Difference between By-laws and Constitution

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According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, a constitution is a set of basic principles and laws of a nation, state or social group. Within a state or country, the constitution determines the power of the government and guarantees certain rights to the people.

A by-law is a set of rules and regulations that an organization, a club or company sets for its members to follow. It may also be a law that is set by a local government and applies to the local area.

Here’s a more detailed description of the same:


A constitution is a description of the rules or principles that are used to govern a country, state or other organization such as a company or unincorporated association. It defines the purpose of the group and sets out how the group will be governed. While writing a constitution, the members of the group or organization must define and determine the purpose of the group.

In the case of international organizations that are established through a treaty, the treaty acts as the constitution of that group.

Classification of Constitutions:

A constitution may be written, when recorded in a document or set of documents. When the constitution is set down in a single act or document, it is called a codified constitution. Most countries in the world have a codified constitution. However, some countries, including the United Kingdom, have an unwritten or uncodified constitution. In this case, rules are not set down formally, but may take the form of customs, precedent, statutes or other legal instruments.

Longest and Shortest Constitutions:

The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world. It has 444 articles in 22 parts, 12 schedules and 118 amendments along with 11,17,369 words in the English- language translation.

The United States Constitution is the shortest written constitution with 7 articles, 27 amendments and 4,400 words.


By-laws are rules or laws that are established by a group or company to regulate itself in accordance with the rules of a higher authority. For example, a local authority may set by-laws to regulate itself in accordance with the constitution of the country that it is a part of.

In the case of private organizations, by-laws are a concrete set of rules and regulations set by an organization, club or company for its members to follow. They specify exactly how an organization should function. These policies are carefully crafted so that members adhere to them and that the board can provide fairness in protection in any legal challenges. By-laws are legal documents,and their requirements differ from state to state. By-laws can help protect an organization’s directors from personal liability.

By-laws are not as lengthy as a constitution because they don’t cover a nation. They are specific to the state and or local area. They determine the rights of participants and the procedures by which they can exercise their rights.

Every state needs a corporation to have a by-law and a few require them to file them with the secretary of state or any other government agency. They must be filed and kept at each corporation. Some common by-law topics include: how directors are elected, the role of a director, accounting and finance procedures, rules governing transfer of funds, rules of a club membership and so on.

Organizations have by-laws in order to maintain consistency in their business and to communicate the internal rules so that conflicts can be dealt with in a practical and orderly fashion. Some organizations use by-laws to educate new employees and are referred to during any election of a new member.


Constitutions have much greater scope than by-laws, as they are used to govern countries, whereas by-laws can only be used within the scope allowed by a higher authority.

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