What is a Constitution? - Indian Polity and Governance Notes | Study Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters - UPSC

UPSC: What is a Constitution? - Indian Polity and Governance Notes | Study Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters - UPSC

The document What is a Constitution? - Indian Polity and Governance Notes | Study Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters.
All you need of UPSC at this link: UPSC


What is a Constitution?

A constitution provides the basis for governance in a country, which is essential to making sure that everyone’s interests and needs are addressed. It determines how laws are made, and details the process by which the government rules. 

What is a Constitution? - Indian Polity and Governance Notes | Study Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters - UPSC

  • It establishes the political system; the institutions that make it: Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary. All other institutions have to be compatible with the Constitution. Laws made and implemented should be in line with the Constitution.
  • Constitution also lays down what powers are available to the above-mentioned institutions. It sets limits for the powers as well. The pattern of separation of powers among the three organs is also clearly demarcated in the Constitution.
  • Constitution also empowers the citizens and others with a variety of rights embedded in it. There are many more rights outside the Constitution but their validity is judged by conformity to the Constitution. 
  • For example, the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 protects women on a preferential basis but it does not violate the right to equality as special treatment of women is legitimate under Art.15 of the Constitution. Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 is being taken up by a Constitution Bench of the apex court(2013) to ascertain whether the special rights conferred on the disadvantaged children are allowed by the Constitution or not.
  • In a democracy, the purpose of a constitution is to prevent the government from abusing its power over the people of a nation. Therefore, the judiciary is sanctioned by the Constitution to ensure rule of law and individual and collective rights.
  • Some Constitutions also impose duties on the citizens- as in the erstwhile USSR and India since 1976, called Fundamental Duties. The objective is to build responsible citizenship.
  • The need for the Constitution arises because the government is the only institution that has the legal right to force/coercion within a country and restrained use of force requires rules.
  • In most countries, the constitution is a written document. India, US, Australia, Canada, China & almost every other nation have a single written document. It means a body of elected or nominated members meet for a prolonged period to deliberate with expert participation as to what should be the rules of governance.
  • If a country has a Constitution evolving out of conventions, laws, judicial verdicts, etc. it is known as 'unwritten'- for example, the UK, New Zealand, and Israel. The only reason for naming these constitutions as 'unwritten' is that a single body of experts was not set up to draft the Constitution like the Constituent Assembly of India which met from 1946 to 1949 to formulate the Constitution.

State

The most commonly used definition of State is Max Weber's:
It describes the State as a political organization with a, centralized government that maintains a monopoly of the legitimate use of force within a certain territory. General categories of state institutions include administrative bureaucracies, legal systems, and military organizations.

  • According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a state is "an organized political community under one government".
  • States may be classified as sovereign if they are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Other states are subject to external sovereignty or hegemony where ultimate sovereignty lies in another state. For example, a colony.

The State and Government

The concept of the state can be distinguished from the concept of government. That is, governments are the means through which state power is used. 

  • State is served by a continuous succession of different governments. State uses the instrument of Government to enforce its powers in the discharge of its duties.
  • Each successive government is composed of a specialized and privileged body of individuals, who monopolize political decision-making and are separated by status and organization from the population as a whole. 
  • Their function is to enforce existing laws, legislate new ones, and arbitrate conflicts. In some societies, this group is often a self-perpetuating or hereditary class. In other societies, such as democracies, governments change on the basis of periodical elections.
  • States can also be distinguished from the concept of a "nation". The nation may refer to a community of people who share a common history, culture, some times ethnicity, and so on.
  • However, it can also refer to people who share a common territory and government.

The State and Civil Society

State is the political entity. Family is a private institution. All institutions that fall in between can be called civil society.

The document What is a Constitution? - Indian Polity and Governance Notes | Study Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters - UPSC is a part of the UPSC Course Polity and Constitution (Prelims) by IAS Masters.
All you need of UPSC at this link: UPSC

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