Socialist and Secular


    Syllabus: GS2/Polity


    • The leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha recently claimed that the words “socialist” and “secular” were missing in the Preamble of the Constitution of India, the copies of which were given to MPs recently.


    • These two words were originally not a part of the Preamble. They were added by The Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976.
    • The Preamble of the Constitution puts in words the ideal contained in the Objectives Resolution, which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on January 22, 1947. 

    Introduction of “Socialist” and “Secular” come in the Preamble: Socialist:

    • Indira Gandhi government had attempted to cement her approval among the masses on the basis of a socialist and pro-poor image with slogans such as “garibi hatao” (Eradicate poverty). 
    • It inserted the word in the Preamble to underline that socialism was a goal and philosophy of the Indian state.
    • It needs to be stressed, however, that the socialism envisaged by the Indian state was not the socialism of the USSR or China of the time.
      • It did not envisage the nationalisation of all of India’s means of production
      • Indira Gandhi herself clarified that “we have our own brand of socialism”, under which “we will nationalise only the sectors where we feel the necessity”. She underlined that “just nationalisation is not our type of socialism”.


    • The people of India profess numerous faiths, and their unity and fraternity, notwithstanding the difference in religious beliefs, was sought to be achieved by enshrining the ideal of “secularism” in the Preamble.
    • In essence, this means that the state protects all religions equally, maintains neutrality and impartiality towards all religions, and does not uphold any one religion as a “state religion”.
    • A secular Indian state was founded on the idea that it is concerned with the relationship between human being and human being, and not between human being and God, which is a matter of individual choice and individual conscience. 
    • Secularism in the Indian Constitution, therefore, is not a question of religious sentiment, but a question of law.
    • The secular nature of the Indian state is secured by Articles 25-28 of the Constitution.
    • The description of India as a “secular” country has been debated intensely over the past four decades; with critics claiming that these “imposed” terms sanction “pseudo-secularism”, “vote-bank politics” and “minority appeasement”.

    Wasn’t Secularism Already an Integral Part of the Constitution even before the 42nd Amendment?

    • In essence, it was always a part of the philosophy of the Constitution. The founders of the Indian Republic adopted Articles 25, 26, and 27 with the explicit intention of furthering and promoting the philosophy of secularism in the Constitution.
    • The 42nd Amendment only formally inserted the word into the Constitution and made explicit what was already implicit in various provisions and overall philosophy of the founding document of the Republic.
    • In fact, the Constituent Assembly specifically discussed the inclusion of these words in the Preamble, and decided not to do so. Dr B R Ambedkar put forward the following argument:
    “What should be the policy of the State, how the Society should be organised in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself because that is destroying democracy altogether.”

    Has this Issue been Discussed Earlier too?

    • Various petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court, seeking the removal of the words “socialist” and “secular” from the Preamble.
    • Petitioners have argued that these words were never intended to be in the Constitution, and that such insertion is beyond the amending power of the Parliament under Article 368.
    • Others argued that the country has changed its direction from being ‘socialist’ to welfare to ‘neo-liberalism’. 
    • In 2008, the Supreme Court had rejected a plea demanding the removal of “socialist” on the ground that “Socialism in a broader sense means welfare measures for the citizens. It is a facet of democracy. It hasn’t got any definite meaning. It has a different meaning at different times.”

    Source: IE