Preamble to the Constitution of India
The preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that sets out the guiding purpose and principles of the document. The preamble can be referred to as the preface which highlights the essence of the entire Constitution. It was adopted on 22 January 1947 by the Constituent Assembly.
It is based on the Objectives Resolution which was drafted and moved in the Constituent Assembly by Jawaharlal Nehru on 13 December 1946. The preamble-page, along with other pages of the original Constitution of India, was designed and decorated solely by renowned painter Beohar Rammanohar Sinha of Jabalpur who was at Shantiniketan with acharya Nandalal Bose at that time. Nandalal Bose endorsed Beohar Rammanohar Sinha's artwork without any alteration whatsoever. As such, the page bears Beohar Rammanohar Sinha's short signature Ram in Devanagari lower-right corner.
That the preamble is not an integral part of the Indian constitution was declared by the Supreme Court of India in BeruBari case therefore it is not enforceable in a court of law. However, Supreme Court of India has, in the Kesavananda case, overruled earlier decisions and recognised that the preamble may be used to interpret ambiguous areas of the constitution where differing interpretations present themselves. In the 1995 case of Union Government Vs LIC of India also, the Supreme Court has once again held that Preamble is the integral part of the Constitution.
As originally enacted the preamble described the state as a "sovereign democratic republic". In 1976 the Forty-second Amendment changed this to read "sovereign socialist secular democratic republic".
Text of the Preamble
These are the opening words of the 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 twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
The Preamble reflects the philosophy as well as fundamental values of Indian Constitution. It clarifies four important aspects
- It mentions that the Constitution derives its Authority from the people of India
- It declares India to be Sovereign, Socialist, secular, Democratic and Republican country.
- It clarifies the objectives of the Constitution are Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
- It states the date of Adoption i.e., 26 November 1949
The enacting words, "We, the people of India ...in our constituent assembly ...do here by adopt, enact and give to ourselves this constitution", signify the democratic principle that power is ultimately rested in the hands of the people. It also emphasises that the constitution is made by and for the Indian people and not given to them by any outside power (such as the British Parliament). The phrase "we the people" emphasises the concept of popular sovereignty as laid down by J. J. Rousseau: All the power emanates from the people and the political system will be accountable and responsible to the people.
The word sovereign means supreme or independence. 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. She allies in peace and war. The Popular sovereignty is also one of the basic structure of constitution of India. Hence, Citizens of India also enjoy sovereign power to elect their representatives in elections held for parliament, state legislature and local bodies as well. People have supreme right to make decisions on internal as well as external matters. No external power can dictate the government of India. India’s membership of the commonwealth or of the United Nations does not impose any external limit on her sovereignty. The Commonwealth is a free association of sovereign Nations. It is no longer British Commonwealth. India does not accept the British Queen as the head of state. The sovereignty empowers India to either acquire a foreign territory or cede a part of its territory in favour of a foreign state.
The term socialist was added to the Preamble by the Forty-second Amendment. Even before the addition of term, the socialist essence could be found in the Directive Principles of State Policy. The term implies social and economic equality among the people.
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.
Economic equality in this context means that the government will endeavor to make the distribution of wealth more equal and provide a decent standard of living for all. This is in effect emphasized a commitment towards the formation of a welfare state. India has adopted a socialistic and mixed economy and the government has framed many laws to achieve the aim.
Secular means the relationship between the government and the people which is determined according to constitution and law. By the 42nd Amendment, the term "Secular" was also incorporated in the Preamble. Secularism is the basic structure of the Indian constitution. The Government respects all religions. It does not uplift or degrade any particular religion. There is no such thing as a state religion for India. In S.R. Bommai vs UOI (1994) The SC of India held "A state which does not recognise any religion as the state religion, it treats all religions equally". Positively, Indian secularism guarantees equal freedom to all religion. it stands for the right to freedom of religion for all citizens. Explaining the meaning of secularism as adopted by India, AlexandrOwics has written, "Secularism is a part of the basic of the Indian Constitution and it means equal freedom and respect for all religions."
The first part of the preamble “We, the people of India” and, its last part “give to ourselves this Constitution” clearly indicate the democratic spirit involved even in the Constitution. India is a democracy. The people of India elect their governments at all levels (Union, State and local) by a system of universal adult franchise; popularly known as "one man one vote". Every citizen of India, who is 18 years of age and above and not otherwise debarred by law, is entitled to vote. Every citizen enjoys this right without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, colour, sex, Religious intolerance or education. The word 'democratic' not only refer to political but also to social & economic democracy.
As opposed to a monarchy, in which the head of state is appointed on hereditary basis for a lifetime or until he abdicates from the throne, a democratic republic is an entity in which the head of state is elected, directly or indirectly, for a fixed tenure. The President of India is elected by an electoral college for a term of five years. The post of the President of India is not hereditary. Every citizen of India is eligible to become the President of the country. The leader of the state is elected by the people.
The term 'justice' in the preamble refers to three varying aspects - Political, Social and Economic which are secured through different provisions of Fundamental Rights & Directive Principles of State Policy.
The ideal of Liberty refers to the freedom on the activities of Indian nationals. This is found to be an important tool in ensuring democratic framework. All the citizens are secured with liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith & worship through the Fundamental Rights which are justiciable in nature. However, liberty does not mean freedom to do anything, and it must be exercised within the constitutional limits.
This envisages that no section of the society enjoys special privileges and individuals are provided with adequate opportunities without any discrimination. Again, there are three dimensions of Equality - Political, Economic & Civic.
This refers to a feeling of brotherhood & a sense of belonging with the country among its people. It embraces psychological as well as territorial dimensions of National Integration. It leaves no room for regionalism, communalism, casteism etc. which hinders the Unity of the State.
It has been clarified by the Supreme Court of India that being a part of Constitution, the Preamble can be subjected to Constitutional Amendments exercised under article 368, however, the basic structure cannot be altered.
The preamble has been amended only once so far. On 18 December 1976, during the Emergency in India, the Indira Gandhi government pushed through several changes in the Forty-second Amendment of the constitution. A committee under the chairmanship of Sardar Swaran Singh recommended that this amendment be enacted after being constituted to study the question of amending the constitution in the light of past experience. Through this amendment the words "socialist" and "secular" were added between the words "sovereign" and "democratic" and the words "unity of the Nation" were changed to "unity and integrity of the Nation".
- M Laxmikanth. "4". Indian Polity (4th ed.). McGraw Hill Education. p. 4.5. ISBN 978-1-25-906412-8.
- "The Constitution (Forty-Second Amendment) Act, 1976". Government of India. Retrieved 1 December 2010.
- M Laxmikanth. "4". Indian Polity (4th ed.). McGraw Hill Education. p. 4.2. ISBN 978-1-25-906412-8.
- "61st Amendment".
- M Laxmikanth. "4". Indian Polity (4th ed.). McGraw Hill Education. p. 4.3. ISBN 978-1-25-906412-8.