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The Preamble of the Indian Constitution

In this article, Palak Goel from Uttaranchal University discusses the Preamble to the Constitution of India.

The opening lines of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution are

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 Constitution of India is fundamental law of land. It is a socio, economic, and political instrument with a revolutionary domain. Every Constitution in the world outshines with a Preamble and so, the Indian Constitution also commences with a Preamble, which reflects the ideals, aspirations, expectations and objectivity of the people of India. The Preamble contains the aim and objectives of the Indian Republic and enshrines the whole philosophy and legislative intent of the Indian Constitution in a nutshell. No reading of any Constitution can be complete without reading Preamble. It acts as a theme around which a legislation revolves.

Preamble gives the idea about the following :

  • The source of the Constitution;
  • Nature of Indian State;
  • A statement of its objectives; and
  • The date of its adoption

The legislative intent of the Preamble of the Constitution is based on the “open-minded perseverance” drafted and moved by Pandit Nehru and adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November, 1949.

Thus, on analyzing the key aspects of the Preamble, it can be divided into three parts by reference to it qualitative characteristics. The Preamble is

  1. DECLARATORY, as to the enactment of the Preamble to the Constitution, i.e., the people of India in their Constituent Assembly adopted, enacted and gave to themselves this Constitution.
  2. REVOLUTIONARY, in the sense of the legislative intent of the preamble, i.e., whereby the people of India solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens.
  3. INFORMATIVE, as to the source of the Preamble to the Constitution, i.e, “WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA”.

15 Facts You Didn’t Know About The Preamble

  1. Prem Behari Narain Raizada has written in a flowing italic style with beautiful calligraphy the original Constitution of India.
  2. In the Library of the Parliament of India, in special helium-filled cases, are kept the original copies of the Indian Constitution which are written in Hindi and English.
  3. The Indian Constitution is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world with 25 parts containing 448 articles and 12 schedules.
  4. The first Constituent Assembly met on December 09,1946 and took precisely 2 years, 11 months and 18 days for the final drafting of the Indian Constitution.
  5. As the result of the debate and discussion for the finalization over 2000 amendments were made in it.
  6. The handwritten Constitution which was signed on 24th January,1950 came into force on 26th January i.e. two days later from being signed. It was signed by 284 members of the Constituent Assembly which included 15 women as well.
  7. The final drafting of the Constitution completed on 26th November, 1949. But it came into force after two months on 26th January, 1950 which is known as REPUBLIC DAY.
  8. Our constitution makers have adopted various provisions from various other constitutions while drafting our Constitution.
  9. The ideology of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) was adopted from Ireland.
  10. The French Revolution laid down the principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in our Preamble, which is also called as the French motto.
  11. The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America also starts with “We the people” which persuaded the Preamble of Constitution.
  12. The legislative intent behind the concept of Fundamental Rights which are recognized by our Constitution has been adopted from the American Constitution. It recognizes nine fundamental rights secured to all its citizens.
  13. In the beginning, the Right to Property was also one of the Fundamental Right enumerated under Article 31 of the Constitution which stated that “No person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law”. However, it was deleted by the 44th Amendment, 1978.
  14. The Indian Constitution is one of the world’s best Constitution as it has been amended 94 times from 62 years of its enforcement. By latest, our Constitution has undergone a total of more than 100 amendments.
  15. The renowned painter Beohar Rammanohar Sinha of Jabalpur designed and decorated the page of the Preamble along with the other pages of the Constitution of India.

The Preamble is an ornamental part of the Constitution and is couched in lofty and stirring language. These words like justice, liberty, equality and fraternity evoke in our mind, the memories of the great struggles the nation had to go through in order to secure them. These words tell us why we in India fought the protracted freedom struggle in which thousands of our people died. With noble ideas like justice, fraternity, equality and liberty enshrined in the Preamble, we can build India of our dreams. The Preamble is an embodiment of the principles in the objective resolution adopted by the Constituent Assembly in 1947”. – A.T. Philips and K.H. Shivaji Rao

The Preamble provides the legislative intent of India to be a welfare State

The terminology of the Preamble enshrines the fundamental values and guiding principles which forms a base for the Constitution of India. It provides the legislative intent of India to be a welfare State. The Preamble serves as a pathfinder for the Constitution and judges interpret the ideology of the provisions of the Constitution in its light. Constitution of India stands like a tree to which Preamble is the root, stem and source. Keywords of Preamble are as follows which expand the horizon of the Constitution of India.

  • Sovereign

In Synthetics & Chemicals Ltd. v. State of Uttar Pradesh [1], Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that the word “sovereign” means that State has the power to legislate on any subject in conformity with constitutional limitations. It means supreme or independence. There are two kinds of sovereignty, viz, internally and externally sovereign. Being internally sovereign refers to having a free government which is directly elected by the people which make laws that govern the people. Externally sovereign means free from the control of any foreign power or compliances. All the people are free in their limit to do their work in their own opinion. A country can not have its own Constitution if it is not sovereign.

  • Socialist

The word “socialist” was added to the Preamble by the 42nd Amendment, 1976 during the Emergency. The socialist character of the Indian Constitution is emphasized in the Preamble, which spells out the aspiration of the people to secure to all its citizens social, economic and political justice. It implies social and economic equality. Having the standards of being socially equal means the absence of inequity on the grounds of caste, creed, sex, colour, religion or language. It means everyone has equal status and has equal access to the opportunities. Economic stability means that equal distribution of wealth which leads to a decent standard of living for all.

  • Secular

The word “secular” was added to the Preamble by the 42nd Amendment, 1976 during the Emergency. The Constitution of India stands for a secular State, i.e., The State has no official religion. The concept of Secularism expands its horizons to give full opportunity to profess, practice and propagate the religion of their choice. The Constitution along with providing the guarantee to person’s freedom of choice of his religion and conscience also ensures freedom who has no religion and restrains the State from making any discrimination on grounds of religion.

Most important components of secularism are as under :

  • Equality is incorporated in Article 14;
  • Prohibition against discrimination on the ground of religion, caste, etc., is incorporated in Article 15 and Article 16;
  • Freedom of speech and expression and all other important freedoms of all the citizens are conferred under Article 19 and Article 21;
  • Right to practice religion is conferred under Article 25 to 28;
  • Fundamental duty of the State to enact uniform civil laws treating all the citizens as equal is imposed by Article 44;
  • Sentiment of the majority of the people towards the cow and against its slaughter was incorporated in Article 48

In S.R. Bommai v. Union of India [2], Hon’ble Supreme Court held that Secularism is the basic feature of the Constitution.

The concept of secularism to put it, in a nutshell, is that the “State” will have no religion observed in Bal Patil v. Union of India [3].

It was held in M.P. Gopalakrishnan Nair v. State of Kerala [4] that being a secular State does not mean having an atheist society.

  • Democratic

The word democratic is derived from the Greek word ‘demos’ which means ‘people’ and ‘kratos’ which means ‘authority’. The opening lines of the Preamble “We, the people of India” and the concluding lines “give to ourselves this Constitution” portrays the democratic spirit involved in the Constitution. The people of India elect their governments at all levels, i.e., Union, State and local by a system of “one man one vote”.

  • Republic

The word republic is derived from res publica, which means public property or commonwealth. A republic means a form of government in which the head of the state is an elected person and not a hereditary monarch like the king or the queen in Great Britain. Being republic means the vesting of the political sovereignty in the people and election of the head of the state is done by the people of the nation for a fixed term. In the broad sense, the word republic refers to a government in which no one holds the public power as a proprietary right.

Four Objectives of Indian State

The objectivity of the Preamble can be derived from the four keywords mentioned therein, i.e., JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY and FRATERNITY. In P.A. Inamdar v. State of Maharashtra [5], it was observed that if Indian polity has to be educated and educated with excellence, it is a well-settled principle of the golden goals set out in the Preamble of the Constitution, i.e., JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY, and FRATERNITY.

  • Justice

The term “justice” signifies three distinct types of justice, viz, social, political and economic which is guaranteed through Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined under Part III and Part IV respectively of The Constitution of India, 1949.

Social Justice means the abolition of discrimination on the basis of sex, colour, creed, race or religion. It means the abolition of untouchability. It also includes improvement in the condition of backward classes, i.e., Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes.

Economic Justice herein mentioned refers to the elimination of glaring inequalities of wealth, income and property. A combination of social justice and economic justice is what known as ‘distributive justice’.

Political Justice implies that all citizens should have equal political rights, equal access to all political offices and equal voice in the government.

  • Equality

A right without the sanction from the authority has no meaning. Such a right can not be enjoyed by of the members of the community. The legislative intent of the makers of the Constitution was to ensure equality of status and opportunity for all and to provide a basis for ultimately establishing an egalitarian society. Equality of status and opportunity as enshrined in the Preamble is secured to all firstly, by abolition of all kinds of distinctions and biases by the State between citizens on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex and secondly, by equal access to open public places, by abolishing untouchability and titles, by securing equality for opportunity in the employment sector or appointment to any office under the State.

  • Liberty

Liberty is the most cherished possession of a man. The Preamble of the Constitution professes to secure the liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. These freedoms are guaranteed through Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part III of The Constitution of India, 1949. Liberty is the power of doing what is allowed by law. The constitutional law of the country has fully guaranteed liberty through its mechanisms, judiciary and established rules of justiciability. Liberty does not mean ‘license’ to do what one likes and has to be enjoyed within the limitations mentioned in the Constitution itself. In short, the liberty conceived by the Preamble is not absolute.

  • Fraternity

The expression “unity and integrity of the Nation” has been substituted by 42nd Amendment,1976 to the Preamble of the Constitution. Fraternity means the sense of brotherhood. It is a feeling that all people are children of the same soil, the same motherland. Brotherhood is a particular kind of relationship irrespective of gender and generation. In a country like India, it is necessary to prioritize the expression of the unity and integrity that can be preserved only by a spirit of brotherhood. India has one citizenship and every citizen should feel that he is Indian first irrespective of another basis.

The Preamble: A part of the Constitution or not

The debated topic as to Preamble whether part of Constitution or not was decided in two leading cases:

Berubari Case [6]

  • Berubari Case on the Constitution of India on the implementation of the Indo-Pak agreement relating to Berubari union and exchange of enclaves came up for consideration by a bench consisting of eight judges.
  • The Court held that Preamble to the Constitution is “a key to open the mind of the framers of the Constitution” but it is not a part of the Constitution.

Kesavananda Bharati case [7]

This case has created a history. A bench of 13 judges had assembled and sat in its original jurisdiction hearing the writ petition. It was held in this case that:

  1. The Preamble is the part of the Constitution
  2. The Preamble acts as a guiding lamp to interpret the legislative intent of statutes as well as interpretation of the Constitution of India.

The basic understanding of the Preamble is incomplete without the reference of Mandal Commission case [8] which was decided by nine judges bench. It was observed that the objectivity of securing to its citizen justice, equality, liberty and fraternity displays administration by the public of the highest order in Constitution of India.

Can Preamble be amended?

The Constitution of India can be amended without disturbing the basic structure of the Constitution. As it has been held in Kesavananda Bharati case that the Preamble is the part of the Constitution, it means that the Preamble of the Constitution can be amended.

Though till date, it has been amended only once during the period of Emergency in 1976. This amendment is popularly known as The Constitution (Forty-second) Amendment Act, 1976 commonly known as the 42nd Amendment, 1976. This amendment resulted in an addition of certain principles to enhance the objectivity and ideology of the Preamble, viz,

  1. Socialist;
  2. Secular; and
  3. Fraternity.

In brief, yes, the Preamble to the Constitution of India can be amended.

Conclusion

  • The Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution of India. It reflects the legislative intent of the makers of the Constitution.
  • It assists in broadening the horizons of the provisions of the Constitution.
  • It is not a conventional addition but an addition with the utmost value and importance of polity which India as a social welfare state strives to establish.
  • The Preamble is a law of paramount nature of our country.
  • It highlights the values, guiding principles and objectivity on which the Indian Constitution is based.

References

[1]  (1990) 1 SCC 109

[2] (1994) 3 SCC 1

[3]  (2005) 6 SCC 690

[4] AIR 2005 SC 3053

[5] (2005) 6 SCC 537

[6] In Re: Berubari Union (1) (1960) 3 SCR 250

[7] Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, (1973) 4 SCC 225

[8]  Indra Sawhney v. Union of India, AIR 1993 SC 477

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