ...
and
convention Convention may refer to: * Convention (norm), a custom or tradition, a standard of presentation or conduct ** Treaty, an agreement in international law * Convention (meeting), meeting of a (usually large) group of individuals and/or companies in a ...
. A case named '' Entick v. Carrington'' is a constitutional principle deriving from the common law.
John Entick
John Entick
's house was searched and ransacked by Sherriff Carrington. Carrington argued that a warrant from a Government minister, the
Earl of Halifax Earl of Halifax is a title that has been created four times in British history—once in the Peerage of England, twice in the Peerage of Great Britain, and once in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. The name of the peerage refers to Halifax, West Y ...
was valid authority, even though there was no statutory provision or court order for it. The court, led by
Lord Camden Image:Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden by Nathaniel Dance, (later Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland, Bt).jpg, 250px, Charles Pratt, 1st Earl Camden, by Nathaniel Dance-Holland Marquess Camden is a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom. It was create ...
stated that,
"The great end, for which men entered into society, was to secure their property. That right is preserved sacred and incommunicable in all instances, where it has not been taken away or abridged by some public law for the good of the whole. By the laws of England, every invasion of private property, be it ever so minute, is a trespass... If no excuse can be found or produced, the silence of the books is an authority against the defendant, and the plaintiff must have judgment."
The
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
and the
civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the law of the United ...
jurisdictions do not share the same constitutional law underpinnings.
Common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
nations, such as those in the Commonwealth as well as the United States, derive their legal systems from that of the United Kingdom, and as such place emphasis on judicial precedent, whereby consequential court rulings (especially those by higher courts) are a source of law. Civil law jurisdictions, on the other hand, place less emphasis on judicial review and only the parliament or legislature has the power to effect law. As a result, the structure of the judiciary differs significantly between the two, with common law judiciaries being adversarial and civil law judiciaries being
inquisitorial An inquisitorial system is a legal system The contemporary national legal systems are generally based on one of four basic systems: civil law, common law, statutory law, religious law or combinations of these. However, the legal system of e ...
. Common law judicatures consequently separate the judiciary from the prosecution, thereby establishing the courts as completely independent from both the legislature and law enforcement. Human rights law in these countries is as a result, largely built on legal precedent in the courts' interpretation of constitutional law, whereas that of civil law countries is almost exclusively composed of codified law, constitutional or otherwise.


Legislative procedure

Another main function of constitutions may be to describe the procedure by which parliaments may legislate. For instance, special majorities may be required to alter the constitution. In bicameral legislatures, there may be a process laid out for second or third readings of bills before a new law can enter into force. Alternatively, there may further be requirements for maximum terms that a government can keep power before holding an
election An election is a formal group decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual or multiple individuals to hold Public administration, public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative dem ...

election
.


Study of constitutional law

Constitutional law is a major focus of legal studies and research. For example, most law students in the United States are required to take a class in Constitutional Law during their first year, and several law journals are devoted to the discussion of constitutional issues.


The rule of law

The doctrine of the
rule of law The rule of law is defined in the ''Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal of the , published by (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a compreh ...

rule of law
dictates that government must be conducted according to law. This was first established by British legal theorist A. V. Dicey. Dicey identified three essential elements of the British Constitution which were indicative of the rule of law: #Absolute supremacy of regular law as opposed to the influence of
arbitrary power Autocracy is a system of government in which supreme power over a state is concentrated in the hands of one person, whose decisions are subject to neither external legal restraints nor regularized mechanisms of popular control (except perhaps fo ...
; #
Equality before the law Equality before the law, also known as equality under the law, equality in the eyes of the law, legal equality, or legal egalitarianism, is the principle that all people must be equally protected by the law. The principle requires a systematic rul ...
; #The Constitution is a result of the ordinary law of the land. Dicey’s rule of law formula consists of three classic tenets. The first is that the regular law is supreme over arbitrary and discretionary powers. " man is punishable ... except for a distinct breach of the law established in the ordinary legal manner before the ordinary courts of the land." The second is that all men are to stand equal in the eyes of the law. "...no man is above the law...every man, whatever be his rank or condition, is subject to the ordinary law of the realm and amenable to the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals" The third is that the general ideas and principles that the constitution supports arise directly from the judgements and precedents issued by the judiciary. "We may say that the constitution is pervaded by the rule of law on the ground that the general principles of the constitution... are with us the result of judicial decisions determining the rights of private persons in particular cases brought before the courts"


The separation of powers

Separation of powers Separation of powers refers to the division of a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' ( ...
is often regarded as a second limb functioning alongside the rule of law to curb the powers of the government. In many modern nation states, power is divided and vested into three branches of government: The
legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
, the
executive Executive may refer to: Role, title, or function * Executive (government), branch of government that has authority and responsibility for the administration of state bureaucracy * Executive, a senior management role in an organization ** Chief exec ...
, and the
judiciary The judiciary (also known as the judicial system, judicature, judicial branch, judiciative branch, and court or judiciary system) is the system of court A court is any person or institution, often as a government institution, with the authori ...
are known as the horizontal separation of powers. The first and the second are harmonised in traditional
Westminster system The Westminster system or Westminster model is a type of parliamentary A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic Democrat, Democrats, or Democratic may refer to: *A proponent of democracy Democracy ...
.W B Gwyn, The Meaning of the Separation of Powers: An Analysis of the Doctrine From Its Origin to the Adoption of the United States Constitution, Tulane University (1965). Vertical separation of powers is decentralisation.


See also

*
Constitutionalism Constitutionalism is "a compound of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law". Political organizations are constitutional ...

Constitutionalism
*
Constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

Constitution
*
Constitutional economics A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...
*
Constitutional rights A constitutional right can be a prerogative or a duty, a power or a restraint of power, recognized and established by a sovereign state or union of states. Constitutional rights may be expressly stipulated in a national constitution, or they may ...
*
Philosophy of law Philosophy of law is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and ...
*
Public law Public law is the part of law that governs relations between legal person In law, a legal person is any person or 'thing' (less ambiguously, any legal entity) that can do the things a human person is usually able to do in law – such as en ...
*
Rechtsstaat ''Rechtsstaat'' (lit. "state of law"; "legal state") is a doctrine Doctrine (from la, Wikt:doctrina, doctrina, meaning "teaching, instruction") is a codification (law), codification of beliefs or a body of teacher, teachings or instructions, ta ...
*
Rule of law The rule of law is defined in the ''Oxford English Dictionary The ''Oxford English Dictionary'' (''OED'') is the principal of the , published by (OUP). It traces the historical development of the English language, providing a compreh ...

Rule of law


References


External links

* {{DEFAULTSORT:Constitutional Law