Constitution vs Bylaws: Difference and Comparison

Key Takeaways

  1. The Constitution is the fundamental law of a country that establishes its governance and outlines the rights and responsibilities of its citizens.
  2. Bylaws are a set of rules and regulations that govern the internal operations of an organisation or group.
  3. The Constitution focuses on the organisation’s broad principles, fundamental rights, and foundational aspects. At the same time, bylaws delve into specific operational details and address matters subject to change or requiring more flexibility.

What is Constitution?

A constitution is a foundational legal document that establishes a government’s principles, structures, and processes. It defines the relationship between a country and its citizens, outlines the power and limitations of the different branches of the government, and protects individuals’ fundamental rights and freedom.

Constitution serves as the country’s supreme law, which covers various aspects, including the division of power among different branches of government, the rights and freedoms of individuals, the procedures for making and implementing laws, and the mechanisms for resolving disputes and maintaining the rule of law. 

Constitutions can take different forms and vary in content depending on the country and its historical, cultural and political context; some constitutions are written, while others are unwritten, based on established customs and precedents. Constitution begins with a preamble that sets out the nation’s general objectives and values, followed by the articles that define the structure and powers of the government.

What are Bylaws?

Bylaws serve as a framework for the organization’s structure and business. The bylaws begin by stating the organisation’s official name and briefly stating its purpose or mission. This sets the overall direction and goals of the organisation. They serve as the foundation for the organisation’s governance structure and provide a framework for decision-making, defining roles and responsibilities, and establishing procedures for various activities,

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Bylaws specify the criteria for membership, including eligibility criteria, rights and responsibilities of members. They may also outline members’ admission, termination, and resignation procedures. The structure and obligations of the board of directors are detailed in the bylaws. This includes the number of directors, qualification, term of office, election or appointment procedures, and power and duties.

Bylaws provide guidelines for conducting meetings, including regular, unique, and annual general meetings. Bylaws address financial management, including the fiscal year, budgeting process, financial reporting requirements and procedures for handling funds, donations, or assets.

Difference Between Constitution and Bylaws

  1. The Constitution outlines the fundamental principles and establishes the overarching framework of the organisation, while Bylaws define the specific rules and procedures for its operations.
  2. Amending the Constitution requires a formal and rigorous process, while bylaws are more accessible to amend than the Constitution.
  3. The Constitution focuses on the organisation’s broad principles, fundamental rights, and foundational aspects. At the same time, bylaws delve into specific operational details and address matters subject to change or requiring more flexibility.
  4. The Constitution serves as a legal document, while bylaws are not always legally mandated but are highly recommended for most organisations.
  5. The Constitution is a permanent document, while Bylaws can be revised more frequently to adapt to changing circumstances. 

Comparison Between Constitution and Bylaws

ParametersConstitutionBylaws
PurposeOutlines the fundamental principles and establishes the overarching framework of the organisationDefine the specific rules and procedures for its operations.
Amendment processFormal and rigorous Relatively easier to amend
Content focusBroad principles, fundamental rights and foundation aspects of the organisation Specific operational details and address matters that require more flexibility 
Legal RequirementsLegal document Not legally mandated 
Document permanence Permanent Can be revised
References
  1. https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/clla23&section=48
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Last Updated : 24 November, 2023

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