Sanction behind Conventions or Why Conventions are Obeyed?
Constitutional conventions are not recognized by judicial courts. So the question arises: Why are they so scrupulously, obeyed by all concerned?
One answer to this question has been given by Prof. Dicey: He says that conventions are obeyed because they are so linked up with the laws of the land that their breach will ultimately lead to the breach of the laws. For example, if Parliament is not summoned annually, serious consequences will follow. The government (executive) will not be able to collect taxes because most taxes are annually authorized by Parliament. If the government tries to collect taxes without securing the prior sanction of Parliament, its action will be illegal.
The explanation given by Prof. Dicey is not satisfactory. For there are many conventions the breach of which does not necessarily lead to the violation of any law of the land. If the Queen does not give assent to a bill passed by Parliament, no legal consequences will follow. If the Speaker of the House of Commons does not quit politics after his election by the House of Common, he will not come into conflict with any law of the country. It is now generally agreed that the idea of legal sanction is not present in the minds of the politicians who work, the constitution and that there are many conventions, which have no legal sanction at all.
He is of the view that the real sanction behind conventions is the fear of public opinion. Conventions are rules of the political game. Politicians are always aware of the fact that they are playing a game, which is being witnessed by the people, and that public opinion will not tolerate the violation of its rules. This view seems to be more convincing than the one expressed by Dicey.
But the question arises: Why does public opinion want that convention should be obeyed? The answer is that conventions are very useful. The real sanction behind an ordinary law is the utility of the law.
They obey ordinary laws because they satisfy social, moral and other needs of the people. Similarly, conventions are obeyed because of their utility: They help a constitution to adapt itself to changing circumstances without any difficulty. In England conventions are obeyed because they make the constitution democratic and enable it to work smoothly. Thus the real sanction behind conventions is their utility.