Constitutional Supremacy and Parliamentary Sovereignty
Ahir Mitra 19 May 2021

Constitutional Supremacy and Parliamentary Sovereignty

Constitutional Supremacy and Parliamentary Sovereignty

The Constitution's Supremacy Clause Article VI, Clause 2 declares that the Constitution, federal laws enacted pursuant to it, and treaties enacted under its authority are the "supreme Law of the Land," taking precedence over any opposing state laws. Parliamentary supremacy in India is governed by the Indian Constitution, which requires judicial review. In practice, this means that although the parliament has the authority to amend the constitution, the changes must be valid within the scope of the constitution.

The Constitution makers of India adopted the middle course between the American system of Judicial Supremacy and the British principle of Parliamentary Sovereignty, by empowering the Judiciary with the power of Judicial Review and the Parliament with the Sovereign power of amending the Constitution with certain restrictions.[1]

When we consider the situation in practice, the reaction is a resounding affirmation of constitutional supremacy. The Indian Constitution declares itself to be the supreme law of the land and restricts the power of parliament to pass laws in Article 49(1).[2] When it comes to safeguarding people's natural rights, the constitution has always proven to be a blessing. The Indian Constitution divides the country's authority into three bodies that are both autonomous and interdependent. This division of power instills the importance of accountability and keeps each of these institutions in line.

The legislature, executive, and judiciary are the three organs of the constitution. The parliament is the name for the legislature. These forces, on the other hand, never demonstrate that parliamentary sovereignty is any less effective. In accordance with Article 159 of the Indian Constitution, it has the power to amend the Constitution's rules. Citizens' rights can be lifted in their entirety.

However, these legislative forces have sometimes proven to be undemocratic. When Indira Gandhi, the former Prime Minister, was found guilty of corruption and  the election was declared null and void, she declared a state of emergency in flagrant defiance of the court. It turns out that the Indian Constitution has a certain fundamental structure that cannot be revised or repealed by the legislature, which is very reassuring. Only in constitutional dominance does the division of powers take on its full significance, with the judiciary attempting to enforce the constitution's laws while still ensuring that new laws enacted by the legislature adhere to the Constitution's basic framework and do not contradict any of its Articles.

The Supreme Court of India expressly affirmed constitutional supremacy in the Minerva Mills case[3], holding that "government, legislature, executive, and the judiciary are all bound by the Constitution, and none is above or beyond the Constitution." Any law passed by the parliament is subject to interpretation by the supreme court in light of the constitution's principles and goals, and if it goes above or above those, it can be declared null and void. Although the Indian Constitution does not expressly provide for the division of judicial and parliamentary supremacy, it is not entirely clear.

The legislature has the authority to amend the constitution and enact legislation; the judiciary has the responsibility to determine if those laws violate the constitution's basic structure. After the parliament has completed its task, the Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the law by judicial review.

As a result, Dicey's view gives Parliament the supreme power to pass legislation on any subject matter without regard to precedent or authority. Judges' roles are limited to statute interpretation, and they cannot reapply previous precedents or statutes. As Dicey correctly said, “No authority on earth can reverse what the Parliament does.” As a result, Dicey's description ignored the distinctions between fundamental and ordinary laws. It also implies that Parliament is sovereign, that no legislation passed by Parliament can be ruled void because it is unconstitutional, that Parliament has no power to bind itself or its successor, and that Parliament's powers are unrestricted.

In A.K. Gopalan V State[4] (Patanjali Shastri) J said- “There can be no doubt that the people of India have, in the exercise of the sovereign will as expressed in the preamble, adopted the democratic ideal ….and in delegating to the legislature, executive and judiciary their respective powers in the Constitution, reserved to themselves certain fundamental rights, so-called, I apprehend, because they have been retained by the people and made paramount to the delegated powers” The Indian Parliament does not have jurisdiction over the Indian Constitution, and India strikes a balance between judicial and legislative scrutiny. However, the three foundations of government: the executive, the judiciary, and the legislature must function together and must not infringe on the rights of others; however, Parliament retains the right to expand its authority to List I and List III and also, act on behalf of two or more states as per Article 252.[5]

Furthermore, constitutional supremacy is a significant factor in the country's improvement. The creators of our constitution granted constitutional sovereignty to the citizens of the land, allowing them to live freely and with dignity.

[1] The Indian Journal of Political Science, Vol. 74, No. 1 (January - March, 2013), pp. 99-106 (8 pages).

[2] The Constitution of India, 1949.

[3] 1980 AIR 1789, 1981 SCR (1) 206.

[4] (1950) S.C.R. 88, 198

[5] The Constitution of India, 1949.

Did you find this write up useful? YES 6 NO 22
Agniva Maiti   31 Aug 2021 7:06pm
( 3rd paragraph) Article 49 (1) does not restrict the power of parliament to pass laws. There exists only Article 49 which is regarding Protection of read more

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