Monday, July 20, 2009


Great Britain: The Constitution and Administrative System
The British Constitution is the oldest in the world and it is neither written nor enacted and has been called the “child of accident and design”. It is an example of unique flexibility- it can be amended with the same ease with which an ordinary law is enacted. It is a blend of monarchy, aristocracy and democracy. Sources of the British Constitution are:

The Great Charters
Constitutional conventions
Common law
Judicial decisions and commentaries on the constitution

The British polity is unitary- not federal in form, as is in India and USA. All the powers are concentrated in a single government at London which is supreme. The ‘Counties’ and ‘Boroughs’ and other local government areas do enjoy certain powers but they are delegated to them by the Central Government.

Britain has a parliamentary or ‘responsible’ form of government, distinct from the Presidential type of government as in America. While technically, all powers of the state are vested in a King, he is in practice, only a titular or constitutional head. His powers are exercised by a team of ministers which is called a Cabinet or Council of Ministers. The ministers constitute the real executive and all of them are drawn from the Parliament. The Prime Minister is the head of the Cabinet and the most powerful person in the country. This form of government is called ‘responsible’ since all the ministers are collectively and individually responsible to the House of Commons. Legally, the King-in-parliament is sovereign. In fact, the Cabinet is the link that connects the monarch with the legislature. The “House of Lords” is the upper house and its members are not elected. It is a permanent institution which is never dissolved and most of its members are hereditary.

In Britain, there is no such thing as the supremacy of the Constitution. Indeed, Parliament is sovereign. Parliament can make or amend any law. It is an ordinary legislature and constituent assembly at the same time. There is no practice of judicial review of and act passed by the Parliament. Whatever it does is legal and constitutional. The executive is fully under control of the Parliament. The Ministers retain their offices during the pleasure of the lower house.

The Queen is still head of the state, head of the society and head of the church. The Crown is the chief executive- all the executive authority is exercised in its name. However, in practice, all the powers of the Crown are exercised by the ministers in the name of the King, not by the King himself. The ministers are responsible to the Parliament and not the King. The executive orders are issued by the King, but they are always countersigned by the minister concerned. Since the King is above the law, the minister is responsible to the people.

It is true that the King is a mere ceremonial head; however, his advice is not easily dismissed by his ministers. The King selects and appoints the Prime Minister. The King authorizes the dissolution of the House of Commons to enable afresh election. Summarizing, the salient features of the British Constitution are:

Evolved, unwritten and Flexible Constitution
Unitary political system
Parliamentary system
The supremacy of Parliament
Gap between theory and practice
Conventions of the Constitutions
Rule of law
A Constitutional Monarchy

There is no unified system of courts for the entire country. The “civil” and “criminal” courts are separate. The Judicature Act of 1873 created a Supreme Court of Judicature, which is a somewhat misleading name. The Supreme Court is composed of parts which are entirely separate. The highest court of law in the country is the House of Lords. According to a custom, only the law lords attend the house when it meets as the court and is presided over by the Lord Chancellor.

EVOLUTION OF THE CIVIL SERVICES IN BRITAIN In early times, political favoritism was the basis of appointment to public offices. The revolution of 1688 had established the supremacy of Parliament. Edmund Burke was the first statesman to point out the evils of jobbery and nepotism. Jeremy Benthem in his constitutional code gave a detailed plan of recruiting persons for public services, their remunerations and service conditions. He was the first person to suggest oral examination in addition to the written test.

Lord Macaulay is considered to be the father of the modern British Civil Service. It is interesting to note that the system of ‘open competitive examination’ to ascertain the merit of the candidates was first applied to Indian Civil Service and then extended to the British Civil Service. Trevelyan, who happened to be the brother-in-law of Lord Macaulay, was entrusted with the task of investigating in to the affairs of the various departments and submit its report with a view to increase the efficiency of the government machinery. Following recommendations were made which were very similar to that given by the Lord Macaulay committee for the Indian civil service:

Open competitive examination in place of the patronage system
All examinations to be conducted by a single authority which should be outside the departments
Examinations should be held at regular intervals
In order to attract the best brains it is necessary to recruit people at young age
Preference of general ability and intelligence rather than special requirements for the class of service.

The National Whitley Council in 1920 classified the civil service into the following classes:

Administrative class
Executive class
Clerical and Sub-clerical classes
Typing grades
Minor and Manipulative class
Messengers, Cleaners, etc.

The training of civil servants in Britain is based on the Assheton Committee Report of 1944. According to it, Treasury enjoys the power to exercise general control over training and a Director of Training and Education has been appointed.

In 1965, the Estimates Committee of House of Commons presented a report on ‘Recruitment to the Civil Service’ and hinted at number deficiencies. Accordingly, a Committee under the Chairmanship of Lord Fulton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex, was appointed which submitted its report in 1968. The main points of the report are:

The civil service still had the hangover of 19th century and its attitude was to support the ‘gifted’ generalist amateur.
To bring a more professional approach to the working procedures.
A new Civil Service Department should be created to take over the establishment work of the Treasury and to oversee the Civil Service Commission.
The system of Treasury classes should be abolished and replaced by a unified grading structure.
A civil service college should be established.
Management service units should be set-up in all major departments.
There should be a separate senior policy advisor, in addition to the Permanent Secretary, to advise the minister.
Ministers should be allowed to employ temporary experts to advise them.
There should be more openness in governance so that the outer world can see who is taking the decision.

The Government accepted most of the Fulton Committee recommendations and most have been progressively implemented. The Civil Service Department was created in 1968 and the Civil Service College was opened in 1969 at Sunningdale, Berkshire. The British Administrative class, as in 1986, is constituted of the following top seven grades:

Grade-1: Permanent Secretary

Grade-2: Deputy Secretary

Grade-3: Under Secretary

Grade-4: Executive Director

Grade-5: Assistant Secretary

Grade-6: Senior Principal

Grade-6: Principal

U.S.A.: Constitution and Administrative System
The constitution of the United States of America is the oldest written constitution in the world and the Declaration of Independence of 1776 was the first formal state paper which helped framing of the Constitution in 1787 at the Philadelphia convention. It contains only 4000 words. It is rigid and can not be amended by the procedure of ordinary legislation.

An important feature of the US constitution is the separation of powers and system of checks and balances. The Congress makes the laws, the President administers them and the Supreme Court, along with other federal courts interprets them and imparts justice. Although the three branches of government are independent of each other, they can be checked by each other, which maintains balance so that no one can assume supreme power.

Salient features of the US Constitution:

Written and brief constitution
Popular Sovereignty
Republican form of government
Supremacy of the constitution
Rigid constitution
Federal form of government
Presidential form of government
Judicial review
Separation of power
Checks and balances
Bill of Rights
Double Citizenship: The dual citizenship created by the 14th amendment implies that while all American citizens are entitled to elect and to be elected at the federal level; at the state level only the state citizens enjoy political rights.

Administrative system:
A person who wishes to contest for the office of the President (or Vice-President) must be a natural born citizen of the United States. He should be of at least 35 years of age and must have resided in the US for at least 14 years.

The American Congress consists of two the two Houses- the Senate (Upper House) and the House of Representatives (Lower House). Members of the lower house are elected for tenure of two years. The Senate is a permanent body and the Senators are elected for six years, but one third of them retire after every two years. The Senate of the US is the second ost powerful chamber in the world.

There are two separate systems of Courts in the USA: the federal courts and the state courts. The lower federal court is known as the District Court. The highest and the most important is the Supreme Court which consists of one Chief Justice and eight associate justices. They are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate. They hold office during good behavior. Once appointed, a judge can not be removed throughout his life, except by impeachment. The procedure of impeachment is same as that of the President. A Judge of a Court may retire, if he wants to, when he reaches the age of seventy and thereafter. Provided he has been a member of the court for at least ten years, and he will be entitled to full salary for the rest of his life.

No comments:

Post a Comment