Parliamentary Sovereignty Defined:
- Parliamentary sovereignty is a fundamental principle in the United Kingdom’s constitution, which grants the UK Parliament the highest legal authority to enact, amend, or abolish laws. As Jean Bodin articulated, it represents “the absolute and perpetual power of commonwealth.”
- The Palace of Westminster, standing for over 900 years, is a symbol of this sovereignty in the British context.
- Ancient India also held assemblies like Sabhas and Samitis, showcasing the historical roots of legislative bodies.
- In India, Articles 74 and 75 at the Center and Articles 163 and 164 in the states establish a parliamentary system of government.
- India’s adoption of the parliamentary system is reminiscent of the British Westminster model.
- Democratic Foundations: Both the UK and India embrace democratic principles with Members of Parliament elected by the people.
- Executive-Legislative Relationship: A close relationship exists between the executive and legislative branches in both nations.
- Majority Party Rule: Both countries typically see the majority party in Parliament forming the government.
Nature of Constitution:
- India possesses a written constitution that places constraints on parliamentary authority through provisions like Fundamental Rights.
- In the UK, parliamentary functioning relies on unwritten conventions and precedents, and Parliament’s power is theoretically limitless.
Supremacy of Parliament:
- In India, the constitution balances British parliamentary sovereignty with American-style judicial supremacy.
- In Britain, Parliament is the ultimate legislative authority, and its laws are immune to challenge.
Mode of Government:
- India operates under a federal structure where powers are shared between the central and state governments.
- In contrast, the UK employs a unitary structure where the British Parliament holds supreme legislative authority for the entire nation.
Monarchy vs Republic:
- India places paramount importance on its constitution and its people. The Preamble establishes India as a sovereign republic.
- In the UK, while the monarch serves as the head of state, legislative powers reside with Parliament.
- In India, parliamentary supremacy is subject to judicial oversight, with explicit provisions for judicial review (e.g., Article 13, 32).
- The UK offers limited scope for reviewing legislative acts; instead, secondary legislations are subject to judicial review.
Basic Structure Doctrine:
- India has the basic structure doctrine, ensuring that while Parliament can amend the constitution, it must adhere to the doctrine’s core principles.
- The UK lacks such constraints, allowing the British Parliament to alter constitutional principles without restrictions.
In India, parliamentary supremacy coexists with judicial oversight, reflecting a commitment to constitutional supremacy.
The British Parliament, in contrast, enjoys unrivaled legislative authority without judicial review.
This makes the Indian parliamentary system more responsible towards the ideal principle of constitutional supremacy, as it ensures a balance of power with the ability to scrutinize legislative actions.
As aptly stated by Jean-Louis de Lolme, “British Parliament can do everything but make a woman a man and a man a woman.” This highlights the extent of power enjoyed by the British Parliament and underscores the contrasting approaches of the two nations towards parliamentary sovereignty and the rule of law.