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Compare and contrast the British and Indian approaches to Parliamentary Sovereignty. | UPSC 2023 General Studies Paper 2 Mains PYQ


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

(UPSC 2023 General Studies Paper 2 (Main) Exam, Answer in 150 words)


Parliamentary sovereignty is a constitutional principle that asserts the supremacy of the legislative body in a country. The concept of parliamentary sovereignty has distinctive features in the British and Indian contexts. Despite having a parliamentary system of government in India just like in Britain, in many instances, the Indian Parliament is closely related to the American Parliament. It is shaped by historical, constitutional, and legal developments.

British Approaches of Parliamentary Sovereignty:

Judicial Review: 

British Courts do not have the power of judicial review to strike down parliamentary laws. Theoretically, the British Parliament is supreme to make or repeal any law. British courts only do Judicial review of Executive actions of government. 

Unwritten Constitution:

The British have an unwritten constitution, relying on statutes, common law, and conventions. British parliament writes and amends its constitution daily.

Nature of Power:

Britain does not have a strict separation of power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.

Federal Structure:

British has a unitary system and the sovereignty of parliament is centralized and it is at the national level. There is no distribution of power between the Union and Provincial government on legislative subjects. 

Constitutional Amendment:

British parliament can amend any law including fundamental principles, without any special procedure.

Fundamental Rights:

Britain has not adopted the concept of Fundamental Rights for protecting individual rights.

Indian approaches of Parliamentary Sovereignty:

Judicial Review:

Indian judiciary has the power of judicial review of both legislative and executive actions of government. It allows courts to strike down laws that violate the fundamental framework of the Constitution. It means parliamentary sovereignty in India is not absolute. 

Written Constitution:

India has a written constitution explicitly mentions the distribution of powers between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. 

Basic Structure Doctrine:

Keshvananada Bharti case established the basic structure doctrine, which limits Parliament's power to amend the constitution, ensuring that certain core principles can not be amended.

Concept of Fundamental Rights:

India has the concept of fundamental rights. Article 13, it has mentioned that no law can be made against fundamental rights.

Federal Structure:

India has a federal structure with a division of powers between the central and state governments. The Parliament of India is sovereign within its sphere, and state legislatures also enjoy sovereignty in their areas of jurisdiction.

In summary, Although both British and India have adopted the parliamentary system of government and both have given legislative power to parliament, their approaches to parliamentary sovereignty differ. 

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