Sovereignty is an essential element of the state. State cannot exit without sovereignty. State is regarded superior to other associations only because of sovereignty. In fact modern theory of state got its proper shape and perfection only when the concept of sovereignty was introduced in it.
When we try to search for the origin of this concept we find that he term sovereignty is the product of modern political thinking but the idea goes back to the time of Aristotle who referred to it as the “supreme power” of the state. In Middle Ages Roman jurist and civilians were also familiar to this idea. But it was Jean Bodin who developed for the first time the theory of sovereignty systematically in his book “Six Books on the Republic”.
Meaning, nature and definitions:
The term sovereignty is derived from the Latin word ‘Superanus’ meaning supreme. It is basically a legal concept. It denotes supremacy of state. To understand the term sovereignty, it is desirable to look into some definitions of the given by some political thinkers.
Jean Bodin defined sovereignty as “absolute and perpetual power of commanding in a state. It is supreme power over citizens and subjects unrestrained by law”.
Pollock says that “Sovereignty is that power which is neither temporary nor delegated nor subject to particular rules, which it cannot alter, nor answerable to any other power on the earth.”
Burgers described sovereignty as “original absolute unlimited power over the undivided subjects and over all associations of subjects. It is the underused and independent power to command and compel obedience.”
D.F Russell defines sovereignty as “the strongest power and supreme authority within a state, which is unlimited by law or anything else.
Legal and political sovereignty:
Distinction is some times drawn between legal and political sovereignty. The sovereign is supposed to be absolute and omnipotent. It functions according to its own will. Law is simply the will of sovereign.
There is none to question its validity. Legal sovereign grants rights to its citizens and there can be no rights against him. It means rights of citizens depend on the will of legal sovereign and any time he can take away. Legal sovereign has following characteristics-
1.The legal sovereignty is always definite and determinate.
2.Legal sovereignty may reside either in one person or in a body of persons.
3.It is definitely organized, precise and known to law.
4.Rights of citizen are gift of legal sovereign.
5.The will of state is expressed by the legal sovereign only.
6.Legal sovereignty is absolute. It cannot be question.
In Britain King in Parliament is the sovereign. In U.S the legal sovereign consists of the constitutional authorities that have the power to amend constitution. But behind the legal sovereignty there is another power, which is unknown to law. It is political sovereignty. In practice absolute and unlimited authority of the legal sovereignty does not exist anywhere. Even a dictator cannot act independently and exclusively. The will of legal sovereignty is actually sharpened by many influences, which are unknown to law. All these influences are the real power behind the legal sovereign; and this is called political sovereignty.