What is Direct Legislation & How to Participate in Direct Legislation

Thu, 02/28/2013 - 15:45 -- Umar Farooq

Direct Legislation

In modern times we have indirect democracy, under this system the people elect their representatives and give them the authority to make the law and implement them. Actually in democracy sovereignty belongs to people but under normal circumstances it becomes difficult for the people to legislate directly. So sometimes the people make the laws directly. This is called Direct Legislation.

Methods of Direct Legislation

The following are the three methods or ways through which people take part in legislation directly. These are


Referendum means to give chance to the people to express their approval or disapproval of a law, which has already been discussed by the legislature but not passed. It is passed only when people give their approval. This method is used in Switzerland and Australia and some states of

There are two types of referendum

  1. Compulsory Referendum
  2. Optional Referendum

1. Compulsory Referendum

It means certain bills must be presented to the people before they can become laws. For example constitutional amendments in Switzerland have to be put before the people.

2. Optional Referendum

It means if the government feels, the bill canbe presented to the people. Sometimes the constitution provides that on the demand of a certain number of people the proposed law may be put before the people. For example, in Switzerland if 30,000 people or the legislature of seven cantons (federating units) make a demand, the government has to present that bill to the people.


It is a special type of referendum under which not a law but an important public or political question is presented to the people. Usually this method is applied to allow a nationality or minority to determine their political future. For example, the Kashmir Problem will be settled through plebiscite that is they will be given an opportunity to decide whether they want to become a part of India or Pakistan or want to remain independent. Similarly the 1947 referendum in the NWFP and Assam was actually a plebiscite and not a referendum. Similarly, in 1958 people of Egypt and Syria formed United Arab Republic through a plebiscite.


It means the right of the people to make a law themselves. It can take two shapes.

Direct Initiative: Under this method the people present a proposed law directly to the nation.

Indirect Initiative: Under this system a certain number of people present a proposal to the legislature, which makes a law, and then present it to the people.

So we can say that initiative can be formative that the people themselves formulate the law. It can be in general terms that is the proposals just give the idea in general terms and then the legislature drafts the law and presents it to the people. For this purpose certain number is fixed, for example in Switzerland 50,000 voters can propose a constitutional amendment in a complete form or in general terms to be drafted by the legislature.