In broad sense, the term constitution refers to “that body of rules and principles in accordance with which the powers of sovereignty are regularly exercised.
Serves as the supreme or fundamental law.− a constitution is the charter creating the government. It has the status of a supreme or fundamental law as it speaks for the entire people from whom it derives its claim to obedience.
• Establishes basic framework and underlying principles of government− the purpose of a constitution is to prescribe the permanent framework of the system of government and to assign to the different department or branches, their respective powers and duties, and to establish certain basic principles on which the government is founded.
Constitutional Law- may be defined as that branch of public law which treats of constitutions, their nature, formation, amendment, and interpretation.
(1)As to their origin and history: (a)Conventional or enacted.− one which is enacted by a constituent assembly or granted by a monarch. (b)Cumulative or evolved.− like the English Constitution, one which is a product of growth or a long period of development originating in customs, traditions, judicial decisions, etc., rather than from a deliberate and formal enactment.
(2)As to their form: (a) Written− one which has been given definite written form at a particular time, usually by a specially constituted authority called a “constitutional convention”. (b) Unwritten− one which is entirely the product of political evolution, consisting largely of a mass of customs, usages and judicial decisions together with a smaller body of statutory enactments of a fundamental character, usually bearing different dates.
(3)As to manner of amending them: (a) Rigid or inelastic− one regarded as a document of special sanctity which cannot be amended or altered except by some special machinery more cumbrous than the ordinary legislative process. (b) Flexible or elastic− one which possesses no higher legal authority than ordinary laws and which may be altered in the same way as other laws.
It has the advantage of clearness and definiteness over an unwritten one.Its disadvantage lies in the difficulty of its amendment.
(1)As to form a good written constitution should be: (a)Brief− because if a constitution is too detailed, it would lose the advantage of a fundamental law which in a few provisions outlines the structure of the government of the whole state and the rights of the citizens. (b)Broad− because a statement of the powers and functions of government, and of the relations between the governing body and the governed, requires that it be as comprehensive as possible. (c)Definite− because otherwise the application of its provisions to concrete situations may prove unduly difficult if not impossible.
(2)As to contents it should contain at least three sets of provisions: (a) That dealing with framework of government and its powers, and defining the electorate. This group of provisions has been called the constitution of government. (b) That setting forth the fundamental rights of the people and imposing certain limitations on the powers of the government as a means of securing the enjoyment of these rights. This group has been referred to as the constitution of liberty. (c) That pointing out the mode or procedure for amending or revising the constitution. This group has been called the constitution of sovereignty.
(1) A constitution is legislation direct from the people, while a statute is legislation from the people’s representatives.(2) A constitution merely states the general framework of the law and the government, while a statute provides the details of the subject of which it treats.(3) A constitution is intend not merely to meet existing conditions but to govern the future, while a statute is intended primarily to meet existing conditions only.(4) A constitution is the supreme or fundamental law of the state to which statutes and all other laws must conform.
(1) Even a private individual may interpret or ascertain the meaning of particular provisions of the Constitution in order to govern his own actions and guide him in his dealings with other men.(2) It is evident, however, that only those charged with official duties, whether executive, legislative, or judicial, can give authoritative interpretation. (a) This function primarily belongs to the courts whose final decisions are binding on all departments or organs of the government, including the legislature. (b) There are, however, constitutional questions which under the Constitution are addressed to the discretion of other departments and, therefore, beyond the power of the judiciary to decide.
The fundamental purpose in construing constitutional provisions is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the framers and of the people who adopted or approved it or its amendments.