Sovereignty is the heart and soul of a state. Internally it stands for the supreme authority of the state within its territory and externally free from any foreign or external pressure or interference. The term sovereignty has been used in different senses and this leads to various kinds of sovereignty.
1. Titular and Real Sovereignty
Titular means nominal or ceremonial, such as the British Monarch or, President or India. While the real sovereign is the one who exercises real power such as the absolute monarchs in the former days. Under Parliamentary system the king or the Queen, or even elected President is nominal sovereign in whom the executive powers of the state are vested, while the Parliament is a real sovereign. A king would also be a real sovereign if he directly exercises all powers.
2. Legal and Political Sovereignty
Distinction is also made between legal and political sovereignty. A legal sovereign is one which has supreme power to enact law. In a modern state the Parliament or the Central legislative body like the American Congress are the legal sovereigns within their states. A legal sovereign can theoretically override even the divine law or long-standing social customs.
Main features of a legal sovereign are
- It is definite, determinate, organised and known to laws.
- It alone has power to enact highest laws.
- Disobedience to legal sovereign will lead to punishment.
- All rights emanate from the legal sovereign.
- Authority of the legal sovereign is unlimited.
We have already said that the British Parliament and the American Congress exercise such legal sovereignty.
3. Political Sovereignty
Stands behind the legal sovereign. In democracy political sovereignty belongs to the voters. There are differences of opinion about the location of political sovereignty. Some political scientists feel that not only the voters, but other forces which are behind the legal sovereign, make up for political sovereignty. However, the fact remains that political sovereignty is difficult to locate. There is, however, no doubt that public opinion, the wishes of the voters etc. influence the decision of the legal sovereign. In a direct democracy, the people could be considered as political sovereign.
4. Popular Sovereignty
The concept of popular sovereignty is very old. For example, Roman scholar, Cicero said “the authority of the Common Wealth is derived from the corporate power of the people. “In the medieval period, political thinkers spoke of the voice of the people. Machiavelli said “voice, of the people is voice of God.” The Social Contractualists^also argue that authority of state is based on the consent of the people. In this sense people are the popular sovereign. James Bryce said “the sovereignty of the people is the basis of democracy.”
5. De Jure and De Facto Sovereignty
A distinction is also made between de jure (legal) and de facto (actual). sovereign. De jure sovereign is one who is legally recognised, and is competent to issue command of state. Thus the authority of the de jure sovereign rests on law. Sometime due to historical circumstances the de jure sovereign is unable to exercise his power. This may happen as a result of revolutions, or conquest by foreign power. For example, after the Battle of Plassey (1757) the Nawab of Bengal remained de jure sovereign while the East India Company became de facto sovereign, as it exercised complete control over the three provinces of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.
Some scholars are of the opinion that since sovereignty is a legal concept, only de jure sovereign is the real sovereign. De jure sovereignty is also necessary for political stability.