Uncodified constitution
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Uncodified constitution

October 2, 2019


An uncodified System is a type of
constitution where the fundamental rules often take the form of customs, usage,
precedent and a variety of statutes and legal instruments. An understanding of
the constitution is obtained through reading commentary by the judiciary,
government committees or legal experts. In such a constitutional system, all
these elements may be recognized by courts, legislators and the bureaucracy
as binding upon government and limiting its powers. Such a framework is
sometimes imprecisely called an “unwritten constitution”; however, all
the elements of an uncodified constitution are typically written down
in a variety of official documents, though not codified in a single
document. An uncodified constitution has the
advantages of elasticity, adaptability and resilience. A significant
disadvantage, however, is that controversies may arise due to different
understandings of the usages and customs which form the fundamental provisions of
the constitution. A new condition or situation of
government may be resolved by precedent or passing legislation. Unlike a
codified constitution, there are no special procedures for making a
constitutional law and it will not be inherently superior to other
legislation. A country with an uncodified constitution lacks a specific
moment where the principles of its government were deliberately decided.
Instead, these are allowed to evolve according to the political and social
forces arising throughout its history. When viewed as a whole system, the
difference between a codified and uncodified constitution is one of
degree. Any codified constitution will be overlaid with supplementary
legislation and customary practice after a period of time.
Current examples The following states can be considered
to have an uncodified constitution: Israel: the declaration of independence
promised a constitution by 2 October 1948, but due to irreconcilable
differences in the Knesset, no complete codified constitution has been written
yet. There are several Basic Laws, however.
New Zealand: see Constitution of New Zealand.
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia has no legally binding written constitution. In
1960, King Faisal declared the Quran to be the constitution. Although the Quran
is the “Official Constitution of Saudi Arabia”; the Qu’ran is in fact the
divine religious text of Islam and not a bespoke constitution for a certain
sovereign state. See Constitution of Saudi Arabia. However, in 1992, the
Basic Law of Saudi Arabia was adopted by royal decree.
United Kingdom: there is no defining document that can be termed “the
constitution”. Because the political system evolved over time, rather than
being changed suddenly in an event such as a revolution, it is continuously
being defined by acts of Parliament and decisions of the Law Courts. The closest
the UK has come to a constitutional code has been the Treaty of Union 1707, but
this tends only to be subject to legal and academic scrutiny in Scotland, and
has not received comparable attention in England and Wales. Due to the United
Kingdom having an uncodified constitution it has meant that many acts
have been added, e.g. The Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Human
Rights Act 1998.=Uncodified elements=
Canada: Although there is a Constitution Act important aspects of the
constitutional system are uncodified. The preamble to the Constitution of
Canada declares that the constitution is to be “similar in principle to that of
the United Kingdom” This applies at the federal level and to the provinces,
although each does have the power to modify or enact their own within their
exclusive areas of responsibility. To date only British Columbia has done so,
though the other provinces’ roles and powers are spelled out in section 93 of
the Constitution Act, 1867, and through amendments to it dealing with particular
provinces such as the Manitoba Act and the Newfoundland Act. See Constitution
of Canada. Former examples
Constitution of the Roman Republic, made up of the Twelve Tables and other
statutes. Hungary had an uncodified constitution
prior to 1949. The Constitution of the Grand
Principality of Finland was never codified. The Emperor of Russia, who
also served from 1809 to 1917 as Grand Prince of Finland, never specifically
recognized the Constitution as that of a separate and autonomous Finland, in
spite of the fact that that Constitution largely dictated the relationship
between Finland and the Russian Empire throughout the Russian era in Finland.
By the late 19th century leading Finnish intellectuals – liberals and
nationalists, and later, socialists as well – had come to consider Finland as a
constitutional state in its own right in a mere real union with Russia. This
notion clashed with emerging Russian nationalism and with Russian calls for a
unitary state for Slavs only, which eventually came into conflict with
Finnish separatism and constitutionalism in the form of “russification policies”,
which restricted Finland’s extensive autonomy from 1899 onwards, excluding a
brief interruption between 1905-1908, all the way to the February Revolution
in 1917. The Russian Provisional Government of 1917 eventually recognized
the Finnish constitution, and after the October Revolution the Bolshevik
government of the RSFSR recognized Finland’s declaration of independence on
New Year’s Eve 1917. Queensland before 2001.
Oman prior to 1996 Libya between 1969 and 1975
References

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