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Salient Features of US Constitution


Salient Features of USA Constitution:

The salient features of US Constitution are:

  1. Supremacy of Constitution:

The first characteristic of American constitution is that it is the supreme law of the country.

To quote constitution itself

“this constitution, and the laws of the united states which shall be made pursuance thereof and all treaties made, or which shall be made under the authority of united states, shall be supreme law of land and the judges in every state shall be bound to thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding”

  1. Separation of powers:

The American Constitution is based on the principle of separation of powers.

The purpose is not to avoid friction but by means of inevitable friction incident to the distribution of the governmental powers among three departments to save people from autocracy.

Art. 1. Provides that all legislative powers therein granted shall be vested in the Congress.

Art. 2. Provides that all executive powers shall be vested in President.

Art. 3 states that the judicial powers will be vested in Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

The separation of powers was implemented by an elaborate system of checks and balances.

  1. Doctrine of Judicial Supremacy:

Another characteristic of American Constitution is doctrine of judicial supremacy. Unlike England and the supreme court of USA has the power to declare whether a particular law is ultra-vies or intra vires of the constitution.

According to C. Justice Hughes. “We are under constitution but constitution is what the Judges say it is.”

  1. Spoil Systems:

Spoil system is another feature of USA constitution, which was prevalent in its worst form during 19th century. According to the system, with the change of president the servants of the government were also to change. The result was that so long as a particular president was in office. He had supporters in all offices and they had to ensure that the President belonging to their own party was elected or re-elected.

Undoubtedly there was corruption, inefficiency and irresponsibility. And there was demand to put an end to this system, consequently in 1983 the Pendleton Act was passed which introduced the system of competitive examination of recruitment in government offices.

  1. Presidential Form of government:

The US.A has a presidential form of Govt. and not a parliamentary one. American president is elected for a fixed period and he goes by the calendar. The president remains in office for full period of four years.

American constitution has adopted Presidential form of government for the people. The executive of the state is not responsible before the parliament. President’s cabinet is not answerable to congress about their performance. President cannot dissolve the parliament but Congress can dismiss him under very special condition (impeachment, corruption) otherwise it cannot dismiss the President. President along with his cabinet does not participate in the Congress proceedings.

  1. Due process of law:

The term “Due process of Law” means that any person suspected of violating the law, must be dealt with according to the established rules and not arbitrarily.

Powers must be applied erratically to some people or others as governors see fit, but uniformly to all people similarly situated.

Due process of law demands that the Acts of Legislature and executives, both at the Centre and is the states must be reasonable. There has been lot of controversy over what is reasonable and what is not reasonable. Formerly, the courts left it to Legislature and the Executive to decide what was reasonable and what was not reasonable. However, this duty has been taken over now by the courts themselves and the courts now decide whether a particular law is reasonable or not reasonable.

  1. Judicial Review:

The American Constitution bestows authority to Supreme Court to review any action of Congress. Supreme Court of America can declare any Law or Act of parliament unconstitutional or constitutional. That is why justice Hughes said: “We are obedient to constitution but that constitution which we declared as constitution. ”

  1. Bicameral Legislature:

USA has a bi-cameral legislature. Its lower house is termed as the House of Representatives whereas the upper house is known as senate.

The upper house in USA unlike other upper chambers in the world is more powerful than the lower. It is equipped with Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers. It is the most powerful upper chamber in the world and its tenure is 6 years unlike that of lower house which is elected only for two years.

  1. Fundamental Rights:

American Constitution safeguards a large number of fundamental Rights of people Congress will not formulate any law which could create new religion or restrain someone to follow the religion, freedom of press and speech are guaranteed.

Justice Marshall says that “the fundamental rights are the birth right of American people and no one can dare to snatch these inherent rights from the people.

  1. Federal Supremacy:

American Constitution upholds the principle of federal supremacy. It declares that the constitution is supreme one, but the federal law also is supreme over the state law.

11. Checks and Balances:

To secure the liberty of the people, the authority of govt. was further weakened i.e., by introducing check and balances. The constitutions provides for a system of internal checks and balances.

The executive for example is controlled by the senate in the matter of making appointment to high offices, ratifying the international treating made by the president, and it is also a court of impeachment for president and high official of US including the judges of Supreme Court.

The president in turn, controls the congress in the sense that all Bills passed by Congress must be submitted to him for his approval.

Both President and Congress have certain checks on the judiciary by appointing and determining the salary of judges.

The judiciary in turn exercised its control over the executive and legislature through its power of judicial review.

Thus we see that the principle of separation of powers and checks and balances are intertwined in American court from top bottom.

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