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Austin’s Theory of Sovereignty Explained

Introduction : Austin’s Theory

John Austin (1790–1859) was born within the UK. He was the founder and father of the Analytical faculty of law. he’s best-known for Austin’s Theory of Sovereignty and legal positivism mentioned in his book “Province of Jurisprudence”. In his initial career, he has served within the army for five years and conjointly within the chancery bar of the united kingdom. In 1826, he was appointed because of the faculty member of jurisprudence at the University of London.

He spent 2 years in Germany thenceforth, learning the traditional civil law and civil law that in a while become his terrible ideologies within the framing of Positive faculty of law. Austin abandoned teaching in 1833. when operating for the govt at sure supposed designations, he died in 1859 in Surrey, UK.

Austin’s Theory of Sovereignty Explained

The definition of law per Austin was, “Law could be a command of the sovereign backed by a sanction.”[1] Breaking this definition into its fundamentals: –

Command, of
Sovereign, that if not followed attracts

Now to completely perceive Austin’s theory of Legal positivism, allow us to justify these components in an exceedingly brief and comprehensive manner.


Commands are expressions of need given by superiors (sovereign) to inferiors (general public). Some commands are laws and those aren’t, Austin distinguishes law from alternative commands by their generality. Laws are general commands, not like commands given on parade grounds and obeyed there then by the troops.[2]


From the higher than the definition, we can conclude that Austin’s definition of commands provides the sovereign authority standing of final supreme, and imply that the authority of the sovereign is absolute that is that the opposite of the constitutional framework that prevails in India, and for that matter in any peaceful democracy. This definition expresses that the sovereign, that is, the person/people in power is politically superior, however in democratic countries, it’s not true. each national has constant right same that of a President/Prime Minister/Chief Justice.

It conjointly disregards alternative sources of law, like laws created by judges (considered as mere delegates) in a variety of precedents, laws created by the chief as statutory instruments, etc that hinder the expansion of not solely the jurisprudence of the country however conjointly of the society, government and personal establishments and economy.

Sovereign: Austin’s Theory

A sovereign is somebody or body of persons, whom the majority of a political society routinely obeys and who doesn’t himself routinely obeys, another persons or persons. [3]

Observation: From the higher than the definition of the sovereign, we can conclude that per John Austin, the sovereign isn’t responsible to anyone however the entire realm should follow regardless of the sovereign dictates that are in stark distinction with the concept of democracy and Indian political orientation. Also, Austin’s theory has mentioned that the powers of the sovereign are undividable, i.e. sovereign can make laws, the sovereign can execute the laws and therefore the sovereign solely can administer the law. This philosophy is additionally in resistance to the concept of democracy and therefore the Indian federal structure.


This term comes from civil law. per Salmond “Sanction is that the instrument of coercion by that any system of imperative law is implemented. Physical force is that the sanction applied by the state within the administration of justice[4]

Observation: From the higher than the definition of the state capital, we can conclude that sanction is that the force/evil that follows if the individual if he/she fails to conform to the command of the sovereign. His theories have place sanctions as a lot of a physical force state uses to suppress the non-abiders, that is incredibly autocratic and narcissist per se. This definition doesn’t provide space to folks participation in government and that we will say that having a distinction of opinion (which is incredibly crucial for the event of any country socially, politically and economically one are often subject to sanction too.

In a trendy democracy, folks don’t abide by laws simply out of the concern of sanctions, however, they are doing this voluntary still out of morality and responsibility. This results in the cooperation between the state and therefore the subjects and this cooperation and understanding between the people and therefore the state helps within the effective execution of the law and smooth introduction of social modification. Also, we should always not ignore the very fact that within the epoch, even the sovereign can’t implement everything on brute strength or influence, particularly in an exceedingly country like Bharat that is thus various in its every side.

Even Austin has himself admitted in his book, Province of Jurisprudence, that his philosophies are very objective and separates the law from morality, ethics, values or the other social norm and see the law because it is and not because it got to be. constant is often discovered in his definition of law, wherever he has outrightly ignored the subjective however important components of the law (like voluntary obedience of the law, sympathy between state and subjects, beliefs and disbelief of individuals concerning law and its implementation) that applies on the humans who are themselves subjective beings.

Though Austin’s work has received criticism from alternative schools of law still however the simplicity of Austin’s work has continued to draw in adherents. what’s distinctive concerning Austin’s work is it separates law kind justice, morality, ethics, values or the other quite social norms. constant is that the reason for the simplicity and naturalness of his work. Also, we’ve got to be cognizant of the very fact that Austin has developed these theories once England was going under nice legislative reforms.

Relevance in trendy Indian politics & legal society|Criticism

From the assessment of Austin’s theory of sovereignty and legal positivism, the author has created the subsequent inferences and has tried to ascertain the connexion of constant to the modern Indian political and legal society.

1. Presumption concerning the topics :Austin’s Theory

Austin’s theory of sovereignty presumes that individuals can specifically confirm what the sovereign can command that isn’t true within the gift state of affairs in Bharat politics.[5] His theories place the habitual obedience by subject on the very cheap line of philosophy. those that consider the sovereign because the work can conform voluntarily. those that suppose sovereign as faulty can conform within the concern that the evil of their resistance can surpass the evil of obedience. and people who aren’t sure concerning can conform sovereign out of custom. Also, Austin’s theory presumes that individuals are utterly educated politically.[6]

But that’s not true within the modern scenario. The people that consider the govt as unfit criticize, protest and resist the govt and its policies. that generally causes even the entire failure of constitutional machinery like one discovered in 1975 once Gandhi (then PM) obligatory emergency. There are several alternative examples in India solely wherever we’ve got seen people like anna Hazare, Ramdev and Kejriwal protestant and organizing marches against the govt and demanding changes in its structure or introduction of latest laws or modification of existing. Also, in an exceedingly country like India, wherever a common fraction of the country (35million folks approx) will browse and write and wherever people can kill one another due to fake news and info, it might be fatal and unfair to presume that almost all population is politically educated.

Thus, we can say that the presumption of habitual obedience, which is at the terrible basis of Austin’s sovereign theory can’t prevail within the present Indian political and legal society.

2. Doesn’t provide space to common law alternative law-making bodies

According to Austin, solely those commands that area unit is given by a political superior i.e. sovereign area unit laws the important sense. He has tried to outline the law from the sources of its origin than its functions. Though, there’s a delicate acceptance of law created by judges (precedents) unless it goes against the laws created by the sovereign however it’s not applicable in any sense.

In India, the Supreme Court is that the keeper of the constitution and its the ability to declare any legislation as void if it contravenes any of the provisions of the constitution and so protects the elemental rights of the people of the country. however per Austin, courts/judges area unit the mere the subordinate sources of law and that they got to operate inside the parameters set by the sovereign. Also, govt bodies like CBI, police, MCDs that are directed to bear with the general public and perceive their wants higher, can’t make laws for the public’s profit as a result of statutory instruments area unit the recognized supply of law. If all {this is|this is often|this will be} applied within the trendy state of affairs it can result in serious chaos and disrupt the country.

Also, per Austin’s definitions, customs are not a supply of law and so not applicable. Law of the church, the law of the merchants, and lots of alternative personal and customary laws like Hindu Law, Muslim law, etc that are alive much before this theory, tho’ not been acknowledged however governing the day to day behaviour of the majority of the population and is implemented by the state, none of those would be law per Austin’s definition. Thus, Austin was conjointly not cognizant of the common law that is that the foundation of the many countries’ governmental setup.

Thus, we can infer that Austin’s theory is incompatible with the modern political and social scenario of India because it doesn’t provide space to the terribly basic ideas of democracy, constitutionalism and de-centralization and separation of power.

3. Ingorance of human elements and the fundamental values of the constitution

In Austin’s definition of sanction, we can see that he has ignored the human components like sympathy and cooperation between the state and therefore the subjects and on the opposite hand, we can see that he has created imprecise presumptions concerning the topics like habitual obedience, that is an especially rare development within the times. He hasn’t established the correct balance between the role of the state and voters and their relationship with one another.[7]

Also, Austin’s theory has entirely unheeded the values and ethics like Liberty of thoughts and beliefs, Equality of standing, etc that are enshrined within the preamble and are the basics of the Indian constitution. Also, India due to its spiritual and cultural diversity has not been thought of as a federal state wherever all the ability is with sovereign by the constitution-makers. it’s been superbly created as a “Union of states” as mentioned in U/A one of the constitutions. this is often to stay all the states integrated into India however at constant time preserve their individual autonomy and provides them with a way of freedom each of that is in favour of the state. however, Austin’s theory isn’t short-sighted during this context and there’s no such arrangement in his theory.

Thus, we can infer from the higher than info that Austin’s theory can’t be applied within the trendy political and legal Indian society due to being terribly rigid and short-sighted approach towards running the state and mental object of the core values of democracy.

4. Absolute, unrestricted and undividable powers to sovereign

Austin has postulated that the sovereign is free from all restraints of any quiet law which no sanctions of any nature are often obligatory on him. The command of sovereignty is superior to overall people and associations. The zero answerableness of the sovereign in Austin’s theory brings the entire country and its folks at the mercy of one who will decide someone’s life and death per his mood and private whims. Also, as a result of there’s only 1 body as sovereign, it’s a lot susceptible to attacks and doors pressure from foreign resulting in political instability.

Austin looks to inject an anarchical part into the global order and was in all probability giving an excuse for the worst excesses of 19th-century sovereigns like nazi Germany, slaughtering of Jewish people, world war, etc by transmission sovereign absolute power. Sovereign isn’t absolute to confirm anyone’s order.

Austin appears to inject an anarchic part into the planet order and was in all probability giving an excuse for the worst excesses of 19th-century sovereigns like Nazi Germany, slaughtering of someone individuals, world war, etc by impartation sovereign absolute power. Sovereign isn’t absolute to adjust anyone’s order. there’s no doubt of right or wrong, simply or unjust, all his commands are to be obeyed. Again, the epitome of absolute power will corrupt completely. In times, if such things into existence in any country, it’ll become way more vulnerable to rebels, riots or perhaps full-fledged war.

Also, Austin’s theory has mentioned that the powers of the sovereign are undividable, i.e. sovereign can create laws, the sovereign can execute the laws and also the sovereign solely can administer the law. This philosophy is additionally in resistance to the thought of democracy and also the Indian federal structure.

In Golak Nath v. the State of Punjab, it had been clearly set down that separation of power is the uncompromisable provision of the constitution by C.J. Subba Rao within the following words: – “The 3 organs of the govt have to be compelled to exercise their functions keeping in mind sure encroachments assigned by the constitution. The constitution demarcates the jurisdiction of the 3 organs circumstantially and expects them to be exercised at intervals their individual powers while not overstepping their limits. All the organs should operate at intervals the spheres assigned to them by the constitution. No authority that is made by the constitution is supreme. The constitution of India is sovereign and every one the authorities should operate below the supreme law of the land i.e. the Constitution.”

Thus, we will infer from the higher than facts that every one Austin’s theory isn’t appropriate for the modern Indian political and legal scenario as a result of it results in political instability, anarchy, and social chaos.

5. Not cognizant of law

In the modern era, there are multiple international laws each country must follow. The importance of international laws is often understood from the fact that these days procedures exist to create the state accountable for injuries caused to foreigners in their land.

Various alternative principles of law appear to possess cored the conception of sovereignty. A therefore reign doesn’t have the ability to bear on pitiless action against his voters because the same shall get nice criticism from the planet order and it shall shortly have to be compelled to face the results of extant during a hostile world atmosphere if it continues to try to so.

Also, violation of International laws is additionally not sensible for a nation’s socio-economic well-being resulting in serious crises and numerous alternative restrictions in terms of imports/exports. Especially, just in case of a rustic like {india|India|Republic of India|Bharat|Asian country|Asian nation} that is attempting to spice up its economy and value by suggests that of foreign investment and exports in recent times below the campaign like create in India. however, Austin’s theory doesn’t offer any space to international laws/relations and makes sovereign the supreme and all-pervasive authority of the land who isn’t answerable to any.

Thus, from the higher than facts, we will say that Austin’s theory could be a bit impractical to use within the epoch of globalisation and also the influence of international organizations like United Nation SC (UNSC), International money (IMF), United Nation Human Rights Commission (UNHRC).

Thus, we will infer from the higher than facts that every one Austin’s theory isn’t appropriate for the modern Indian political and legal scenario as a result of it results in political instability, anarchy, and social chaos.


In the lightweight of the higher than discussion, we will say that Austin’s theory isn’t quite relevant to India in times because it doesn’t take into thought multiple things like law, separation of power, democratic variety of government, etc that have let India maintain its integrity, unity & prosperity and flourish over the course of your time from the colonial British rule to the most important democracy of the planet. Also, as a result of India’s huge cultural, non secular heritage and having the foremost youth within the world, not everything are often wiped out accordance with the just about a hundred and fifty years previous theory shaped below extreme legislative conditions.

But it can’t be denied that Austin’s work has created a awfully vital contribution within the evolution of law and Jurisprudence as a topic. capital of Texas was the one among the jurists who were able to articulate law with such simplicity and clarity that has unfolded the method for alternative jurists to evolve that employment in modern-day system.

Also Read: NRI Full Form I Resident of India I Non Resident of India

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