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The Preamble

Study Material > Polity

Preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory and explanatory statement that sets out the guiding purpose, principles and philosophy of the Constitution. The preamble can be referred to as the preface which highlights the entire Constitution. The hopes and aspirations of the people as well as the ideals before our nation are described in the preamble in clear words. Preamble of our Constitution reads as follows:

 “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a

 SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC

 and to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION”.

  • The Preamble embodies the fundamental values and the philosophy on which the Indian Constitution is based. The aims and objectives of the Constitution are amply reflected in the Preamble.
  • Preamble to theConstitution of Indiais a brief introductory and explanatory statement that sets out the guiding purpose, principles and philosophy of the Constitution.
  • The preamble can be referred to as the preface which highlights the entire Constitution.The hopes and aspirations of the people as well as the ideals before our nation are described in the preamble in clear words.
  • The Preamble is as much inspired by the cherished political values practiced for ages throughout the history of Indian civilization as well as the contemporaneous political systems elsewhere
  • Indeed much of the substance of the Preamble has been the outcome of the steadfast freedom struggle that our leaders carried upon aiming at not just throwing out the colonial cocoon but integrating the nation in the quest for justice, equality and democracy⁠⁠⁠⁠.
  • The American Constitution was the first to begin with a Preamble.
  • The “ Objective Resolution” proposed by Pandit Nehru on 13 December 1946 and adopted by Constituent assembly on 22 Jan 1947, ultimately became the Preamble to the Constitution of India.
  • Elements of The Preamble :There are four broad elements of The Preamble. They are :
    1. Source of authority of the Constitution: The Preamble states that the Constitution derives its authority from the people of India.
    2. Nature of Indian State: It declares India to be of a sovereign, socialist, secular democratic and republican polity.
    3. Objectives of the Constitution: It specifies justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as the objectives.
    4. Date of adoption of the Constitution: It stipulates November 26, 1949 as the date.
  • Significance of The Preamble: The significance of the Preamble lies in its components. It embodies the source of the Constitution i.e., the people of India. The terms sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic in the Preamble suggests the nature of the state. The ideals of justice, liberty, equality, fraternity reflects the objectives of the Constitution. It also contains November 26, 1949 as the date of adoption of the Indian Constitution.
  • Meaning of terms used in Constitution: Words like Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic, Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity—are explained as follows:
  • Sovereign: 
    1. The word sovereign means supreme or independent. India is internally and externally sovereign- externally free from the control of any foreign power and internally, it has a free Government which is directly elected by the people and makes laws that govern the people.
    2. the popular sovereignty is also one of the basic structure of constitution of India.
    3. Hence, citizens of India also enjoy sovereign power to elect their representatives in elections held for Parliament state legislature and local bodies as well.
    4. Though in 1949, India declared the continuation of her full membership of the Commonwealth of Nations and accepted the British Crown as the head of the Commonwealth, this extra-constitutional declaration does not affect India’s sovereignty in any manner.
    5. Further, India’s membership of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) also in no way constitutes a limitation on her sovereignty.
    6. Being a sovereign state, India can either acquire a foreign territory or cede a part of its territory in favour of a foreign state.
  • Socialist:
    1. The word Socialist was added to the Preamble by the 42nd amendment.
    2. It implies social and economic equality. Social equality in this context means the absence of discrimination on the grounds only of caste, colour, Creed, sex, religion or language. Under social equality, everyone has equal status and opportunities.
    3. Economic equality in this context means that the state will endeavour to make the distribution of wealth more equitable and provided decent standard of living for all. This in effect emphasizes a commitment towards the formation of a welfare state. India has adopted a socialistic and mixed economy and the state has framed many laws to achieve the aim.
    4. Notably, the Indian brand of socialism is a ‘democratic socialism’ and not a ‘communistic socialism’ (also known as ‘state socialism’) which involves the nationalisation of all means of production and distribution and the abolition of private property.
    5. Democratic socialism, on the other hand, holds faith in a ‘mixed economy’ where both public and private sectors co-exist side by side.
    6. As the Supreme Court says, ‘Democratic socialism aims to end poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality of opportunity.
    7. Indian socialism is a blend of Marxism and Gandhism, leaning heavily towards Gandhian socialism’.
    8. The new economic policy (1991) of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation has, however, diluted the socialist credentials of the Indian State.
    9. Even before the term was added by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, the Constitution had a socialist content in the form of certain Directive Principles of State Policy. In other words, what was hitherto implicit in the Constitution has now been made explicit.
  • Secular:
    1. The meaning of secularism in the West is different from that of India. In the West secularism implies complete separation between state and religion. In India, the concept of secularism has a different meaning. In India secularism means that the state shall respect all religions equally and there will be no special provisions for any one. State will give its commitment to religious freedom and worship to everyone.
    2. The word secular was also inserted into the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment 1976. It implies equality of all religion and religious tolerance.
    3. India therefore does not have an official state religion. Every person has the right to preach practice and propagate any religion they choose. The government must not favour or discriminate against any religion.
    4. It must treat all religions with equal respect. All citizens, irrespective of their religious beliefs are equal in the eyes of law. No religious instruction is imparted in government or government aided schools.
    5. The Supreme Court in the SR Bommai vs Union of India held that secularism is an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution.
    6. The Indian Constitution embodies the positive concept of secularism i.e, all religions in our country (irrespective of their strength) have the same status and support from the state.
  • Democratic:
    1. The first part of the Preamble ‘we, the people of India’ and its last part ‘give to ourselves this Constitution’ clearly indicates the democratic spirit involved in the constitution.
    2. The people of India elect their governments at all levels (Union, state and local) by a system of Universal adult suffrage; popularly known as “one man one vote”.
    3. Every citizen of India, who is 18 years of age and above and not otherwise debarred by law, is entitled to vote.
    4. Every citizen enjoys this right without any discrimination on the basis of caste, Creed, colour, sex, religion or education.
    5. The Indian Constitution provides for representative parliamentary democracy under which the executive is responsible to the legislature for all its policies and actions.
    6. Universal adult franchise, periodic elections, rule of law, independence of judiciary, and absence of discrimination on certain grounds are the manifestations of the democratic character of the Indian polity. The term ‘democratic’ is used in the Preamble in the broader sense embracing not only political democracy but also social and economic democracy.
    7. This dimension was stressed by Dr. Ambedkar in his concluding speech in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949, in the following way: “Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy.
    8. What does social democracy mean ? It means a way of life which recognises liberty, equality and fraternity. The principles of liberty, equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of democracy. Liberty cannot be divorced from equality, equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity. Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many. Equality without liberty, would kill individual initiative”.
  • Republic:
    1. A democratic polity can be classified into two categories—monarchy and republic.
    2. In a monarchy, the head of the state (usually king or queen) enjoys a hereditary position, that is, he comes into office through succession, eg, Britain.
    3. In a republic, on the other hand, the head of the state is always elected directly or indirectly for a fixed period, eg, USA. Therefore, the term ‘republic’ in our Preamble indicates that India has an elected head called the president. He is elected indirectly for a fixed period of five years.
    4. A republic also means two more things: one, vesting of political sovereignty in the people and not in a single individual like a king; second, the absence of any privileged class and hence all public offices being opened to every citizen without any discrimination.
  • Justice:
    1. The ideal of Justice embodied in the constitution is of integrated and Holistic kind.
    2. It is not narrowed to a mere redistribution of privileges and liabilities of contractual nature but safeguards the rights and just aspirations of every citizen of the country on finally built principles.
    3. The term ‘justice’ in the Preamble embraces three distinct forms—social, economic and political, secured through various provisions of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles.
    4. Social justice denotes the equal treatment of all citizens without any social distinction based on caste, colour, race, religion, sex and so on. It means absence of privileges being extended to any particular section of the society, and improvement in the conditions of backward classes (SCs, STs and OBCs) and women.
    5. Economic justice denotes the non-discrimination between people on the basis of economic factors. It involves the elimination of glaring in-equalities in wealth, income and property.
    6. A combination of social justice and economic justice denotes what is known as ‘distributive justice’.
    7. Political justice implies that all citizens should have equal political rights, equal access to all political offices and equal voice in the government.
    8. The ideal of justice—social, economic and political—has been taken from the Russian Revolution (1917).
  • Liberty:
    1. The term ‘liberty’ means the absence of restraints on the activities of individuals, and at the same time, providing opportunities for the development of individual personalities.
    2. Liberty means freedom or the free will of the individual to pursue his interests. It means that an individual cannot be arbitrarily restricted to do or profess something unless there are valid reasons to do so.
    3. The Preamble mentions this freedoms and rights as freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship and these are guaranteed against arbitrary interference by the state.
    4. However, liberty does not mean ‘license’ to do what one likes, and has to be enjoyed within the limitations mentioned in the Constitution itself.
    5. In brief, the liberty conceived by the Preamble or fundamental rights is not absolute but qualified.
    6. The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in our Preamble have been taken from the French Revolution (1789–1799).
  • Equality:
    1. The term ‘equality’ means the absence of special privileges to any section of the society, and the provision of adequate opportunities for all individuals without any discrimination.
    2. The Preamble secures to all citizens of India equality of status and opportunity.
    3. This provision embraces three dimensions of equality—civic, political and economic.
    4. The following provisions of the chapter on Fundamental Rights ensure civic equality:
      1. The following provisions of the chapter on Fundamental Rights ensure civic equality:
      2. Equality before the law (Article 14).
      3. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 15).
      4. Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment (Article 16).
      5. Abolition of untouchability (Article 17).
      6. Abolition of titles (Article 18).
    5. There are two provisions in the Constitution that seek to achieve political equality. They are:
      1. No person is to be declared ineligible for inclusion in electoral rolls on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex (Article 325).
      2. Elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies to be on the basis of adult suffrage (Article 326).
      3. The Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 39) secures to men and women equal right to an adequate means of livelihood and equal pay for equal work.
  • Fraternity:
    • Fraternity means a sense of brotherhood. The Constitution promotes this feeling of fraternity by the system of single citizenship.
    • Also, the Fundamental Duties (Article 51-A) say that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities.
    • The Preamble declares that fraternity has to assure two things—the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.
    • The word ‘integrity’ has been added to the preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment (1976).
    • According to K M Munshi, a member of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly, the phrase ‘dignity of the individual’ signifies that the Constitution not only ensures material betterment and maintain a democratic set-up, but that it also recognises that the personality of every individual is sacred. This is highlighted through some of the provisions of the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, which ensure the dignity of individuals.
    • Further, the Fundamental Duties (Article 51A) also protect the dignity of women by stating that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women, and also makes it the duty of every citizen of India to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
    • The phrase ‘unity and integrity of the nation’ embraces both the psychological and territorial dimensions of national integration.
    • Article 1 of the Constitution describes India as a ‘Union of States’ to make it clear that the states have no right to secede from the Union, implying the indestructible nature of the Indian Union. It aims at overcoming hindrances to national integration like communalism, regionalism, casteism, linguism, secessionism and so on.
    • Amendment of The Preamble: The Preamble has been amended only once so far, in 1976, by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, which has added three new words—Socialist, Secular and Integrity—to the Preamble. This amendment was held to be valid.

Preamble part of Constitution or not

The debate on whether the Preamble is a part of the Constitution or not started with the case of Goplana v. State of Madras, 1950.

In this case , the Supreme Court ruled that Preamble is not enforceable in a court of law.

In the Berubari case (1960), the Supreme Court observed that the Preamble was the basis for understanding the minds of the framers of the Constitution. The Preamble helps in the legal interpretation of the Constitution where language or word is found to be ambiguous.

Nevertheless, Justice Gajendra Gadkar opined that the Preamble was not a part of the Constitution.

DECISIVE SHIFT FROM ABOVE

Sajjan singh Vs State of Rajasthan : - Justice Madholkar highlighted the importance of the Preamble by observing that the Preamble had the stamp of “deep deliberation” , that it was “ marked by precision” and the framers of the constitution attached special significance to it .

The Preamble was “an epitome” of the basic features of the Constitution and those basic features were deduced from the concepts enshrined in the Preamble.

Golak Nath v. State of Punjab:-  Justice Hidayatullah observed that “The Preamble provides the basic principle on which the government is to function” . The Preamble is the very soul of the Constitution – eternal and unalterable.” ( A Clear departure from Berubari case)

Keshavnand Bharti v. State of Kerala (1973) :- (Basic structure doctrine) Supreme Court held that the Preamble was a part of the Constitution and it was of extreme importance. “The Constitution should be read and interpreted in the light of the noble vision expressed in the Preamble. Amendment to any of the provision of the constitution could be made under Article 368 only within the broad contours of the Preamble.

Means: - No amendments under Article 368 can be made to alter the Basic Features or Elements of the Constitution as contained in the Preamble .

Reiterated in three other judgments of the Supreme Court viz: -

  1.  Indira Gandhi v. Raj Narain
  2.  Minerva Mills Ltd v. Union Of India
  3. S.R.Bomai V. Union of India

Youtube Video explaining Preamble is a Part of Constitution or Not:

 


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