The constitution which is systematically and rationally written down and embodied in a single document, bearing a specific date or different dates, is said to be written constitution. Contrary to this, an unwritten constitution does not mean that no provisions or laws of the constitution will be found in written form, but it means that they are not legally incorporated in a single book, however, they are documented.
Constitution refers to a system of laws and principles which acts as a base for the governance and control of a nation. It determines the distribution and control of powers, organization and function of the government, primary organs of the state as well as the rights and duties of the citizens. Further, only those powers are used by the government which has been granted by the constitution.
A constitution is a live document, in which necessary amendments are made according to time and society. It is classified as per the political system prevalent in the country. One such classification is written and unwritten constitution.
Content: Written Vs Unwritten Constitution
|Basis for Comparison
|Written Constitution is the constitution which is codified and compiled in a structured and logical manner.
|Unwritten Constitution refers to the constitution which is not embodied in a single document.
|Properly framed and enacted
|Rigid, flexible or both
|Constitution is supreme
|Parliament is supreme
|Enjoys wide powers.
|Possesses limited powers.
|Unitary, Federal or Quasi Federal
|USA, India, Canada, Sri Lanka, etc.
|UK, New Zealand, Israel, etc.
Definition of Written Constitution
Written Constitution, as the term itself clarifies, is that type of constitution wherein there is a legal and formal book or series of documents bound as a book containing the nature of the constitutional arrangement, the laws governing the entire system and the rights and duties of the citizens and the government.
It explicitly lays down the primary organs and bodies of the government.
Written Constitution is perfectly framed, duly passed and enacted after deep analysis and consideration, concerning the situation and conditions of the country. For the purpose of its enactment, a specialized body is assigned, who formulate and adopt the constitution.
The constitution gives a proper design to the government institutions, hierarchies, powers, functions, relationships, supremacy etc. Further, the government is bound to adhere to the provisions of the constitutions and work accordingly.
A written constitution is preeminent because it is difficult to amend, as compared to ordinary law, as well as in the event of any dispute between the two rules of the constitution prevails. However, amendments can be made to the written constitution as per the definite procedure stated in the constitution itself.
In a written constitution all the laws are present in writing, and so people can refer to it whenever needed. Further, powers, functions, organization of the different bodies are specified, which does not leave a room for confusion and chaos.
Definition of Unwritten Constitution
Unwritten Constitution refers to a constitution wherein the fundamental laws, legal decisions and rules that govern the nation are not embodied in a single written document systematically.
However, they are defined by customs, usage, precedents, formal and legal enactments and instruments such as certificates, bonds, deeds, contracts, acts, writ, process, will, etc. as manifested in statutes and decisions taken by judiciary. The laws evolve through continuous use and practice, which become a part of the constitution.
In better words, the unwritten constitution is the constitution which is neither drafted nor enacted with a proper procedure by the constituent assembly. And so, it does not mean nothing is written, rather it means that it is not codified in a single legal document or book. Further, there is no specialized body assigned to enact of the constitution.
One can understand the provisions relating to the constitution with the help of reading explanation given by the judiciary, committees or experts. The information about it can be obtained from historical charters, principles, laws etc. The government is systematized and it works as per the well established and predefined rules. Further, all the citizens of the country follow these rules.
Key Differences Between Written and Unwritten Constitution
The difference between written and unwritten constitution are discussed hereunder:
- Written Constitution refers to the constitution the laws of which are properly enacted and duly framed and stated in a single book. On the contrary, Unwritten constitution is a system which is not incorporated in a series of documents as a book, as well as the laws are not formally enacted on a specific date.
- A written constitution is enacted on a specific date by a particular body, which is specially designed for its adoption and enactment. On the other hand, the unwritten constitution evolves gradually as well as it is updated with a passage of time.
- The written constitution can be of three types rigid, flexible or the combination thereof. As against, Unwritten constitution is flexible and so changes can be made easily to it.
- When it comes to dominance, the constitution is considered as supreme in case of a written constitution. In contrast, in unwritten constitution parliament is considered as supreme.
- Talking about the powers of the judiciary, in a written constitution the powers of judiciary possess outspread powers, whereas in the case of the unwritten constitution the powers of the judiciary are limited.
- There are unitary and federal powers in a written constitution. This means that the powers are distributed between central and state government. As opposed, the unwritten constitution the powers are unitary, i.e. they are centralized.
- The written constitution can be found in countries like India, USA, Japan, Canada, Sri Lanka, Germany, Switzerland, etc. Conversely, United Kingdom, Israel, New Zealand, are the name of the countries, where the unwritten constitution is present.
One thing is to be noted that in a written constitution a fine line of difference is maintained between constitutional law and ordinary laws, whereas no clear distinction is there in case of an unwritten constitution.
In a written constitution, all the provisions are present in writing and are laid down with great consideration and so it cannot be twisted and modified as per the conditions and emotions, which ensures consistency in decisions. Conversely, in an unwritten constitution, it is easy to add a new law or update the existing one.