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-page, along with other pages of the original Constitution of India was designed and decorated solely by renowned painter Ram Manohar Sinha of “Jabalpur”. As such, the page bears Deodhar Ram Manohar Sinha’s short signature Ram in Devanagri lower-right corner.
That the preamble is not an integral part of the Indian Constitution was first decided upon by the Supreme Court of India in the Beru Bari case; therefore it is not enforceable in a court of law. However, the Supreme Court of India has, in the Kesavnanda case, 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 the Preamble is an integral part of the 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.
It signifies the democratic principle that power ultimately rests in the hands of the people. It also emphasizes that the constitution is made by and for the Indian people and is not given to them by any outside power (such as the British Parliament). The wording is close to the preamble to the constitution, which had been adopted in 1937; it reads “We, the people of India … Do hereby adopt, enact, and give to ourselves this Constitution”. The phrase “we the people” emphasizes upon 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 structures 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. All the people are free in a limit to do their work in their own opinion.
The word socialist was added to the Preamble by the Forty-second Amendment during the Emergency in 1976. It implies social and economic equality. 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 endeavour 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.
The word secular was added to the Preamble by the Forty-second Amendment during the Emergency in 1976. Citizens have complete freedom to follow any religion, and there is no official religion. The Government treats all religious beliefs and practices with equal respect and honour.
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 “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, religion or education.
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 single citizen of India is eligible to become the President of the country. The leaders of the state and local bodies are also elected by the people in similar manner.
These objectives are four in number: ‘Justice’, ‘Liberty’, ‘Equality’ and ‘Fraternity’. The essence of justice is the attainment of the common good. It embraces the entire social, economic and political spheres of human activity.
The term ‘liberty’ used in the Preamble is not merely a negative, but a positive concept. It signifies not only the absence of any arbitrary restraint on the freedom of individual action but also the creation of conditions which are essential for the development of the personality of the individual. ‘Liberty’ and ‘Equality’ are complementary. Equality does not mean that all human beings are equal mentally and physically. It signifies equality of status, the status of free individuals and availability of opportunity to everyone to develop his potential capacities.
Finally, it is the spirit of brotherhood that is emphasised by the use of the term “fraternity” in the Preamble. India being a multilingual and multi-religious state, the unity and integrity of the nation can be preserved only through a spirit of brotherhood that pervades the entire country, among all its citizens, irrespective of their differences.
The Preamble of the Constitution of India is one of the best of its kind ever drafted. Both in ideas and expression it is a unique one. It embodies the spirit of the constitution to build up an independent nation which will ensure the triumph of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. One of the members of the Constituent Assembly (Pundit Thakur Das Bhargav) rose to poetic heights when he said, “The Preamble is the most precious part of the Constitution. It is the soul of the Constitution. It is a key to the Constitution. It is a jewel set in the Constitution.”
Amendment of Preamble
In Berubari case, the Supreme Court held that preamble is not a part of Constitution and thus not a source of any substantive powers and doesn’t import any limitations. However, in Keshavanand’s case the court held that preamble is part of Constitution and it is of extreme importance; and Constitution should be read and interpreted in the light of grand and noble vision expressed in preamble. In fact the preamble was relied on in imposing implied limitations on amendment under the art. 368 and held that since preamble is part of Constitution, It can be amended, but ‘basic features in it can’t be amended. As edifice of our Constitution is based upon these features and if they removed, it will not be the ‘same’ Constitution. Amending power can’t change the Constitution in such a way that it ceases to be a ‘sovereign democratic republic.
It may be noted that in exercise of the amending power under art. 368, The Constitution (42nd) amendment act, 1976 amended the preamble inserting the terms ‘socialist’, ‘secular’ and ‘integrity.
Author: Mayank Shekhar
Mayank is a student at Faculty of Law, Delhi University. Under his leadership, Legal Bites has been researching and developing resources through blogging, educational resources, competitions, and seminars.