By going through these Maharashtra State Board Class 11 Political Science Notes Chapter 4 Constitutional Government students can recall all the concepts quickly.
Maharashtra State Board Class 11 Political Science Notes Chapter 4 Constitutional Government
In this chapter, we will study the meaning of the Constitution and Constitutionalism. We will also study about Federation and compare the Parliamentary and Parliamentary system
Meaning: The constitution is the highest law of the country. It reflects the objectives of the State and the rights and aspirations of its citizens. It establishes the rule of law and sets limits on government authority. A constitution is a living document that indicates the way in which a country is governed. The primary function of the constitution is to lay out the basic structure of the government according to which the people are to be governed.
Components: A constitution has three distinct but interrelated components.
- Set of Rules – A Constitution is a set of rules that describes the structure, powers and functions of the three organs of government to ensure that each organ functions within its jurisdiction. It lays down the limitations on what the government can do or cannot do.
- Set of Rights- A constitution lists the rights and duties of citizens. It also lists the means of protecting the rights e.g., in India, the judiciary is entrusted with protecting fundamental rights. The rights guaranteed by the constitution are not unlimited i.e. they are subject to reasonable limitations or restrictions.
- Set of Objectives and Values – A constitution enumerates the values and objectives that it seeks to fulfil for e.g., the Indian Constitution seeks to ensure the values of justice, liberty and equality.
Constitutionalism refers to the idea that there should be limitations on the powers of the government which may be specified in the Constitution or may arise due to historical developments. The Magna Carta (Great Charter) (1215) and Bill of Rights (1689) in England were attempts to restrict the powers of the Monarchs.
As the concept of separation of legislative, executive, judicial powers became popular, so also, the idea of restricting powers of the government as a whole emerged. The origins of constitutionalism can be traced to the Social Contract Theory propounded by John Locke. He believed that people should have the right to change the government if it committed any wrongdoings.
The first ten amendments to the American Constitution (collectively called the Bill of Rights) imposed restrictions on the government. The Indian constitution also restricts government jurisdiction so that it doesn’t violate Fundamental Rights.
Any constitution is subject to amendments. Thus, it is possible that certain governments may use their amendment powers to remove restrictions on policies and actions.
In any democracy, constitutionalism refers to restrictions on the power of the government, adherence to the spirit of the constitution as well as ‘Constitutional Morality.
Types Of Constitutions:
- Written Constitution – Most world constitutions are written and have been created by a specially appointed body e.g., Indian Constitution was framed by the Constituent Assembly. There is a single, written document that contains all necessary provisions.
- Unwritten Constitution – In this case, some provisions are written while other provisions are governed by constitutional convention or precedents. There is no single written document. United Kingdom is the best example of an unwritten constitution.
Types Of Democratic Governments:
The two main types of democratic governments are Parliamentary System (as seen in the United Kingdom, India, Canada, Australia, Japan, etc.) and Presidential System (which exists in the U.S.A., Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, etc.). This distinction is based mainly on the nature of Legislature-Executive relationship.
Parliamentary System: It makes a distinction between Head of State (President of India) and Head of Government (Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers).
The main features of the parliamentary system are –
- There is a fusion of legislature and executives powers – The executive i.e., the Ministry is drawn from the legislature and is subordinate to it.
- There are two executives i.e., nominal executive (President of India or Monarch in England) and real executive (ministry). All powers are exercised by the real executive in the name of the nominal executive.
- It is a responsible government – The Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers stay in power only as long as they have the required majority in the Parliament. In case, the Ministry loses majority support, the Prime Minister has to resign along with the Council of Ministers.
- It may exist either as a Republic or as a Constitutional Monarchy depending on the nature of the powers of the nominal executive. In a Republic, the nominal executive is elected e.g., in India, while in a Monarchy, he/she assumes position on the basis of heredity e.g., in England.
- Most Parliamentary systems have a Bicameral Parliament for e.g., in England, Parliament consists of House of Commons (lower house-directly elected) and House of Lords (upper house-hereditary basis)
Presidential System: The main features of a Presidential system are –
- The President who is directly elected by the citizens for a fixed tenure is both, the Head of State and Head of Government. Thus, there is only one executive.
- The Legislature is also directly elected. Generally, members of the executive are not permitted to belong to the legislature.
- There exists a separation of legislative and executive powers as well as a system of checks and balances for e.g., Legislature can impeach the President, while the President can exercise the ‘Veto Power’ to reject any law passed by the Legislature.
- The President can continue in office irrespective of whether or not he/she enjoys majority support in the Legislature.
A federation refers to a political structure in which there are two sets of governments i.e. one for the whole
country and governments in each of the federal units (called Provinces or States). There is a distribution of powers between the Federal government (also known as Union or Central Government) and the State Governments. Federal governments are preferred in countries having large size and heterogeneous population.
A Federation may be performed by two processes –
- Small political units ‘come together to establish a single, large political unit for e.g., thirteen colonies came together to fight for independence from British rule and the U.S. federation came into being. This is called centripetal process.
- States are created by the Union government for e.g., in India, States were reorganized on the basis of language and other regional aspirations. This is the centrifugal process.
The main features of a federation are –
- Dual set of government i.e., Union and State governments.
- Division of power between the two sets of governments for e.g., in India, jurisdiction is distributed
between the Union (Centre) and States on the basis of the Union, State and Concurrent lists (as stated in Seventh Schedule of the Constitution)
- A written constitution to enable a clear distribution of government powers.
- Independent judiciary – to resolve Centre-State or State-State disputes.
The Indian Federation differs greatly from the U.S. federation. India has been described as ‘quasi federation’ or a ‘federation with an unitary spirit’ as the division of powers favours the Central government for e.g., it has full control over the Union list and Residuary subjects and it’s laws have precedence over state laws even in case of the Concurrent list.
Unitary system: countries that are small in size prefer to have a single, central, government. This is called an Unitary System. This is seen in Cuba, France, Bolivia, Israel, Portugal, Sri Lanka, etc. Some hitherto unitary system change to a quasi-unitary form through establishment of provinces and distribution of political power to somewhat autonomous units for e.g., UK has an unitary system. However, its regions i.e., Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland have their own assemblies with some degree of autonomy. These are known as ‘Holding Together’ federations.