Component Parts of the Constitution

Component Parts of the Constitution are organized into three parts. The first part, the Constitution’s organization using the words Preamble, The second part, Articles, establishes how the Government is structured and how the Constitution can be changed. The third part, the Amendments, lists changes to the Constitution.

Sources of the Constitution:-

The sources from which the British Constitution Is drawn are many and diverse, and these may be divided into seven main categories; in the first place, there are certain great Charters, Petitions, Statutes, and other landmarks such as the Magna Carta (1215), the Petition of Rights (1628), the Act of Settlement (1701), as modified by the Abdication Act of (1936), the Act of Union with Scotland (1707), the Great Reform Act (1832), the Parliament Act of 911, as amended in 1949, the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, the Public Order Act of 1936, the Ministers of the Crown Act of 1937, Representation of the People Act, 1949, tine Life Peerage Act, 1958, the Peerage Act, 1963, the Statute of Westminster 1931, the Indian Independence Act, 1947, etc.

Most of these are Acts passed by Parliament. Bul a document like Magna Carta is considered a part of the Constitution as it makes a great landmark in national history. Various Acts of Parliament may be regarded as in the Magna Carta’s direct line of descent without undue violence to the facts. Elder William Pitt called the Magna Carta, the Petition of Rights, and the Bill of Rights the British Constitution’s Bible.

One thing, however, very significant about these Charters and Statutes is that they were the product of political stress and crisis, and they contain the terms of settlement of that crisis. They are a part of the Constitution because of what they deal with. It is the context of the constitutional struggle within which they originated that they bear the constitutional law’s impression.

Secondly, there are many statutes, which Parliament has passed from time to time, dealing with suffrage, the methods of election, the powers and duties of public officials, etc. These Statutes, unlike the constitutional landmarks enumerated in group one, are not the outcome of a constitutional struggle.

They were passed as and when the exigencies of time demanded them under the ordinary process of things. For example, none of the laws extending the right to vote passed between 1867 and 1948 aroused popular excitement as the Reform Act of 1832.

Nonetheless, all these Statutes are vitally important for the development of political democracy, and any attempt to repeal them would now be regarded against the ‘‘constitutional sense’’ of the nation. In fact, the government’s system obtainable in Britain would become unworkable if ever an attempt is made to repeal any one of such Statutes. However, Parliament is a sovereign body, and it has the right to make or unmake any law whatever.

The third source of constitutional rules is to be found in judges’ decisions on cases heard by them in the law courts. When judges decide cases, they interpret, define, and develop the provisions of the great Charters and Statutes. While doing so, their judgments create precedents that succeeding judges respect.

Since many of these judgments related directly to constitutional matters, the legal principles and judicial precedents of these judgments are an important element in the British Constitution; they resemble and correspond to the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States, which have helped to clarify and expand the provisions of the American Constitution.

The decision in the case of the Sheriff of Middlesex in 1840 established the principle that Parliament has the right to punish its own member’s fora breach of privilege. No other legal authority is necessary. The judgment in Bradlaugh v Gossett in 1884 established the Supremacy of Parliament over the courts in all matters concerning the internal affairs of Parliament.

The fourth place is the principles of Common Law and several matters of major constitutional importance covered by them. Itis from the Common Law, for example, that the King derives his prerogative and that Parliament derives its supremacy.

The civil liberties of the people, which in America are embodied in the Bill of Rights, are ensured in Britain by the Common Law rules. Freedom of speech, of the press and assembly, the sanctity of a citizen’s homie, and the right of jury trial are Common Law rights that today have their effective meaning in the long line of decisions judges have made. The laws of Parliament may redefine or modify the manner of exercising these rights. Still, such laws are in their turn subject to the judicial interpretation made in the light of the many precedents of the past.

The Common Law principles are not established by any law passed by Parliament or ordained by the king. They grew up entirely based on usage. Common-Law, according to Blackstone, consists of customs not set down in any written statute or ordinance but depending on immemorial usages for their support.

The judges recognized the realm’s customs, applied them in individual cases, and set precedents for decisions in later cases. As these decisions were broadened down from precedent to precedent, there grew up a body of general application principles that stand as a bulwark of British freedom and an essential part of the British Constitution. Like statutory laws, the Common Law’s continually in the process of development by judicial decisions.

Another source of constitutional rules is to be found in usages or conventions. The conventions of the constitution, as they are called, are the center and soul of the constitutional law in Britain. The fundamental! convention, from which practically all others flow, is the Cabinet Government’s convention.

Although the validity of the conventions of the constitution cannot be the subject of proceedings in courts of law, they cover some of the most important parts of the British political system and are observed with due respect.

Conventions are, says Herman Finer, rules of political behavior not established in statutes, judicial decisions, or Parliamentary customs but created outside these, supplementing them, to achieve objects they have not yet embodied.

In the British Constitution, these objects can be summed up thus to make the executive and the legislature responded to the will of the people. To add concreteness, we could use the terms Crown, Government, or Cabinet in place of Executive and Parliament, meaning the House of Commons (especially) and the House of Lords, in place of Legislature.

Next but less reliable are the commentaries by eminent writers whose works have come to be regarded as the authoritative expression on the British Constitutional Law. These commentators have systematized the diverse conventional rules, established a definite relation of one to another, and, then, linked them into the same degrees of unity by reference to central principles.

In certain cases, such writers have provided compendious and detailed accounts of the operation of particular categories of rules, and their works have acquired the status of constitutional documents; probably, the most authoritative of such works is Erskine May’s Treatise on the Law, Privileges, Proceedings, and Usages of Parliament.

It is the classic guide to the procedure and privileges of Parliament. It is constantly referred to by the Speakers of the House of Commons on the formulation of their rulings on privilege and procedure. Also (although to a much lesser extent), A.V. Dicey’s Law of the Constitution has acquired over the years an authority that makes it more than merely a commentary on the constitutional practice.

Finally, the exercise of the Royal prerogative forms another aspect of constitutional practice. The power to declare war, make treaties, pardon criminals, and dissolve Parliament are Important functions performed by Royal Prerogative.

They are executed through Orders in Council or proclamations and writs under the great seal. Today, these functions are performed by Ministers on behalf of the Monarch, and, as such, the authority for the decision comes from the Crown rather than from Parliament.

The nature of the British Constitution may be summed up in the words of Anson. It is, he wrote, a somewhat rambling structure. Like a house which many successive owners have altered just so far as suited their immediate wants or fashion of the time, it bears the marks of many hands and is convenient rather than symmetrical.

Forms and phrases survive, which have long since lest their meaning, and the adaptation of practice to convenience by process of unconscious change has brought about in many cases a divergence of law and custom, of theory and practice.

Walter Bagehot, in his classic work; The English Constitution, asserted that such a system of Government as obtainable in Britain was possible because there existed certain prerequisites; confidence among electors, a calm, rational mind, and the gift of rationality. All these qualities add up to an adult and practical nation. The obvious result is that the British, for the most part, think that the nature of their Constitution is most sensible and that a codified constitution like the American is more trouble than it is worth.

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