According to Austin, a constitution is that body of rules which fixes structure of the supreme government. Maclver defines constitution as “that law which governs the state and which represents the will beyond that of the state”. SLR James Meintosh defines constitution as the body of those written or unwritten fundamental laws which regulate the most important rights of higher magistrates and the most essential important privileges of the subjects .

It is the fundamental law reflecting the will of the people. It determines powers and responsibilities of the state. It is in accordance with the constitution that the state makes laws, executes them and punishes their breach.

Woolsey defines constitution as “a collection of principles according to which the powers of the government and the rights of the governed are determined and the relation between the two adjusted.” Dicey defines a constitution as “all rules which directly or indirectly affect the distribution or the exercise of sovereign power in the state”. Finer briefly defines a constitution as a “system of fundamental political institutions.

” Every constitution is the product of the accumu­lated material and spiritual circumstances of product of the accumulated material and spiritual circumstances of its time.’ In brief, the constitution reflects the political philosophy of the people upheld by them at a particular time. As this philosophy changes constitution also changes either through law or through conventions. According to Gettle, “the fundamental principles that determine the form of a state are called its constitution.” Constitution establishes a government of law as opposite to that of men.


Sometimes constitution is embodied into a single docu­ment and at other times, it may consist of rules, maxims and traditions. In fact, in every constitution, today, we find both elements, i.e., written law and unwritten conventions. These definitions show that a constitu­tion should possess the following elements:

1. It should prescribe the powers of the government and its different organs, i.e., executive, legislature and judiciary.

2. In federal government, it distributes powers between the federal centre and the federating units.

3. It should provide for the relation between the governors and the governed i.e., it provides for the rights and duties of the citizens.


Classification of constitutions:

The constitutions were first classified by Aristotle on the basis of the quantity and quality. On the basis of quantitative principle, he classified constitution into three forms, viz., monarchy or tyranny, aristocrat v or oligarchy and polity or democ­racy.

Monarchy or tyranny is a government in which supreme power is vested in a single person. Aristocracy or oligarchy is a form of constitu­tion in which supreme power is vested in a few individuals, whereas in a polity or democracy the supreme power is vested in a whole body of citizens.

Aristotle further classified constitution on the qualitative prin­ciple into two forms (1) good or true and (2) bad or perverted. A true or good constitution is one in which the rulers govern in the best interests of the people, whereas perverted constitution is characterized by selfish rule. Monarchy, aristocracy and polity are true forms of constitution whereas tyranny, oligarchy, and democracy are perverted forms of constitution.


Modern constitutions are, however, classified on entirely different principles. The constitutions arc now classified as written or unwritten, rigid or flexible and enacted or evolved constitutions. Distinction be­tween written and unwritten constitutions on the one hand and enacted and evolved constitution, on the other, is practically identical.

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