Characteristic features or attributes of sovereignty


  1. Absoluteness: It means self-sufficient, independent, supreme, all-in-all. Sovereignty is absolute both internally and externally. Once the sovereign is thus established, there is no justification for any disobedience on the part of persons being ruled. It has absolute powers over all individuals and groups of individuals within the state. As such externally also, it is supreme and absolutely independent of any compulsion or interference on the part of any compulsion or interference on the part of other state. But treaties, international understandings and various conventions, etc., do not destroy sovereignty as well as there is no compelling power behind them.
  2. Universality and all comprehensiveness: The sovereign power is supreme over all persons, associations, government and non-governmental organizations and other fields concerning particular states management, etc. Then sovereign state is supreme with rights of its jurisdiction and no person or body of person can claim exemption as a matter of right. No any big or well known organization also could be superior to any state sovereign. It is subject to the laws of individual state.
  3. Inalienability: Sovereignty being supreme and absolute is inalienable and unrestrained by law. Law, being the command of a sovereign, is supreme to custom. The state has no forms; the forms of the government vary only with the location of the sovereign powers. As sovereignty is unlimited, it can not be alienated.* Lieber writes, “Sovereignty can no more be alienated than a tree can alienate its right to sprout or a man can transfer his life and personality without self destruction.” A state may cede part of its territory to another state on the basis of sovereign right keeping on its own part without destroying its sovereignty. Rights can be transferred but not actual sovereignty.
  4. Permanence of perpetuity: Sovereignty is as permanent as a state itself. The two are inseparable and both are perpetual means remains without any limitations of time. It cannot be subjected to any limit or conditions. The death of king or any other body could be destroyed but the sovereignty shifts immediately to the next bearer. It is continues forever and ever. Change of persons in the government does not mean the cessation of sovereignty; it is determinate, definite, precise and recognized by law. It alone declares the will of the state, so is absolute, consistent and supreme.
  5. Indivisibility: Gettle remarks that “if sovereignty is not absolute, no state exists; if sovereignty is divided, more than one state exist.”
    • So sovereignty is indivisible; cannot be divided.
    • Austin, Hobbes and many other were of the same opinion.

    It is the ‘determinate person’ referred to Austin’ definition of sovereignty, disobedience to its imperatives means violation of law and hence punishment.

  • It is the single source of rights, laws and justice. It is the fact that any portion of sovereignty can be delegated to one set of agents or another portion to other for sometime to resolve some issue, but it is impossible to conceive that sovereignty vested legally in one man, in a few or in many can be divided.
  • Sovereignty as supreme cannot be divided. It is a unity and incapable of division. Division of sovereignty means destruction of sovereignty.
  • Jellinek has remarked that “the notion of a divided, fragmented, diminished, limited and relative sovereignty is the negation of sovereignty.”
  • The doctrine, the state is absolutely supreme, is fallacious and even dangerous.
  • So sovereign power is exercised and expressed by man cannot be absolute.
  • Sovereign power is also limited by what Gilchrist calls ‘human endurance’.
  • So sovereign power is supreme, yet bound by pledges (promises); it is complete, yet terminable at a fix time, it inheres (continues) equally in protector and protected; it is unity yet divisible in the context of modern states’ political, legal and popular sovereignty concept.