Understanding the differences between administrative law and constitutional law is one of the most difficult things for me as a student. The reason is because, these two areas of law are so closely related that is probably impossible to differentiate. The distinctive line between admin law and constitutional law is a very thin one. In fact, many constitutional law cases also include admin law principles. Accordingly, some case reports in the world does not recognize administrative law because it seems that area is already covered by constitutional law.
But of course, they are not the same. This was one of the things that prompted me to write this article. I know there are millions of students, scholars, teachers and even lecturers who are also confused as to the differences.
Before going to the crux of this work, it is essential to understand the meaning of both constitutional law and administrative law as that will go a long way in helping you understand their differences.
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Meaning of Administrative Law
Many definitions have been offered by writers on the meaning of administrative law, but one common conclusion is that administrative law has no universally accepted definition. The definition is therefore being offered according to each definer’s personal understanding and perception of the subject matter. The analysis of these definitions by some writers may be very helpful.
According to Oluyede, administrative law mean that branch of our law which vests power in administrative agencies, imposes certain requirements on the agencies in the exercise of the power and provides remedies against unlawful administrative acts.
Some writers also regard administrative law as the law relating to the administration or the executive and which sets out the power of the executive branch of the government including various agencies through which powers are exercised. It is that body of rules which aims at reducing the area of conflict between the administrative agencies of the state and the individual.
Now that we know what administrative law is, I will go ahead to give you a basic and simple definition of constitutional law too.
Meaning of constitutional law
Constitutional law is the law, which regulates the structure of the government, the powers and functions of the government, rights and duties of the individual, and the provision of remedies for the unconstitutional acts of government and public authorities. According to Wikipedia, it can also be said to be the law which regulates constructional institutions and authorities.
From the academic view point, constitutional law is the law which studies constitutions, their establishment, operations, interpretation, the validity of other laws and that of the conduct of government and public authorities when tested against the criteria of conformity with the constitution, the Supreme law of the given country.
From the above definitions, I believe you can easily pinpoint some of the distinctive elements of the two. But for the purpose of clearity, I will go ahead to highlight their differences.
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Differences between constitutional law and administrative law
Administrative law differs from constitutional law in various ways:
1. Constitutional law relates to structure of government that is, involving the study of the entire federal system of government consisting of the federal and states, their scope and limitations, powers of the legislative houses, the executive powers etc. While on the other hand, the study of the administrative law relates to power, functions and the operation of administrative authorities.
2. Constitutional law is wider in scope. For example, it relates to citizens, legislatures, human rights. While on the other hand, administrative law is narrower.
3. Constitutional law relates to organizational structures at rest, while administrative law relates to the organizational structure in motion. This involves the various constitutional provisions setting out the organs of government and the organs themselves. On the other hand, administrative lae explains how these organs operate.
4. The provisions of constitutional law are mostly known, and are clearly stipulated in the constitution, while provisions of administrative law are not clearly known because they are not codified in a single document like the constitution.
5. Administrative law relates to confining administrative bodies to their legal roles and limit, while constitutional law relates to establishing the administrative body.
6. Sources of constitutional law are mostly found in constitutions, international conventions, statutes and Judicial decisions, while those of administrative law are found through delegated legislations, letters of instruction, memoranda, treasury circulars and decisions of administrative bodies.
In conclusion, it must be noted that, irrespective of these differences, there are some areas of overlap, and this may be so because both constitutional and administrative law relate to public law. That notwithstanding, I believe this article was able to give you a comprehensive and clear overview of how administrative law is different from constitutional law.
Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, ACMC, is a lawyer and a certified mediator/conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a developer with knowledge in various programming languages. Samuel is determined to leverage his skills in technology, SEO, and legal practice to revolutionize the legal profession worldwide by creating web and mobile applications that simplify legal research. Sam is also passionate about educating and providing valuable information to people.