The British Bill of Rights is a legal document enshrined in the constitution, upholding the rights and liberties of British citizens.
The British Bill of Rights officially titled An Act Declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and Settling the Succession of the Crown is an act of the Parliament of England and one of the foundations on which British constitutional law was laid.
After King James II abdicated his throne, following the Glorious Revolution, a statutory form of Declaration of Rights was presented to William and Mary in February 1689 by the Convention Parliament inviting them to become joint sovereigns of the kingdoms of England and Scotland. King William III and his wife Mary II (daughter of King James II) were the only joint sovereigns in British history to have ruled with equal powers. In December 1689, the Bill of Rights was passed by the Britain Parliament. The Bill was prepared with the aim of ensuring certain rights to which citizens and permanent residents would be entitled to. It also included the right to bear arms for self defense and right to petition the monarchy.
The Bill of Rights declared illegal certain acts enacted by James II, which were deemed unfit for the new constitution. Following are some of the basic rights and liberties specified in the Bill of Rights:
|British Bill of Rights 1689|
|That it is the right of the subjects to petition the king, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.||The right to petition (call upon) the monarchy.|
|That the pretended power of suspending the laws or the execution of laws by regal authority without consent of Parliament is illegal.||Freedom from the crown’s interference with the law.|
|That the commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other commissions and courts of like nature, are illegal and pernicious.||The sovereign cannot unilaterally establish new courts, act as a judge, or influence the independent jury.|
|That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against law.||Freedom from a peace-time standing army, which meant, an agreement of parliament was mandatory before the army could be moved against citizens, when not at war.|
|That levying money for or to the use of the Crown by pretense of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal.||No taxes (existing and new) could be levied by the royal sovereign without the Parliaments approval and agreement.|
|That the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defense suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law.||The right to bear arms (only protestants) for self defense, in accordance to its said law.|
|That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.||Freedom from excessive bail, harsh, cruel, and unusual punishments.|
|That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction are illegal and void.||Freedom from forfeiture and fines, without a trial.|
|That election of members of Parliament ought to be free.||The right to democratically elect members of parliament without interference from the royalty.|
|That the freedom of speech and debates or proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Parliament.||The right to free speech and debates for all citizens. The proceedings in parliament cannot be questioned in a court of law or by anybody outside the parliament itself.|
King John’s Magna Carta and the British Bill of Rights, formed the basis of many other constitutional drafts such as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, the United States Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Bill of Rights also applies to each of the jurisdictions of all 16 sovereign states within the realms of Commonwealth Nations. The bill underwent amendments over the years, but the basic tenets of securing and ensuring rights and liberties to all English citizens, remains the same even today.