Aristotle a great philosopher of his time has said “A constitution is the arrangement of magistracies in a state.” This is true even today. The change with time today is only the action of these magistracies is based on established precedence for governance of the state or any other organization.
Any democratic state or organization, with the wide consent of its nationals, or members, establishes a set of fundamental principles. These fundamental principles are established to regulate different organs of state or organization. These fundamental principles when compiled in one document and used for governance of the state or the organization is called constitution. In a nutshell the constitution is a set of written rules, meant for governance of a state or any other organization.
In a constitution all organs essential for functioning of the state or organization are separately defined. The different entities under each organ are also mentioned. The constitution also speaks about procedure of formation of these entities within one organ. Laws for functioning of these entities are clearly mentioned within a constitution. In addition the inter- relation between different organs is also defined under a constitution. The jurisdiction of each organ and its entities is separately demarcated and limits for each are fixed within a constitution.
A constitution can be of a sovereign state or of a company or of an unincorporated association or any other organization formed by a group of members. The constitutions concerning organizations other than state are comparatively simple. These constitutions simply state the purpose of the organization, its different functionaries and their duties. It also speaks to the procedure of nomination or election of these functionaries and their period of continuation on that post. The individual administrative and financial powers of each of the office-bearer are also stated in the constitution of that organization. The constitution of a sovereign state is in detail and elaborated.
The constitution of a sovereign state is the supreme law of that state. The constitution of a state, whether sovereign or federal, defines the fundamental principles, on which the state is based. It also lays down the fundamental rights of its nationals and structure of its government institutions. The procedures of a functioning government institution, the Appointment of its functionaries, powers and duties of government functionaries are clearly mentioned in the constitution. It also speaks of the directive principles and duties of the citizens of the state. The constitution of a state also elaborates on the procedure in which laws are made and by whom. Most of the state constitutions are codified and limit the power of a state to the extent that the fundamental rights of its citizens are not diluted.
The constitutions are of two types. The first type of constitution is a codified constitution. The codified constitution is a single written document. In most of the cases the codified constitution is the outcome of a public revolution. It is a written document to meet the aspirations of the masses after that revolution. The uncodified constitution is not a written document. It exists in parts and need not necessarily be a written document. An uncodified constitution is evolved after a long period with public experience. The constitutions of most of the countries except Britain, New Zealand and Israel are codified.
The sovereign and federal states have different type of constitutions. In a sovereign state the sole power under the constitution is vested with central government. In federal states some powers of the state under the constitution are vested with federal government. These specific powers may be defense, foreign affairs etc. However the federal state has jurisdiction over a definite geographical area. The powers of state and federal government are clearly demarcated in the constitution. The constitution of India is the longest coded constitution in the world. This contains 450 articles in 22 parts with 12 schedules and 94 amendments.
The constitution is a basic tool to regulate the relations between executive, legislature and judiciary. The constitution also regulates relationships between other organizations and executive, legislature and judiciary. This is the key for enforcement of a constitution. The constitution therefore is the best guide to run a democratic state or organization. In the words of George Washington “The constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.”