A constitution may be written or unwritten one. It is called a written constitution when all the laws are codified into a single document but where it is made up mainly of conventions and customs with a few written ones, and then it is called an unwritten constitution.
What is a written constitution?
A written constitution is a formal document defining the nature of the constitutional settlement, the rules that govern the political system and the rights of citizens and governments in a codified form.
The UK’s constitution is not written in a single document, but derives from a number of sources that are part written and part unwritten, including accumulated conventions, works of authority, Acts of Parliament, the common law, and EU law. The USA is different from some countries in having a constitution that is almost entirely written.
Merits of Written Constitution
- The written constitution is very clear and precise. It is free from doubts and ambiguity.
- The written constitution lays emphasis on rule of law.
- The written constitution is indispensable to federalism. It properly distributes powers between the centre and federal units – states or provinces.
- The written constitution protects the fundamental rights of the individual, fundamental rights are very essential for the liberty of the individual, and rights are part of a written constitution. It will be unconstitutional to deprive an individual of any of these rights.
- The written constitution protects the interests of minorities.
- As a written constitution is clear, the ruler (government) cannot exercise powers arbitrarily. A written constitution prevents arbitrary and whimsical actions by the government.
Demerits of Written Constitution
- A written constitution cannot easily cope with the changes taking place as time passes. With the passage of time, changes take place in the conditions of a country. The constitution needs revision or modification to deal with such changes. A written constitution, being rigid, is not easily amenable to necessary modification or revision.
- When a written constitution fails to cope with the march of time and consequent changes in the condition of the country, the people, being angry, may revolt against the government.
- As a written constitution gives more importance to written laws, the importance of public opinion decreases.
- In a country with a written constitution, customs, traditions and conventions are their values.