The theory of checks and balances emphasises the power of any of the organs checking the activities of the others. For example the ability of the executive, legislature or judiciary, checking the activities of one another. It enhances fair play, balance of power and it removes the tendency of misuse of power by any of the organs. The principle of checks and balances is seen as one of the arguments in favour of separation of powers.
Merits of Checks and Balances
- Excessive use of power: It prevents excessive use of power by any of the organs.
- Orderliness and efficiency: It makes for orderliness and efficiency in the exercise of their functions.
- Respect for human rights: Checks and balances promote the enhancement of the freedom and liberty of individuals in the society.
- Entrenched in the constitution: It makes for a smooth working of the constitution since such is entrenched in the constitution.
- It prevents dictatorship: It prevents the possibility of the emergence of a dictatorial government.
- Control of power: Checks and balances help in controlling power among the three organs of government.
- Decision – making: It makes for a thorough decision – making process in a country.
Demerits of Checks an Balances
- Interference: There are some traces or evidence of one organ interfering in the affairs or functions of the others, for example legislative approval of some key appointments made by the executive (appointment of ministers and ambassadors etc.).
- Powers of the president: Some of the judicial and legislative powers of the president run counter to the issue of separation and checks and balances of powers. Example is the area of pardoning an individual who has offended the state.
- Impeachment: The power of impeachment bestowed upon the legislature is inimical to the working of checks and balances. For example, it makes the executive a puppet to the legislature.
- Power of veto: The power of veto in the executive can affect the working of this principle.