Reserved powers

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Reserved powers, residual powers, or residuary powers are the powers which are neither prohibited or explicitly given by law to any organ of government. Such powers, as well as general power of competence, are given because it is impractical to detail in legislation every act allowed to be carried out by the state.[1]

Reserved powers are given to different branches of the government in different countries. In Canada the reserved powers lie with the federal government; in the United States, the reserved powers lie with the constituent states.[2][3] In Australia, despite the centralized nature of the Constitution of Australia, the High Court of Australia adopted the "reserved powers doctrine" which was used until 1920 to preserved as much autonomy for the states as can be interpreted from the constitution. This practice changed with the Engineers' Case which led reserved powers to be given to the Commonwealth.[4] Other countries whose legal system is based on common law, such as India, Israel, and Ireland, have similar legal frameworks of reserved powers.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Abel, Albert (1978). "The Provincial Residuary Power". The University of Toronto Law Journal. 28 (3): 274. doi:10.2307/825638. ISSN 0042-0220.
  2. ^ Handbook of Federal Countries, 2002: A project of the Forum of Federations (Paperback, 528 pages), by Karl Nerenberg, Ann L. Griffiths, Debbie Courtois, Mar 24, 2003, McGill-Queen's University Press. ISBN 9780773525115 - Page 8, in Introduction, by John Kincaid.
  3. ^ Reserved Power Law and Legal Definition, US Legal, Inc., retrieved August 8, 2018
  4. ^ Aroney, N. "Constitutional Choices in the Work Choices Case, or What Exactly Is Wrong with the Reserved Powers Doctrine?". (2008) 32 Melbourne University Law Review 1.
  5. ^ Brenda Hale (October 8, 2015), The UK Supreme Court in the United Kingdom Constitution (PDF)