What are the characteristics of Sovereignty?

Sovereignty is a legal attribute of a state which entitles it to make decisions with respect to matter within its jurisdiction, free of external restraint or coercion.

Blackstone defined sovereignty as “the supreme irresistible, absolute, controllable authority in which the supreme legal power reside“.

Duguit defines sovereignty as “the commanding power of the state; it is the will of the nation organised in the state; it is the right to give unconditional orders to all individuals in the territory of the state.

On the basis of above definition, we can briefly state the characteristics of sovereignty as follows :-

1. Absoluteness

The sovereignty of the state as studied from the legal point of view is absolute, It is the most important and essential characteristics of the state. The will and authority of the sovereign power of the state cannot be challenged or overridden by any agency within the state. Externally no power can influence or dictate terms to the state.
However, as pointed elsewhere in these notes, this concept is purely of juridical nature. In reality sovereignty of the state is limited by several factors, such as customs, public opinion, power of electorate etc. Externally even the most powerful state cannot ignore the world public opinion.

2. Permanence

The sovereignty is like the very heart and soul of the State. Destruction of yovereignty means end of the state, it does not cease with the change of government or death of a president. Even after a successful revolution the sovereignty shifts to the new bearer of power.

3. All Comprehensive and Universality

Sovereignty of the State is all comprehensive and universal, in the sense that the sovereign power of the state extends over all its individual citizens and all groups, human associations within its territorial limits. No individual, except, of course, the foreign diplomats and ambassadors, is free from its all-embracing authority. None can claim exemption from the authority of the state.

4. Inalienability

Sovereignty, being an indispensable element of the state, it cannot be alienated from the state. Alienation of the sovereignty would amount to the state’s suicide. When there is change of power the sovereignty shifts to new bearer.

5. Exclusiveness

It means the state and the state alone possesses sovereign power over its citizen and associations within its territory. In other word there cannot be more than one centre of power within the territorial boundaries of the state. To have more than one centre of pov/er means to divide sovereignty, which juridically would mean denial of the absoluteness of the sovereignty.

6. Indivisibility

If the sovereignty is exclusive it logically follows that it cannot be shared or divided. Sovereignty being the highest will within the state it cannot be divided without destroying or creating more than one state. Some writers speak of ‘dual’ sovereignty. However, they confuse sovereignty with its emanation. Power which emanates from sovereignty can be divided, but not the sovereignty itself. In a federal state the power flowing ^from the constitution is divided between the Union and constituent units.

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