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    Sunday, 16 November 2014

    Separation of Powers in British Constitution

    Throughout human history, different concepts and methods of separation of powers have been evolved and practiced. Almost seven centuries ago, struggle for powers between British Monarch and landowners, religious leaders and the commons paved a way for Separation of Powers in Great Britain. In fact, this struggle initially started against arbitrary powers of British Monarch and finally resulted into separation of powers.

    Doctrine of Separation of Powers

    Doctrine of separation of powers provides a model for governance of state. Its main objective is to prevent absolute powers. Followings are main features of this doctrine:

    (i) Division of Government Institutions
    Doctrine of separation of powers divides institutions of government into three branches, and these branches are legislature, executive and judiciary.

    (ii) Functions and Powers of Government Institutions
    Under doctrine of separation of powers, separate functions and powers are assigned to legislature, executive and judiciary, and the functions and powers are followings:

    (a) Functions and Powers of Legislature
    Main function and power of legislature is to make laws.

    (b) Functions and Powers of Executives
    Executive is to execute business of government by putting law into operation.

     (c) Functions and Powers of Judiciary
    Prominent function and power of judiciary is to interpret laws and dispense justice according to laws.

    (iii) Independency of Government Institutions
    Out of government institutions, each is independent of others. Therefore, each of them exercises its powers and performs its functions independently.

    (iv) Check and Balance
    There exists great association between doctrine of separation of powers and doctrine of checks and balance. According to doctrine of checks and balance, each branch of government provides checks and balance over other branches by keeping itself within its constitutional limits.

    (v) Prevention of Absolute Powers
    Under doctrine of separation of powers, no single branch of government possesses absolute powers. In this way, this doctrine has prevented absolute powers.

    (vi) Maintenance of Rule of Law and Individual Rights
    Through division of powers among three branches of government, Rule of Law is maintained and individual rights are protected. Due to separation of powers and checks and balances, no branch of government goes beyond law. In this way, o one, whether the/she is government official or citizen, is allowed to damage individual rights by misusing powers.

    Separation of Powers in Great Britain

    It will not be wrong to mention that basic principles of separation of powers not specifically present in British political system. Following reasons can explain reality of such opinion:

    (i) Non Demarcation of Powers Legislature, Executive and Judiciary
    An important flaw in British Constitution is that it has not provided any demarcation among powers of legislature, executive and judiciary. Due to this flaw, it is criticized that British Constitution is not convenient for separation of powers in Great Britain.

    (ii) Problem of Membership
    Problem with British political setup is that members of legislature are also members of executive. For instance, British Crown, British Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor and Cabinet Ministers are members of both the legislature as well executive. Being members of two government institutions, they often influence both the institutions, and such influence is not in accordance to doctrine of separation of powers.

    (iii) Supremacy of Executive Over legislature
    British parliamentary system of government is a hurdle for separation of powers in Great Britain. For example, British Prime Minster and his/her ministers are not only members of parliament, but are also members of executive. Being members of executive, they often influence parliament, and such influence is not accordance to doctrine of separation of powers.

    To conclude, it can be stated that Great Britain has experienced a long history for separation of powers. Although British Constitution has failed to provide ideal circumstances for separation of powers, yet some constitutional changes have been recently made regarding separation of powers. Establishment of British supreme Court is on of these changes.

    Image credit: www.peo.gov.au 

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    Item Reviewed: Separation of Powers in British Constitution Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Usman Ali
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