Preamble to the Indian Constitution: A critical Analysis

Context

President Ram Nath Kovind recently led the nation in a community reading of the Preamble to the Constitution on Constitution Day. The President read the Preamble from the Rashtrapati Bhavan which was live telecast by Doordarshan and joined by the people across the nation. Participants at the All India Presiding Officers’ Conference at Kevadia in Gujarat joined the reading.

Introduction

  • Constitution is the set of rules which tells about the political structure of the country, it is the supreme law of land which provides convenience as well as regulations for all the citizens living in a country.
  • The term preamble refers to the first page of the Constitution or we can say it is the preface of the Constitution, an eminent jurist N.A Palkhivala called the preamble as the “identity card of the constitution’.
  • The preamble of the Indian Constitution is based on the ‘Objective Resolution’, moved by J.L. Nehru.
  • The American constitution was the first to begin with Preamble. Many countries including India followed this practice.
  • The preamble of Indian Constitution was once amended by the 42nd Amendment Act 1976 when three words Socialist, Secular and Integrity was added to the preamble of India.
  • The preamble cannot be enforced in the court, this decision was announced in the decision of Union of India v. Madan Gopal, 1957.

Preamble to the Indian Constitution

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 26th day of November 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

Source: Constitution of India

Is Preamble a Part of the Constitution?

  • Kesavananda Bharati v/s State of Kerala (1973) case overruled its earlier decision (Berubari Case 1965) and made it clear that the Preamble is a part of the constitution and is subjected to the amending power of the Parliament within the core limits of the basic structure doctrine.
  • It is an important guide to interpret the true spirit of the Constitution.
  • LIC of India Case (1995) – upheld the Preamble and said that it is an integral part of the Constitution.

Components of the Preamble

The four components of the preamble are as follows:

  • It reveals the source of the authority of the constitution i.e. the people of India.
  • It tells the nature of Indian state as sovereign, socialist, secular, republic and democratic polity.
  • It specifies the objective of the constitution as justice, liberty, equality and fraternity to its people.
  • It mentions the date (26 November 1949) on which the Constitution was adopted.

Key terms used in Preamble

  • The word ‘Sovereign’ emphasizes that there is no authority outside India on which the country is in any way dependent. The word sovereignty has been taken from the French Constitution.
  • By the word ‘Socialist’ the Constitution means that the achievement of the socialistic pattern of society through democratic means. The ideas of socialism in India were given by Mahatma Gandhi and that’s why Indian socialism is known as Democratic Socialism or Gandhian Socialism. Socialist goals should be achieved through democratic means. The term establishes India as a public welfare state.
  • India is a ‘Secular State’, does not mean that India is non-religious or irreligious, or anti-religious, but simply that the State in itself is not religious and follows the age-old Indian principle of “Sarva Dharma Sambhava”. It also means that the State shall not discriminate against the citizens in any way on the basis of religion. The State regards religion to be the private affair of a person, including the right to believe or not to believe in a religion.
  • The term ‘Democratic’ means that the rulers elected by the people only, have the authority to run the government. India follows a system of ‘Representative Democracy’, where the MPs and MLAs are elected directly by the people.
    • Efforts are being made to take democracy to the grassroots through Panchayats and Municipalities (73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts, 1992).
    • However, the Preamble and DPSP envisages not only political democracy, but also social and economic democracies.
  • The word ‘Republic’ means, the head of the state is an elected representative (directly or indirectly) and not the hereditary monarch.
  • The preamble encompasses the term justice in three different forms — social, economic and political, which have been achieved through various provisions of fundamental and directive principles of policy.
    • Social justice in the Preamble refers to the creation of a more equitable society by the Constitution based on equal social status.
    • Economic justice refers to the equal distribution of wealth among different members of society, so that wealth cannot be concentrated in a few hands.
    • Political justice refers to the right of all citizens to equal political participation.
    • The Indian Constitution provides universal adult suffrage and equal value for every vote.
  • Equality refers to the abolition of privilege or discrimination against any section of society. The Preamble of the Constitution provides equality of status and opportunities for all the people of the country.
    • Article 14-18 ensure civil equality
    • There are two other provisions in the constitution that ensure citizen equality –
      • No person shall be disqualified from being included in the electoral rolls on the basis of religion, sex and caste (Article 325).
      • Provision of adult franchise for Lok Sabha and Legislative Assemblies. (Article 326)
  • Brotherhood refers to a feeling of fraternity. The Preamble of the Constitution promotes brotherhood among the people to maintain the dignity of unity and integrity of the individual and the nation

Amendability of Preamble

  • Kesavananda Bharati Case (1973) has held that the Preamble may be amended subject to the basic structure of the Constitution.
  • In other words, the amendment should not destroy the basic features of it.
  • In fact, Preamble has been amended by 42nd Amendment 1976, whereby three words viz. socialist, secular and integrity were added.

Conclusion

The Preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that sets out guidelines, which guide the people of the nation, and to present the principles of the Constitution, and to indicate the source from which the document derives its authority, and meaning. It reflects the hopes and aspirations of the people. The preamble can be referred to as the preface which highlights the entire Constitution. It was adopted on 26 November 1949 by the Constituent Assembly and came into effect on 26 January 1950, celebrated as the Republic day in India. Preamble was made in 1947 but adopted in 1949.