The Preamble of the Constitution of India reads as follows:
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.
- A preamble is an Introductory statement of a document, statute, deed which states the philosophy and objectives of what follows. Preamble is a preliminary introductory statement of the document.
- In a Constitution, it introduces the intent of the framers of the constitution, core values and principles of the nation. It sets out the philosophy, principles and guiding purpose of the Constitution.
- In Powell vs Kempton Park Racecourse Co. Ltd, Lord Halsbury Stated “Two propositions are quite clear: one that a preamble may afford useful lights as to what the statute intends to reach; and another, that if an enactment is itself clear and unambiguous, no preamble can cut qualify or cut down the enactment.”
- The notions of Preamble to Indian Constitution were laid down by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (The first Prime Minister of India) and Proposed by Dr BR Ambedkar, adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22nd day of January 1947 and the date mentioned in the Preamble when it was Adopted is 26th day of November 1949.
- Preamble of the Indian Constitution cannot be enforceable by the court, Although preamble can be very helpful when the language of the act is found ambiguous while interpreting the Articles.
- The preamble was enacted after the enactment of the constitution. Preamble was inserted in the end to make sure that there is no discrepancy between the preamble and other articles of the constitution. Unlike USA where Preamble was enacted first.
Components of Preamble
- Preamble affirms India to be the Republic, Democratic, Secular, Socialist and Sovereign country.
- Principles declared by the preamble is to promote fraternity to maintain unity and integrity of the nation and to secure justice, liberty, equality to all citizens.
- Republic- The head of the State is elected and is not a hereditary monarch. It means the president, who is indirectly elected and is not a hereditary king.
- Democratic– Democracy is widely known to be the government of the people, by the people and for the people. The Constitution ensures the creation and existence of the government at the will of the people, through the participation in formation of government at regular intervals, on the principle of universal adult franchise.
- Sovereign- It is the basic element of any self-directed country. It means absolute independence. Without being sovereign, a country cannot have its own constitution. It can make and unmake any decision with respect to itself without interference by any other country
- The word ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ were added in the Preamble by the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act 1976. Which we will be putting light on, later on in this Article.
- Socialist -The incorporation of the philosophy of “Socialism” in the Constitution, goals for the elimination of inequality in income and status and standards of life. Word ‘socialism’ had been used in reference of economic planning.
- In DS Nakara Vs Union of India, The Supreme Court of India held that the basic framework of socialism is to provide a decent standard of life to the working people and especially provide security form cradle to grave
- Secular- The term means that all the religions in India get equal respect, protection and support from the state.
- In Indra Vs Raj Narayan 1975, the term secularism was explained by the apex court which stated, Secularism means that the state shall have no religion of its own and all citizens of the state have the right or, are entitled to practice and profess any religion of their choice.
- In Bal Patil and Anr Vs Union of India , Supreme Court has stated that state has to treat all religion and religious people equally with respect and State has no religion of its own.
Is Preamble part of constitution?
When the Supreme Court was faced with a question, whether Preamble is an integral part of constitution. There were several cases where supreme court tried to answer this question, which we will discuss at length below-
Berubari union case 1960
- It was erroneously decided by the Supreme Court of India that the preamble is not a part of Indian Constitution. Supreme Court stated –
- Firstly, The Preamble displays the general purposes behind the certain provision in the minds of the makers of the Indian Constitution.
- Secondly, If the Article in the Constitution at any point, while interpreting are ambiguous or, are potentially capable of two meaning or are equivocal, some assistance may be taken from the objective enshrined in the preamble, despite such Importance of the Preamble, the Supreme Court held that the preamble is not a part of Indian Constitution.
Keshvananda Bharti Case, 1973
- Chronicle Case of India, Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, Where for the first time, 13 judges bench was constituted in the history of India, in its original jurisdiction hearing a Writ Petition.
- In this case, Supreme Court dismissed the previous judgment (Of Berburi Case) and held that the preamble is the Part of Indian Constitution.
- It was observed that the preamble is of great importance and Constitution should be interpreted and read in the light of vision expressed in the preamble.
- The Supreme Court again held that the preamble is an integral part of Indian Constitution in S.R Bommai Case.
Forty-second (42nd) Amendment of the Constitution of India
- This Amendment was enacted by Indian National Congress headed by Indira Gandhi. It is also called Constitution Act 1976.
- 42nd Amendment made two major changes in Preamble –
- It altered the characteristics of India to “Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic” from “Sovereign, Democratic, Republic”.
- The term ‘unity of the nation’ was changed to ‘unity and integrity of the nation‘. 42nd Constitutional Amendment froze the rearrangement of constituencies for elections after every census held after an interval of ten years.
- Dr BR Ambedkar, the principle Architect of the Indian Constitution, was against to declaring India’s Social and Economic structure in the Constitution. K.T Shah Proposed an Amendment attempting to declare India as a Secular, Federal and Socialist.
- Dr BR Ambedkar’s view was that constitution was a merely a mechanism for the propose of regulating the work of the various organs of the state. What should be the policy of state, how society should be organised in its social and economical aspect are the matters which must be solely decided by the people of the country themselves. It should not be laid down by the constitution itself because that is destroying the concept of democracy all together.
Can preamble be amended?
- Article 368 of Indian Constitution gives parliament a power to amend the constitution and as we have learnt above that the preamble is an integral part of the constitution, the biggest question arises is that, can preamble be amended under article 368.
- This question was addressed in the legendary case of Keshvananda Bharti vs State of Kerala, where supreme court proposed the “Basic Structure” doctrine.
- Basic Structure doctrine is Common law doctrine that the sovereign state has certain characteristics that cannot be erased by its legislature.
- However, the Apex Court did not define the term “Basic Structure” but listed a few principles like Federalism, Secularism, Democracy as being a part of it. Supreme Court held that the Parliament has the power to amend the Constitution which involves Preamble as well but the amendment is subject to the condition that it cannot alter the Basic Structure of the Indian Constitution.
Author: sarthbodhi wankhade,
Symbiosis Law School and 5th Year (BA LLB)