The key difference between written and unwritten constitution is that written constitution is codified, well structured, and assembled logically, whereas an unwritten constitution is not systematically included in a single document.
A constitution is a system of laws that includes the distribution of powers, the function of the state, and the rights and duties of the citizens. It is a live document, and necessary changes can be made according to the time and situation. Though we use the name unwritten constitution, this type of constitution is written down somewhere, but it is not a legal document that is systematically documented or bounded.
What is Written Constitution?
The written constitution is a deliberate creation that is consciously planned and systematically and meticulously written down as a legal, formal book or series of documents bound as a book. It contains the nature of the constitutional arrangement, the laws of the system, and the rights and duties of the system. It is codified and compiled in a structured and cohesive manner. Since it is presented in written form, anybody can refer to it when it is necessary. Everything, such as the organization of different institutions, powers, and functions, is properly mentioned in the written constitution, so there will not be any confusion.
A written constitution is also well framed and duly passed, and put into practice after a thorough analysis and consideration. For its performance, a special group is assigned so that they formulate and adopt the constitution. This also gives a proper design of the government institutions, their powers, hierarchies, relationships, and also supremacy. All these are bound to act according to the constitution.
Usually, a written constitution is the final since it is difficult to amend or modify when compared to ordinary law or in a dispute between the two rules of a prevailing constitution. But amendments can be made according to the proper procedure.
Sometimes a written constitution may have a single date. Such constitutions can be found in Sri Lanka, India, Canada, and the United States. It can be a single document with different dates. Examples are France and Australia. The French constitution is not one single document because under the Third Republic it is fragmentary. This was created on three constitutional laws passed on February 24th, 26th, and July 26th, 1874.
What is Unwritten Constitution?
The unwritten constitution is a constitution where the basic laws and other legal decisions and rules that govern the state are not systematically included in a written document. They are identified by customs, traditions, usage, certificates, bonds, deeds, contracts, and formal and legal enactments based on the decisions taken by the judiciary. The laws in such constitutions evolve through use and practice. Unwritten constitutions are not made by representatives that are properly elected, so they are also called cumulative constitutions.
Since the laws and practices are not mentioned or codified in any legal document, they are not practiced properly. They gradually evolve and get updated over time. In such constitutions, it is easy to add or update new or existing laws.
Unwritten constitutions are unprecise, vague, and unstable. Therefore, a common man may not understand it. Since it is unwritten, he cannot refer to any document for clarification. Such constitutions are said to be suitable for aristocratic societies and not for democratic societies.
What is the Difference Between Written and Unwritten Constitution?
The key difference between written and unwritten constitution is that a written constitution is codified, well structured, and assembled logically, while an unwritten constitution is not systematically included in a single document.
The below infographic presents the differences between written and unwritten constitution in tabular form for side-by-side comparison.
Summary – Written vs Unwritten Constitution
A written constitution is a deliberate creation that is consciously planned and systematically and meticulously written down as a legal, formal book or series of documents bound as a book. What is included here is clear and difficult to amend, and anybody could refer to and clarify doubts. An unwritten constitution, on the other hand, is a constitution where the basic laws and other legal decisions and rules that govern the state are not included in a document that is systematically written. It is unstable and vague and is not suitable for democratic societies. Thus, this is the summary of the written and unwritten constitution.