Table of Contents
The provision of the Preamble in the Indian Constitution comes from the American Constitution. The term ‘Preamble’ refers to the introduction or preface to the Constitution. It contains the essence or summary of the Constitution. The words used in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution are some of the noblest. These words embody the highest values of the Indian Constitution.
The Preamble of the Indian Constitution is based on the ‘Objectives Resolution ‘ which was drafted and moved in the Constituent Assembly by Pandit Nehru on 13 December 1946 and adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22 January 1947.
The Preamble was amended only once by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976, which added three new words – socialist, secular and integrity.
To know about the Preamble of Indian Constitution in the present form, refer to the table below.
|Text of the Preamble|
|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.
Components of the Preamble
The Preamble reveals three ingredients or components. These are:
1. It makes clear that ‘The People of India’ are the source of the Constitution.
2. It specifies the most essential objectives of the Constitution are Justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity.
3. It declares India a sovereign, socialist, secular and republican country.
4.The date is mentioned in the preamble when it was adopted i.e., November 26, 1949.
Key Words in the Preamble
Certain key words are used in the Indian Preamble. These words are Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic, Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. These key words are described in detail one by one below.
The word ‘sovereign’ used in the Preamble means India is neither a dependent nor a dominion of any other nation. It means India is an independent state and free to conduct its own affairs both internal and external, and also, being a sovereign state, India can either acquire a foreign territory or cede a part of its territory in favour of a foreign state.
Though no state today can be said to be fully sovereign because of the membership of international organizations like the United National, European Union etc. and international treaties, accords, conventions etc. casts obligations, puts restraints and erodes sovereignty of the state.
The framers of the Indian Constitution did not want the Constitution of India wedded to any particular political ideology or to be limited by any economic doctrine. The term socialist was added to the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976 during the emergency. This Act did not define the term socialist in the constitution. However, the 45th Constitutional Amendment Act attempted to define ‘Socialist’ to mean “free from all forms of exploitation social, economic, and political”.
However, the Indian brand of socialism is ‘democratic socialism’ and not a ‘communistic socialism’. Communistic socialism is also known as ‘state socialism’ which means the nationalisation of all production and distribution and the abolition of private property. On the other hand, Democratic socialism holds faith in a mixed economy where public and private sectors coexist side by side. Socialism meant elimination of inequality in income and status and standards of living. In 1991, the new economic policy of liberalisation, privatization, entry of foreign companies, disinvestment in public sector undertaking etc. diluted the socialist credentials of the Indian state.
The word ‘secular’ was not in the original text of the preamble like the word ‘socialist’. It was adopted by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976 during the emergency. The meaning of the word secular in the Indian context is treating all religions alike or giving equal respect to all religions, i.e., State neutrality in matters of religion. However, it does not mean that the State has no say whatsoever in matters of religion. Laws can be made for regulating the secular affairs of temples, mosques, and other places of worship. Even acquisition by the state of a place of worship – a temple, mosque or church cannot be said to be against secularism. Secularism in the India context only means that India is a secular state, it means the State has no religion. The state eyes all religions as equal, and that it would make no distinction between citizens on the grounds of religion.
The word ‘democracy’ has its origins in the Greek language. It combines two shorter words: ‘demos’ meaning ‘the people’ and ‘kratos’ meaning ‘government or rule’. Hence, democracy means government by the people as against monarchy or dictatorship. Its basic postulates are in the democracy that the sovereign power resides in the people, that irrespective of caste, creed, colour or sex, religion, and irrespective of the level of economic, educational or professional background. Although, democracy has two types—the first one is direct and the second is indirect. In direct democracy, the people exercise their supreme power directly. There are four devices of direct democracy, namely, the Referendum, Initiative, Recall, and Plebiscite. On the other hand, in indirect democracy, the representatives elected by the people exercise the supreme power, and they carry on the government and make the laws. Indirect democracy is also known as ‘representative democracy’. Indirect democracy has two types – Parliamentary and presidential. The Constitution of India provides for representative Parliamentary democracy under which the executive is responsible to the legislature for all its policies and actions. The rule of law, periodic elections, independence of judiciary, universal adult franchise and absence of discrimination on certain grounds are manifestations of the democratic character of the Indian polity. Examples of presidential democracy are the United States of America, South Korea etc. Switzerland is an example of direct democracy.
A democratic political system can be classified into two types of democracy – monarchy and republic. In a democratic monarchy, the head of state (usually the king or queen) enjoys a hereditary position, i.e., he/she comes to office through succession. Britain is an example of a democratic monarchy. On the other hand, in a democratic republic, the head of the state is always elected directly or indirectly for a fixed time period, e.g., the United States of America.
The term ‘republic’ in the Indian Preamble indicates that India has an elected head called the president. He is elected indirectly for a fixed period of five years.
The meaning of ‘republic state’ is that of a state in which the people are supreme and political sovereignty, and there is no privileges class, and all public offices are open to every citizen without any discrimination.
The concept of Justice in the Preamble is indeed very wide. But the Indian Preamble promises justice to all citizens. Our Preamble embraces three distinct forms of justice – social, economic, and political.
Social justice implies the fact that all citizens are treated equally without any social discrimination based on caste, creed, colour, race, religion, sex and so on. It is secured through various provisions of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles.
Economic justice denotes the fact that all the citizens are treated equally without any discrimination on the basis of economic factors. It is secured through the various provisions of the constitution. It involves the elimination of glaring inequality in wealth, income, and property. Political justice means all citizens should have equal participation rights in the political process without any discrimination of race, creed, colour, religion or place of birth. Article 325 and 326 provides for equal rights to all adults to participate in elections and Article 16 guarantees equality of opportunities in the matter of public employment.
The word liberty is derived from the Latin word ‘liber’ which means freedom from imprisonment, slavery, despotism or serfdom.
The term ‘liberty’ in the Preamble means the absence of restraints on the activities of individuals. The Indian Preamble secures to all citizens of India liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship through the Fundamental Rights. Article 19 guarantees protection of rights of freedom of speech, expression etc. and Articles 25 to 28 embody rights to freedom of religion including that of belief, faith, and worship.
However, liberty doesn’t provide an absolute license to do what one likes. The liberty provided is to be enjoyed within the limitations mentioned in the Constitution itself. It can be regulated not to endanger the security of the State, public interest etc.
The term ‘equality’ in the Preamble means the absence of special privileges to any section of the society and also provided equal opportunities for all capable individuals without any discrimination. The Indian Preamble secures to all citizens of India equality of status and opportunity. The concept of equality of status and opportunity is protected by the Articles 14 to 18. All citizens of India are equal before the law and enjoy equal protection of the laws of the land. The Indian Constitution also provides no discrimination between one person and another on the ground of religion, caste, creed, sex or place of birth in the matter of access to public places and public employment.
The term ‘fraternity’ in the Preamble means a sense of common brotherhood of all Indians. The concept of fraternity is far wider than the concept of secularism. Single citizenship is strengthening Indian fraternity feeling and also building a strong Indian fellowship. The Fundamental Duties (Article 51-A) say that the duty of every citizen of India is to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities.
The Indian Preamble declares that the fraternity has to preserve and promote two things—the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.
Also, Article 51-A says that it is the duty of every citizen to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
The word ‘integrity’ has been added to the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976 during the emergency.
Significance of the Preamble
1. The Preamble indicates the basic philosophy and fundamental values – political, moral, and religious on which the Constitution is based.
2. It is the soul of the Constitution.
3. It declares India a sovereign, socialist, secular and republican country.
4. It makes clear that ‘The People of India’ are the source of the Constitution.
5. It indicates the horoscope of our sovereign democratic republic.
Status of Preamble
Whether the Indian Preamble is a part of the Constitution or not was discussed several times in the Supreme Court. It can be understood by reading the following judgment of the Supreme Court.
Berubari Case: The Supreme Court specifically opined that the ‘Preamble is key to open the mind of the makers’, but they cannot consider it part of the Constitution. Therefore, the Preamble is not enforceable by the court of law.
Kesavananda Bharati Case: The Supreme Court rejected its previous judgement on the Preamble and held that the Preamble is part of the Constitution. But they interpreted the Preamble as not supreme power or source of any restriction or prohibition making a law. So, it can be concluded that the preamble is part of the introductory part of the Constitution.
Union Government Vs LIC of India Case (1995): In the 1995 case between the Union Government Vs LIC of India, the Supreme Court has once again held that the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution.
Amendment of the Preamble
In the judgement of the Kesavananda Bharati case, the Supreme Court said that the Preamble of India is part of the Constitution. After that judgement, the preamble can be amended under Article 368 of the Constitution, but the basic structure of the preamble cannot be amended. Because the structure of the Constitution is based on the basic elements of the Preamble. The preamble has been amended once through the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 during the emergency.
The term ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ were added between ‘Sovereign’ and ‘Democratic’ and ‘Unity of the Nation’ was changed to ‘Unity and Integrity of the Nation’.