Constitution

A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed.[1]

When these principles are written down into a single document or set of legal documents, those documents may be said to embody a written constitution; if they are encompassed in a single comprehensive document, it is said to embody a codified constitution. Some constitutions (such as that of the United Kingdom) are uncodified, but written in numerous fundamental Acts of a legislature, court cases or treaties.[2]

Constitutions concern different levels of organizations, from sovereign countries to companies and unincorporated associations. A treaty which establishes an international organization is also its constitution, in that it would define how that organization is constituted. Within states, a constitution defines the principles upon which the state is based, the procedure in which laws are made and by whom. Some constitutions, especially codified constitutions, also act as limiters of state power, by establishing lines which a state's rulers cannot cross, such as fundamental rights.

The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution of any country in the world,[3] with 146,385 words[4] in its English-language version,[5] while the Constitution of Monaco is the shortest written constitution with 3,814 words.[6][4] The Constitution of San Marino is the world's oldest active written constitution, having been established in 1600, while the Constitution of the United States is the oldest active codified constitution. Only half of all sovereign state constitutions around the world have functioned continuously for more than 19 years.[7]

  1. ^ The New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edn., Erin McKean (editor), 2051 pp., 2005, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-517077-6.
  2. ^ R (HS2 Action Alliance Ltd) v Secretary of State for Transport [2014] UKSC 3, [207]
  3. ^ Pylee, M.V. (1997). India's Constitution. S. Chand & Co. p. 3. ISBN 978-81-219-0403-2.
  4. ^ a b "Constitution Rankings". Comparative Constitutions Project. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  5. ^ "Constitution of India". Ministry of Law and Justice of India. July 2008. Archived from the original on February 23, 2015. Retrieved December 17, 2008.
  6. ^ "Monaco 1962 (rev. 2002)". www.constituteproject.org. Retrieved June 5, 2016.
  7. ^ "Goodlatte says U.S. has the oldest working national constitution". PolitiFact.