The American Constitution was the first to begin with a Preamble. Many countries, including India, followed this practice. The term ‘preamble’ refers to the introduction or preface to the Constitution. It contains the summary or essence of the Constitution. It is as the ‘identity card of the Constitution.’
It has been amended by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act (1976), which added three new words—socialist, secular and integrity.
“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”.
Components of the Preamble
The Preamble reveals four ingredients or components:
- Source of authority of 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 of 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.
Key words of the Preamble —Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic, Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity—are explained as follows:
- Sovereign The word ‘sovereign’ implies that India is neither a dependency nor a dominion of any other nation, but an independent state
- There is no authority above it, and it is free to conduct its own affairs (both internal and external).
- Further, India’s membership of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) also in no way constitutes a limitation on her sovereignty.
- Socialist Even before the term was added by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, the Constitution had a socialist content in the form of certain Directive Principles of State Policy.
- To establish a ‘socialistic pattern of society’ in its Avadi session as early as in 1955 and took measures accordingly.
Court says, ‘Democratic socialism aims to end poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality of opportunity
7 . Indian socialism is a blend of Marxism and Gandhism, leaning heavily towards Gandhian socialism’
8.The new economic policy (1991) of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation has, however,
diluted the socialist credentials of the Indian State.
- Secular The term ‘secular ’ too was added by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976. However, as the Supreme Court said in 1974, although the words ‘secular state’ were not expressedly mentioned in the Constitution, there can be no doubt that Constitution-makers wanted to establish such a state and accordingly Articles 25 to 28 (guaranteeing the fundamental right to freedom of religion) have been included in the constitution.
- Democratic Democracy is of two types—direct and indirect. In direct democracy, the people exercise their supreme power directly as is the case in Switzerland.
In indirect democracy, on the other hand, the representatives elected by the people exercise the supreme power and thus carry on the government and make the laws. This type of democracy, also known as representative democracy, is of two kinds—parliamentary and presidential.
The Indian Constitution provides for rep-resentative parliamentary democracy under which the executive is responsible to the legislature for all its policies and actions. Universal adult franchise, periodic elections, rule of law, independence of judiciary, and absence of discrimination on certain grounds are the manifestations of the democratic character of the Indian polity.
- Republic A democratic polity can be classified into two categories—monarchy and republic. In a monarchy, the head of the state (usually king or queen) enjoys a hereditary position, that is, he comes into office through succession, eg, Britain. In a republic, on the other hand, the head of the state is always elected directly or indirectly for a fixed period, eg, USA.
Therefore, the term ‘republic’ in our Preamble indicates that India has an elected head called the
president. He is elected indirectly for a fixed period of five years.
6.Justice The term ‘justice’ in the Preamble embraces three distinct forms—social, economic and political, secured through various provisions of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles.
Social justice denotes the equal treatment of all citizens without any social distinction based on caste, colour, race, religion, sex and so on. It means absence of privileges being extended to any particular section of the society, and improvement in the conditions of backward classes (SCs, STs and OBCs) and women.
Economic justice denotes the non-discrimination between people on the basis of economic factors. It involves the elimination of glaring in-equalities in wealth, income and property. A combination of social justice and economic justice denotes what is known as ‘distributive justice’.
Political justice 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 (1917).
- Liberty The term ‘liberty’ means the absence of restraints on the activities of individuals, and at the same time, providing opportunities for the development of individual personalities.
The Preamble secures to all citizens of India liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, through their Fundamental Rights, enforceable in court of law, in case of violation.
Liberty as elaborated in the Preamble is very essential for the successful functioning of the Indian democratic system. However, liberty does not mean ‘license’ to do what one likes, and has to be enjoyed within the limitations mentioned in the Constitution itself. In brief, the liberty conceived by the Preamble or fundamental rights is not absolute but qualified.
The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in our Preamble have been taken from the French
- Equality The term ‘equality’ means the absence of special privileges to any section of the society, and the provision of adequate opportunities for all individuals without any discrimination.
The Preamble secures to all citizens of India equality of status and opportunity. This provision
embraces three dimensions of equality—civic, political and economic.
The following provisions of the chapter on Fundamental Rights ensure civic equality:
(a) Equality before the law (Article 14).
(b) Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 15).
(c) Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment (Article 16).
(d) Abolition of untouchability (Article 17).
(e) Abolition of titles (Article 18).
There are two provisions in the Constitution that seek to achieve political equality. One, no person is to be declared ineligible for inclusion in electoral rolls on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex (Article 325). Two, elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies to be on the basis of adult suffrage (Article 326).
The Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 39) secures to men and women equal right to an adequate means of livelihood and equal pay for equal work.
Fraternity means a sense of brotherhood. The Constitution promotes this feeling of fraternity by the system of single citizenship. Also, the Fundamental Duties (Article 51-A) say that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities.
The Preamble declares that fraternity has to assure two things—the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. The word ‘integrity’ has been added to the preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment (1976).
Article 1 of the Constitution describes India as a ‘Union of States’ to make it clear that the states have no right to secede from the Union, implying the indestructible nature of the Indian Union. It aims at overcoming hindrances to national integration like communalism, regionalism, casteism, linguism, secessionism and so on.
Significance of the preamble
The Preamble embodies the basic philosophy and fundamental values—political, moral and religious—on which the Constitution is based. It contains the grand and noble vision of the Constituent Assembly, and reflects the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers of the Constitution.
‘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. It is a proper yardstick with which one can measure the worth of the Constitution’.
The Preamble has been amended only once so far, in 1976, by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, which has added three new words—Socialist, Secular and Integrity—to the Preamble.
The term ‘democracy’ is derived from two Greek words, namely, Demos and Kratia meaning
‘People’ and ‘rule’ respectively.