Constitutional Changes: Problems and Prospects
BY CONSTITUTION is meant the document, or the body of principles^ which define the different organs of government, their relationship to one another as well as between citizens and the organs of power. Taking the cue from James Bryce, C F Strong in his book Modern Political Constitutions defines a constitution as ^a frame of political society organized through and by law, in which law has established permanent institutions with recognized functions and definite rights" and a constitu* tional state as ^one in which the powers of the government, the rights of the governed and the relations between the two are adjusted.55
The fundamental law of a state may be written or unwritten, though this distinction is rather deceptive. The British constitution is said to be unwritten though, in fact, the documents on which the governance of Britain is based are recorded in the Bill of Rights of 1589, the Franchise Acts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, whereby the power of the House of Lords to amend or reject bills passed by the House of Commons was abrogated. Even in a country with a written constitution, custom and convention may silently vary the written provisions. Thus article II, section I of the Constitution of the United States of America provides that the president shall be elected by the citizens choosing electors who shall meet and elect the chief executive. In practice, the US president is directly elected, the electoral college merely recording the votes of the electorate state by state.
In the so-called unwritten constitutions, custom and convention play a greater part in solidifying the practice and procedure of election and government, but that is not to say that such custom and convention have nothing to do with a written constitution. For example, in the Constitution of India, according to article 74, the executive power of the Union is vested in the president who is aided and advised in the exercise of his functions by a council of ministers. Convention has grown in the last 26 years that the Indian president shall not have any more power than, say, the British monarch. That is to say, the president has neither any individual judgment nor discretion and shall have to function as the