The principle of popular sovereignty denotes that the source of governmental power or the sovereignty
lies with the people. The concept of the social contract is the base of this principle as it believes that the
government should work for the benefit of the people governed. The English philosopher Thomas
Hobbes in his book The Leviathan wrote that in the 'state of nature' people were selfish and brutish,
thus in order to survive they gave over their rights to a ruler who in turn provides them with protection
This theory laid down the first basis of popular sovereignty. The idea of popular sovereignty can even be
found in Rome way back in 45BCE where Julius Caesar was said to derive his authority from general
public. In the modern period the concept of popular sovereignty has been adopted by the French
philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau according to whom, people willingly gave legitimate authority to the
government in the form of social contract for reciprocated preservation.
A group of citizens must make the laws, while their selected government guarantees their daily
implementation. Thus, the people act as a sovereign, protecting the common welfare as opposed to the
desires of an individual. Therefore, it may be said that popular sovereignty is the core basis for a
democratic government. The standard understanding of democracy dictates that the people must enjoy
equal representation and adequate opportunities in the participation for the process of law making,
revision or abolition.
The idea of popular sovereignty denotes that, the subjects of the state i.e the people must be equally
represented in the rule making body; failure of which would not amount to popular sovereignty but
perhaps a hybrid with majoritarianism in some form. Additionally, for the people to be truly sovereign
they themselves must 'determine the constitutional form, the juridical and political identity, and the
governmental structure of a community in its entirety'.
Thus, it is necessary that the rule by the people must predate the legal system as a whole. Accordingly
the people must have had equal opportunity of representation, to be present and participating during
the conception of the legal system.
The Indian Constitution
A constitution is understood to be a body of fundamental principles to which the state is to be governed
and it acts as a norm for all other laws to abide by, due to which it is also often referred to as
Grundnorm. So, one may say that the equal representation of the people, in the making of the
constitution of a state is the first crucial step to implementing the principle of sovereignty into a legal
framework as a whole.
The constitution, being a text without any authors or many authors represents the voice of the people,
crystallised and codified the aspiration behind various movements and struggles for freedom from the
British prior to the constitutional making process. In the Indian scenario, the preamble of the Indian
constitution states that 'We the People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a
Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic��' thus implying that the people are sovereign as the
governing body derives its legitimacy from the people itself.