Firstly, it is pointed out that democracy is based upon the concept of popular sovereignty which implies that all power in a democracy ultimately belongs to the people who can make an effective use of their powers if they have direct control over their representatives.
In the second place, movement in favour of direct legislation is gathering momentum because of ♦he distrust which people are developing against representative institutions. Political parties in modern times have a rigid discipline and independent thinking has been curbed. Moreover, representatives lose all contact with the people soon after they are elected.
They forget extravagant promises made to the electorate at the time of elections. Secure in their offices for the term of years which governs their election, they become disregardful and sceptical of public opinion. Rousseau aptly remarked, when he said, “England is free only on the day of elections.”
All these and many other conditions have inducted people to employ ways and means so as to enable them to have some share in legislation and control over their representatives. The following methods are commonly employed :
It consists in submission to the people, for approval or rejection, a Bill passed by the legislatures. Referendum may be compulsory or optional. It is compulsory or obligatory when every Bill passed by the legislature must be submitted to the vote of the people.
It is optional (or facultative) when a Bill passed by the legislature need be referred to the popular vote only on demand by a prescribed number of people.
There is compulsory referendum for constitutional amendments in Switzerland and its cantons and some states of the U.S.A. Optional referendum is done for ordinary laws in Switzerland, Australia and some states of the U.S.A.
It is also a kind of referendum. It differs from referendum in the sense that a particular question of vital public importance is directly referred to the people without being passed by the legislature.
It is a sort of decree of the people. In India plebiscite was done in Junagadh regarding its accession to India or Pakistan.
It is a device by which a specific number of voters mask the legislature to consider a certain proposal for legislation. People are not satisfied with referendum alone.
They want to take a direct and positive share in law-making. Referendum is only a shield with which they can ward off undesirable legislation but the initiative is a sword with which they can cut the way for enactment of their own ideas into laws.
Initiative is a service which corrects the shortcomings of the referendum. It arms the people with the positive power of initiating such legislation as they desire and which their representatives have not, for some reasons, already handled.
The initiative may be formulative or unformulative. It is formulative when the proposal is submitted in the form of a Bill complete in all details. It is unformulative when the same is submitted in general terms. Initiative is employed in Switzerland and some states of the U.S.A.