Constitutional Conventions Essay

982 Words4 Pages
This paper discusses conventions of the constitution, their legal authority, their effect (or lack thereof) in practicality and in judicial decision-making. Conventions are one of the sources of the Constitution, following statute law, common law, European Union (EU) Law, legal treaties, and the like. What Are Conventions? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a convention can be defined as “usage or custom” or “a rule of conduct or behaviour”. In legal terms, this can be considered relatively accurate. The mechanics of the government is conditioned by usages or practices which ensure the smoothness of operations. Some of these usages affect the behaviour of principal organs of the state and thus have constitutional significance. These can be called “conventions of the constitution.” Dicey describes conventions as maxims or practices which, ‘though they regulate the ordinary conduct of the Crown, of Ministers, and of other persons under the constitution, are not in strictness laws at all’. According to Marshall and Moodie, conventions are ‘rules of constitutional behaviour’ which can be ‘considered binding by and upon those who operate the constitution’ but are not ‘enforced by the… courts’. A somewhat more in-depth description of Lord Wilson of Dinton has helped clear the air – he described constitutional conventions as ‘the main political principles which regulate relations between the different parts of our constitution and exercise of power but which do not have legal force’. Simply put, conventions are norms followed by constitutional practitioners. Sir Ivor Jennings posed three questions to identify a valid convention. Firstly, determine whether there is a precedent for the practice – that is, how often and how consistently a practice has been observed previously. Secondly, determine whether those operating the constitution have accepted
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