Difference between Written and Unwritten Constitution

A Constitution refers to a system of laws and principles that act as a basis for governance in a country. There are two types of constitutions.

A Constitution that has been systematically and meticulously written down and embodied in a single document is known as a Written Constitution.

An Unwritten Constitution is the one in which no provisions or laws of the constitution are set in writing but they are documented despite not being incorporated in a single book.

Difference Between Written and Unwritten Constitution

This article will highlight the key differences between Written and Unwritten Constitution for the IAS Exam.

Aspirants can find more Difference Between Articles, by visiting the linked page.

The difference between Unwritten Constitution and the Written Constitution is given in the table below:                                                              

Differences between Unwritten Constitution and the Written Constitution

Unwritten Constitution

Written Constitution

Unwritten constitution refers to the constitution not codified in a structured manner. Written Constitution refers to the constitution codified and compiled in a structured and cohesive manner.
Unwritten Constitution evolves over a long period with a new set of laws and guidelines being added as time progresses. Written constitutions have been properly framed and compiled in a step-by-step matter, with any subsequent changes being added almost instantaneously.
Rigid, flexible or both. Majorly flexible, however, there can be instances where even the written Constitution is rigid.
The Parliament is supreme in a country where there is an unwritten constitution. The constitution is supreme. 
The judiciary has limited powers. The Judiciary has more power in order to ensure constitutional supremacy.
The Magna Carta can be considered the earliest form of the unwritten constitution. It was a charter of rights signed by King John of England on 15th June 1215. The charter promised to protect the rights of the nobility from the interference of the crown. The Magna Carter would eventually evolve into the unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom. The Constitution of the United States of America is considered as the oldest written constitution, that is still in force. It was drafted on September 17th, 1787, ratified on June 21st, 1788 and came into effect on March 4th, 1789. James Madison, one of the founding fathers of the United States, wrote the document that formed the model for the Constitution.

The topic of Constitutions, both written and unwritten, is covered under the Polity segment of the UPSC Exams. Aspirants can find study materials to prepare for this segment through the links given below:

Difference Between Written and Unwritten Constitution – Download PDF Here

FAQ about Written and Unwritten Constitution


Which country has the longest written constitution in the world?

The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution of any country in the world. The original text of the Constitution contained 395 articles in 22 parts and eight schedules. On the other hand, the Constitution of Monaco is the shortest written constitution with 3,814 words.

Name the countries which have unwritten constitution.

The countries like the United Kingdom (Britain), New Zealand and Israel have an uncodified or ‘unwritten’ constitution.

Candidates can find the general pattern of the UPSC Exams by visiting the UPSC Syllabus page. For more articles and exam-related preparation materials, refer to the links given in the table below:

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