Reader Mail

Common laws can't trump Constitution

The article “New laws loom but SDF unready” in the March 23 edition includes the paragraph: “The laws, passed by the Diet six months ago after more than 114 hours of deliberation, will allow Japan to exercise the U.N. right to collective self-defense under limited circumstances when the nation’s existence is threatened, and without breaking the Constitution.”

With respect, this reveals a profound misunderstanding of constitutional law. A new law cannot “allow” some government action “without breaking the Constitution,” where that action would previously have violated the Constitution. This statement suggests that common laws supersede the Constitution. Common laws cannot supersede or change the Constitution, but rather must conform to the Constitution or be struck down. Whether the action violates the Constitution or not is determined by reference to the established understanding of the Constitution, typically as determined by the courts.

The media is playing an irresponsible role in parroting the government position that somehow the new national security legislation has somehow changed the Constitution. That is not possible, and the media should know better.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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