Preamble to the Indian Constitution

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Preamble to the Indian Constitution
Preamble to the Indian Constitution

The Preamble to the Indian Constitution refers to the introduction or preface to the Indian Constitution. As a text containing the essence of the Constitution, it is a reflection of the nation’s identity, its democratic ethos, and its foundational principles. This article of Next IAS aims to explain the meaning of the Preamble, its historical background, components, significance, and other aspects related to it.

Meaning of the Preamble to the Indian Constitution

  • The term ‘Preamble’ refers to the introduction or preface to the Constitution. It contains the summary or essence of the Constitution, along with the ideals and aspirations upon which the Indian state is founded.
  • While describing the meaning of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, an eminent jurist N.A. Palkhivala has called it the ‘Identity Card of the Constitution’. Similarly, K.M. Munshi has described it as the ‘Political Horoscope of the Constitution’.
Preamble to the Indian Constitution

Historical Background

On December 13, 1946, Nehru moved the ‘Objective Resolution’ in the Constituent Assembly. This resolution defined the basic goal or purpose of the Indian Constitution. It also acted as the guiding principle for the members of the constituent assembly in framing the constitution. The same resolution was adopted as the Preamble to the Indian Constitution on January 22, 1947.

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

Components of the Preamble

  • Source of authority for the Constitution – The Preamble states that the Constitution derives its authority from the people of India.
  • Nature of Indian State – It declares India to be a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular Democratic, and Republican Polity.
  • Objectives of the Constitution – It specifies Justice, Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity as the objectives.
  • Date of adoption of the Constitution – It stipulates November 26, 1949, as the date of its adoption.

Key Words in The Preamble

“We, the People of India”

It is this phrase that affirms that the Constitution of India derives its authority and legitimacy from the people of India.

  • This phrase states that the Constitution is not imposed by any external authority but is drafted and adopted by the people themselves, reflecting their collective will and aspirations.
  • It signifies the power and responsibility vested in the citizens to govern themselves and participate in the democratic process.

Sovereign

The word ‘sovereign’ implies that India is neither dependent on nor dominated by any other country, but it is a self-governing state.

  • No authority is above it, and it is free to manage its own external and internal affairs.
  • Being a sovereign state, India can either acquire a foreign territory or cede a part of its territory in favor of a foreign state.

Socialist

The word ‘socialist’’ implies that it envisions a socio-economic system where there is an equitable distribution of wealth, resources, and opportunities, aiming to reduce economic inequalities among citizens.

  • The Indian brand of socialism is a ‘democratic socialism’ wherein both private and public sectors co-exist side by side.

Secular

The word ‘secular’ emphasizes the principle of religious neutrality and the separation of religion from the affairs of the state.

  • The Indian Constitution embodies the positive concept of secularism, which means all religions in our country, irrespective of their strength, have the same status and support from the state.
  • This principle fosters social harmony, tolerance, and respect for religious diversity in a pluralistic society like India.

Democratic

The word ‘democratic’ emphasizes the establishment of a government that is accountable to the people and operates based on the consent of the governed.

  • The Indian Constitution provides for a representative parliamentary democracy under which the executive is responsible to the legislature for all its policies and actions.
  • Universal voting rights for all adults, periodic elections, the supremacy of law, independence of the judiciary, and the absence of discrimination based on certain attributes are signs of the democratic nature of India’s political system.
  • The term ‘democratic’ embraces not only political democracy but also social and economic democracy.

Republic

The term “republic” signifies a form of government where the head of state is elected by the people or their representatives, rather than being hereditary or appointed based on lineage.

  • It reflects the rejection of monarchy and the establishment of a political system based on democratic principles, where the authority of the government is derived from the consent of the governed.
  • A republic also means two additional things-
    • Political sovereignty is vested in the people rather than a single ruler like a king.
    • There is no privileged class, so all public offices are open to every citizen without any discrimination.

Justice

The term ‘justice’ signifies the commitment of the Indian state to ensure social, economic, and political justice for all its citizens.

  • Social justice – It refers to the equal treatment of all citizens regardless of social distinctions like caste, color, race, religion, gender, etc. It means the absence of privileges for any particular group in society and improving conditions of Backward Classes (SCs, STs, and OBCs) and Women.
  • Economic justice – It denotes non-discrimination between people based on economic factors. It also involves the elimination of inequalities in income, wealth, and property.
  • Political justice – It implies that all citizens should have equal political rights, equal access to all political offices, and equal voice in the government.
  • The ideal of justice – social, economic, and political – has been taken from the Russian Revolution.

Liberty

The term ‘liberty’ means the absence of restraints on the activities of individuals, along with providing opportunities for individual growth and development.

  • The Preamble seeks to secure for all citizens the fundamental rights of liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship, which are enforceable in a court of law.
  • Liberty, as conceived by the Preamble, is not absolute but qualified. It means that liberty does not mean ‘license’ to do whatever one likes. Instead, it has to be enjoyed within the limitations mentioned in the Constitution.

Equality

The term ‘equality’ means the absence of special privileges for any section of society and the provision of adequate opportunities for all individuals without any discrimination.

  • The Preamble secures for all citizens of India equality of status and opportunity in three dimensions:
    • Civic Equality – The Fundamental Rights under the Right to Equality (Article 14-18) seek to ensure civil equality.
    • Political Equality – The two provisions of the Constitution related to elections, as mentioned in Article 325 and Article 326, seek to ensure political equality.
    • Economic Equality – The Directive Principles of State Policy, as mentioned in Article 39, directs the state to secure men’s and women’s equal rights to an adequate means of livelihood along with equal pay for equal work. This seeks to ensure economic equality.

Fraternity

The term “fraternity” emphasizes the importance of fostering a sense of brotherhood and unity among all citizens.

  • The Preamble declares that fraternity has to assure two things—the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.
  • The phrase ‘dignity of the individual’ signifies that the Constitution ensures material betterment and recognizes every person’s sacred individuality.
  • The phrase ‘unity and integrity of the nation’ embraces both the psychological and territorial dimensions of national integration. It aims at overcoming hindrances to national integration like communalism, regionalism, casteism, linguism, secessionism, and so on.

Significance of Preamble of Indian Constitution

  • The Preamble of the Indian Constitution embodies the basic philosophy and fundamental values on which the Constitution is based. Thus, it provides a glimpse of the Constitution of India.
  • As the soul and key to the Constitution, it provides a guiding framework for the interpretation and implementation of the various provisions of the Constitution.
  • It serves as the guiding light for governance, providing a moral compass for policymakers and lawmakers. It reminds them of the overarching goals of justice, equality, liberty, and fraternity that they must strive to achieve in their decision-making processes.
  • It symbolizes the unity and diversity of India by acknowledging the plurality of its citizens and their diverse backgrounds, languages, cultures, and religions.
  • It serves as an inspiration for citizens, reminding them of their rights, duties, and responsibilities towards the nation. It instills a sense of patriotism, civic duty, and commitment to the ideals of justice, equality, and fraternity among the populace.

Major Issues and Judgments Related to the Preamble

Is the Preamble a Part of the Constitution of India?

One of the major discussions related to the Preamble of India has been that – whether the Preamble is a part of the Constitution or not. The evolution of opinion on this issue can be seen through the following landmark judgments of the Supreme Court-

Berubari Union Case, 1960

In this case, the Supreme Court made the following two observations regarding the Preamble of India-

  • The Preamble is not a part of the Constitution.
  • Since the Preamble serves as the key to the minds of our Constitution makers, some assistance in interpreting any ambiguity in the Constitution can be taken from the Preamble.
  • Thus, the position of the Preamble after this judgment was that – The Preamble is not a part of the Constitution, though some assistance in the interpretation of the Constitution may be taken from it.

Kesavananda Bharati Case, 1973

In this judgment, the Supreme Court reversed its stand on the Preamble and made the following observations-

  • The Preamble of the Indian Constitution will now be considered a part of the Constitution.
  • It will play an important role in the interpretation of statutes and other various provisions of the Constitution.

LIC of India Case, 1995

The Supreme Court once again ruled that the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution, but it cannot be directly enforced in a court of justice in India.

Can the Preamble be Amended?

Another important discussion related to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution has been – whether the Preamble can be amended under Article 368 or not. The evolution of opinion on this issue can be seen through the following landmark developments-

Kesavananda Bharati Case, 1973

In this case, the Supreme Court held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution and hence can be amended, subject to the condition that no amendment is done to the ‘Basic Structure’ of the Constitution.

Amendment to the Preamble

The Preamble to the Constitution has been amended only once by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976. The amendment, which was made based on the recommendations of the Sardar Swaran Singh Committee, added three new words – Socialist, Secular, and Integrity – to the existing Preamble.

  • ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ were added between ‘Sovereign’ and ‘Democratic’.
  • ‘Unity of the Nation’ was changed to ‘Unity and Integrity of the Nation’.

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution serves as a foundational document and guiding light that outlines the objectives of the whole Constitution. It’s a declaration that acts as a fountainhead of wisdom for the Constitution of India. Therefore, while making a law, lawmakers have to examine it on the threshold of the Preamble of the Constitution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the meaning of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution?

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution is an introductory statement that outlines the objectives, principles, and ideals upon which the Constitution is based. It declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, and republican nation and emphasizes justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity as its core values.

From where have the ideals of justice – Social, Economic, and Political – been taken?

The idea of social, economic, and political justice has been taken from the Russian Revolution (1917).

What is the original Preamble of the Indian Constitution?

The original Preamble of the Indian Constitution succinctly states the aspirations and objectives of the framers, emphasizing justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity, ensuring the dignity of individuals and the unity and integrity of the nation.

What is the Importance of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution?

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution is important because it outlines the Constitution’s objectives, declares the source of its authority, provides a framework for interpretation, emphasizes unity and integrity, and serves as an inspirational document.

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