Rigid Constitution is a constitution which stands above the other laws of the country, while flexible constitutions do not. A. V. Dicey defines a rigid constitution as one under which certain laws, called constitutional laws or fundamental laws “cannot be changed in the same manner as ordinary laws.” A rigid constitution set forth “specific legal/constitutional obstacles to be overcome” before it may be amended, such as special approval of the people by referendum, a supermajority or special majority in the legislature, or both.
In contrast, a flexible constitution is one in which the legislature may amended the constitution’s content and principles through use of the ordinary legislative process. For example, the Constitution of Australia is rigid, while the British Constitution and the Israeli Constitution are flexible.
Merits of Rigid Constitution
- The rigid constitution, being precise and clear, discourages and combats arbitrary actions.
- The ruling class cannot use the constitution to further its narrow interest.
- The rigid constitution contributes to political stability. It cannot be misused by government having the support of simple majority in the national legislate.
- Rigidity lends legitimacy to the constitution. It gets the respect of all as it cannot be easily abused.
- A rigid constitution protects the fundamental rights of the individual.
- A rigid constitution is good for a federal system, because neither the centre nor the federal units can easily change it to their advantage.
Demerits of Rigid Constitution
- As the procedure of amendment of a rigid constitution is very difficult, it causes problems for the country. The need for amendment may be very urgent for country, but the attempt to amend a rigid constitution may fail.
- A rigid constitution is likely to fail to cope with time and environment. It fails to keep pace with the changed social, economic and political conditions of the country.
- A country may encounter different kinds of disasters like earthquakes and cyclones. It may also face a rebellion or a revolution. It is necessary to take quick decisions to deal with such emergencies. But the government could fail to take decisions if the country concerned has a rigid constitution.
- When people feel that a rigid constitution stands in the way of the effort of the national legislature to amend it to manage a crisis or to provide equality justice to people, they are likely to approach the judiciary to intervene. This exposes the constitution to judicial intervention.
- If necessary changes are not inserted in the constitution in view of the changes that take place with the march of time, the consequences may be very bad for country. This may lead to a revolution by people or a coup by the military.