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Compare and contrast the British and Indian approaches to Parliamentary sovereignty.

  • British Approach: In the UK, the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty, often associated with the jurist A.V. Dicey, means that Parliament is the supreme legal authority and can create or end any law. Generally, the courts cannot overrule its legislation and no Parliament can pass laws that future Parliaments cannot change.
  • Indian Approach: In India, the concept of sovereignty is distributed between the Parliament and the Constitution. The Indian Parliament is not supreme to the Constitution; rather, it operates within the limits set by the Constitution. The Indian judiciary has the authority to review and invalidate parliamentary legislation that it finds unconstitutional.
AspectBritish ApproachIndian Approach
DefinitionParliament is the supreme legal authority and can create or end any law.Parliament operates within the limits set by the Constitution. The Constitution is supreme.
OriginRoots in the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the Bill of Rights in 1689.Influenced by colonial experience and the aspiration to protect citizens’ rights.
Judicial ReviewHistorically, no power to strike down acts of Parliament. Now, courts can declare legislation “incompatible”.Explicit power granted to the judiciary by the Constitution. Courts can strike down legislation inconsistent with the Constitution.
LimitationsTechnically, no legal limits except self-imposed ones like EU law (when the UK was a member) or the Human Rights Act.Bound by the Constitution, especially the fundamental rights and the ‘basic structure’ doctrine.
Amendment of the ConstitutionNo codified constitution; any act of Parliament can change or override constitutional conventions or previous acts.Procedure under Article 368 of the Constitution. Parliament can amend the Constitution but cannot alter its ‘basic structure’.

June 2024