Difference Between Checks and Balances And Separation of Powers

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Checks and Balances And Separation of Powers: Differences, Definition & Examples

The principle of checks and balances means that each organ of government should exercise control over the other. The objective is to ensure that no organ of government dominates another.

Separation of Powers can be defined as a system of government which the legislature, executive, and judiciary are each separate in term. of functions and personnel. Baron de Mostesquieu argued that where the legislative and executive powers were united in the same person, there could be no liberty.

Difference Between Checks and Balances And Separation of Powers

Difference Between Checks and Balances And Separation of Powers

Relationship Between Checks and Balances And Separation of Powers

The relationships between checks and balances and separation of powers are illustrated by the following examples:

  • The two principles were developed by Baron de Montesquieu. He formulated the principle of checks and balances to correct the shortcomings of the principle of separation of powers.
  • The principles of checks and balances and separation of powers are essentially two sides of the same coin. While the latter emphasizes the separatedness of the three organs of government, the principle of checks and balances, however, stresses the need for the three institutions to interact with each other in order to check one another.
  • The principle of checks and balances is designed to use power to check power in the distribution and exercise of power. No organ of government should have undisputed power of its own and each must serve as a watchdog of the other.
  • The two principles are indispensable in the administration of a state especially under the presidential system of government.
  • Although the two principles emphasise two seemingly contradictory notions of independence and cooperation in the operation of government, the main purpose of the two principles is to ensure effective performance in managing the affairs of the state.
  • In spite of the usefulness of the principles of separation of powers and checks and balances in the operation of government, a rigid adherence to the two principles may paralyze the activities of the government.
  • The two principles have been incorporated into the constitutions of most modern states. The appointment of the ministers by the President must be confirmed by the Senate to ensure that the will of the people prevails. On the other hand, the President must assent to bills passed by the legislature although the legislature could override this assent by two-thirds majority if the President fails to assent to the bill within thirty days.
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These are all instances of checks and balances. We could imagine what would happen if the President could appoint ministers without legislative approval or if the legislature could make laws without presidential assent.


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