Requisites of a Good Constitution – Essay

The provisions of a written constitution are embodied in an instrument prepared and formulated after careful and mature deliberations. It is obviously more definite and less uncertain than a constitution which primarily consists of customs and usages.

The constitution must also be comprehensive. It should cover the whole field of governmental organisation and clearly enunciate the principles for the exercise of all political power. A good constitution should leave no gaps. It should not also go into rather needless details at some points and at others omit fundamentals.

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The French Constitution of 1875 contained no Bill of Rights, nor was there any express guarantee of civil liberty. It did not say how the ministers were to be elected, whether or not they were to be members of parliament and to which House of the legislature they were responsible.

There was no provision for annual budgets and besides a clause authorizing the Senate “to be erected into a High Court”, the judiciary went entirely unmentioned.

Such fundamental commissions in a constitution are likely to cause much ambiguity and necessitate filling in the gaps which may be twisted to meet certain purposes. Then, a good constitution should be precise. It must not be inundated with detailed clauses.

Details often lead to possibilities of disputes. Besides, a detailed constitution indicates distrust of government. Legislatures deteriorate and avoid responsibility, if matters of importance are removed from their authority and decided in the constitution. Moreover, a constitution which goes into details, very soon becomes overgrown.

New social, political, and economic influences render many of the provisions obsolete necessitating frequent amendments. Frequent changes take away the sanctity of the constitution.

Changes are, no doubt, necessary and inevitable, but it is better to have them emerge through casual and relatively spontaneous ways rather than through the formal procedure of constitutional amendment.

Finally, stability and flexibility are the two prime requisites of a good constitution. The system of government which the constitution establishes must have a high degree of stability and its desirability should be questioned by no one.

The making of frequent changes, inter alia, tend to weaken that allegiance to, and respect for, the government which is such an important factor in securing an orderly conduct of political affairs.

But, at the same time, the constitution of a modern State should be susceptible to progressive change or growth as errors of judgment in its framing are revealed by experience, as conditions change, and as the political aspirations and beliefs of people undergo alteration.

The problem is, therefore, to adopt a policy and procedure in respect of amending the constitution that will represent a compromise between stability and flexibility: neither so rigid a constitution as to prevent change, nor so flexible as to encourage tampering with basic principles.

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