The Preamble to Constitution of India (in brief, Preamble) is more than just 63 words perfectly arranged and catalogued (in a certain way) in some normative sentences; most importantly, it is all about the democratic aspirations and ideals of the people of India [I. C. Golaknath & Ors. Vs State of Punjab & Anr., 1967 SCR 2]. It is pertinent to note that the Preamble to Constitution of India does not subscribe to the ideology and philosophy practised by one section of the society, even if that section happens to be in a majority. However, it does not mean that the values enshrined in the Preamble to Constitution of India discard the value systems of minority sections. Preamble to Constitution of India is staggeringly different from many other Preambles which we get to see (of other nations). It does not take the tribulation on itself to derive aspirations from Religion, God, Identity etc. It particularises and promises to ensure Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Justice to the people of India, and thats about it. The Preamble clears the air that the people of India have resolved to secure to all its citizens Social, Economic and Political Justice. It is not the case that Identity, Religion, or God are not/should not be important to us, its just that our Preamble makes room for us to choose for ourselves, our God, our History, our Faith and most importantly, to own our thoughts. This resolution has been made by people of the nation solemnly, and not by invoking any divine or spiritual power. In-fact, the Constitution of India treats Believer, atheist and agnostic alike, as it doesnt differentiate on trivial issues. What did the Preamble mean to Constituent assembly?
The Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India had observed and was aware of the fact that the Preamble should be limited to defining the important features of the new nation and the socio-political objectives must be imbibed in the most important text of the Constitution of India i.e., the Preamble.
It is very clear from the mere reading of the Preamble that the ultimate and conclusive objective of the framers of the Constitution of India was to give birth to an introduction (to the Constitution of India) which mirrors the possible and definitive ideals of a Welfare State and an Egalitarian Society.
By necessary implication, the text of the Preamble to Constitution of India had to include in itself, the aims and aspirations of the people of India who sacrificed their lives for the attainment of the countrys independence.
The Preamble reads:
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.
The original text of our Preamble to Constitution of India as adopted by the Constituent Assembly in the year 1949 declared India as a Sovereign Democratic Republic. Through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment of 1976, which was enacted during the infamous Emergency days, the words Socialist and Secular were also added to the Preamble (It is said that the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi was keen to prove that her Government was true to the spirit of the Constitution of India).
The Indira Gandhi Government endeavoured to reassure that the minorities in the country would be safe and the moneyed class would not dominate the economy. The Preamble to Constitution of India as we see now, reads - SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC. It is worth noting that the purpose of introducing the two words by the Indira Gandhi Government may have been cynical, but they did make explicit the commitments the nation had already made to its people as well as to itself.
The first line of preamble says: We the people of India......, which means that the Constitution of India appears to have originated out of collective will of the Indians. Though the Constitution of India says so, whether really it is so? Indian culture is thousands of years old and is one of the oldest civilisation of the earth. The period of a few centuries, prior to achieving independence in 1947, was a period of foreign invasion starting from the invasion by the Moghuls and culminating into the colonisation of India by the British.
During this period of over three centuries, attempts were made to destroy the Indian culture, blunt the conscience of the Indians and to impose on them the Western culture. As a result of this eclipse of the Indian culture and the national conscience, while adopting the Constitution of India, like a hypnotised person we looked to the West for formulation of our Constitution and the subsequent governance. In the process, either willingly or unwillingly, the Indian context was discarded not by the masses but by the rulers who were thrown up as a result of the faulty process of governance adopted by us under Constitution of India and under various laws flowing from it.
As Constitution of India is the conscience of our Nation India that is Bharat so is the Preamble as the conscience of Constitution of India. Our Constitutionâ€™s spirit is the Preamble, which is the Backbone of Constitution of India. It is the guiding spirit for Indian Nation on the touchstone of Basic Features of Constitution of India. Preamble indicates the language and expressions of the Constitution of India as its Vision- Mission and not in a rigid or exhaustive sense.
The Preamble to Constitution of India is not a mere solemn resolution; it is something more than a resolution. It is declaration; it is a firm resolve; it is a pledge and an understanding. It is not a spirit of narrow legal wording, but a majestic expression of constitutional morality, constitutional polity and constitutional culture. It is an expression of dedication to the people of India. The Preamble, in fact, is the very life-breath of the Constitution of India which the founder-authors have framed. Its dedication to the people of India unequivocally speaks about the sovereignty of the people of India; viz., the sovereignty will vest in the whole body of people of India. The founder-authors expressed that the sovereignty of the people of India will not be bartered away or bargained in the name of Commonwealth; it does not vest in any foreigner. Sovereignty does not vest even in the Government. Government only represents the people of India. Acharya J. B. Kriplani expounded the genesis of the Preamble to Constitution of India which encapsulates also the genesis of basic feature philosophy for the future emulation. His eloquent words were:
What we have stated in this Preamble are not legal and political principles only. They are also great moral and spiritual principles and if I may say so, they are mystic principles. In fact these were not first legal and constitutional principles, but they were really spiritual and moral principles. â€¦ Take democracy. What is it? It implies the equality of man, it implies fraternity. Above all it implies the great principles of non-violence. How can there be democracy where there is violence? Even the ordinary definition of democracy is that instead of breaking heads, we count heads. â€¦ If we want to use democracy as only a legal, constitutional and formal device, I submit, we shall fail. As we have put democracy at the basis of our Constitution, I wish that the whole country should understand the moral, the spiritual and the mystic implication of the word democracy. If we have not done that, we shall fail as they have failed in other countries. Democracy will be made into autocracy and it will be made into imperialism, and it will be made into fascism. But as a moral principle, it must be lived in life. It is not lived in life, and the whole of it in all its departments, it becomes only a formal and a legal principle. We have got to see that we live this democracy in our life. It would be inconsistent with democracy to have it only in the legal and political field. Politically, we are a democratic people but economically we are divided into such classes that the barriers cannot be cross. If we have got to be democratic we have got to be economically so too. I also say democracy is inconsistent with caste system. That is social aristocracy. We must do away with castes and classes, otherwise we cannot swear by democracy. And we must remember that economic democracy does not merely mean that there should be no classes, that there should be no rich and poor; but the State itself should live in a manner that is consistent with the life of the poor, if people happen to be poor. It is not economic equality if for pomp and pageant; we spend thousands and lakhs of rupees. It is again not democracy if at every corner of the Government House human beings are made to stand statue like and unmoving. Such things are against the dignity of the individuals. If we establish democracy, we have to establish it in the whole of our life, in all its departments, whether it be in administration, or in society or in the economic field. This we must know and understand. Then we have said that we will have liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. All these freedoms can only be guaranteed on the basis of non-violence. But there is mental violence. We have to respect it as having an element of truth. No religion in the world is perfect, and yet there is no faith without some element of Gods truth. Then we have said that there should be equality of status and opportunity. This implies that in our public affairs, we should be absolutely above board; that there should be no nepotism, there should be no favoritism; there should be no mine and not mine. We can give equality of opportunity and equality of status only when what is considered as Ours is put behind and what is considered as Not Ours is put before. Unless we do these things, we will not be able to fulfill the aims of our Constitution. Again I come to the great doctrine of fraternity which is allied with democracy. It means that we are all sons of the same God, as the religious would say but as the mystic would say that there is one life pulsating through us all. What we have enunciated are not merely legal, constitutional and formal principles, but moral principles; and moral principles have got to be lived in life. They have to be lived whether it is private life or it is public life, whether it is commercial life, political life or the life of an administrator. They have to be lived throughout. These things, we have to remember if our Constitution is to succeed. We have to remind ourselves that we are here as the representatives of the people. We have to remind ourselves that we are the servants of the people. We often forget that we are here in a representative capacity. We often forget that we are the servants of the people. It always happens that our language, because of our thoughts and actions, gives little countenance to this basic idea. Therefore, on this solemn occasion, it is necessary to lay down clearly and distinctly that sovereignty resides in and flows from the people...... Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed in his eloquent expression responded that on the actual working of democracy its success depends.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in his concluding remarks on the Preamble to Constitution of India expressed with elocution:
The general intention of the House, viz. that this Constitution should emanate from the people and should recognize that the sovereignty to make this Constitution vests in the people. "The Preamble falls into three distinct parts. There is one part which is declaratory. The second part is descriptive. The third part is objective and obligatory. Now, the declaratory part consists of the phrase: We the people of India, in our Constituent Assembly, day, this month" do hereby adopt enact and give to ourselves Constitution. Does this Constitution say or does this Constitution not say that the Constitution is ordained, adopted and enacted by the people. I think anybody who reads its plain language, not dissociating it from other parts, namely, the descriptive and the objective, cannot have any doubt that is what the Preamble means. "Does this Constitution or does it not acknowledge, recognize and proclaim that it emanates from the people? I say it does." As most Members know that United States Constitution was drafted by a very small body of 13 States which met at Philadelphia to draw up the Constitution. "Therefore, if the representatives of 13 States assembled in a small conference in Philadelphia could pass a Constitution and say that what they did was in the name of the people, on their authority, basing on it their sovereignty. I personally myself, do not understand unless a man was an absolute pedant that a body of people 292 in number, representing this vast continent, in their representative capacity, could not say that they are acting in the name of the people of this country." No person in this House desires that there should be anything in this Constitution which has the remotest semblance of its having been derived from the sovereignty of the British Parliament. Nobody has the slightest desire for that. In fact we wish to delete every vestige of the sovereignty of the British Parliament such as it existed before the operation of this Constitution. There is no difference of opinion between any Member of this House and any Member of the Drafting Committee so far as that is concerned. This Preamble embodies what is the desire of every Member of the House that this Constitution should have its root, its authority, its sovereignty, from the people.....
Utility of Preamble
The Preamble/Aims/Objectives of any Bill/Act is an introductory part of that document, which goes on to explain the purpose, logic, and philosophy of that particular document. A Preamble sets the tone of the introduction to a document, highlighting the principles and fundamental values of the document. It canvasses the source of the documents authority. However, the case with the Preamble to Constitution of India is slightly different. In fact, the text of the Preamble doesnt consist of mere flourish words but they set the tone of an ideal atmosphere for practice and observance as a matter of law through Constitutional mechanism (Similar remarks were made in the case of Indra Sawhney Vs Union of India, 1992 Supp. (3) SCC 217). In the case of Preamble, it is special because the edifice of our Constitution is built upon the concepts crystallised in the Preamble to Constitution of India. [Minerva Mills Ltd. & Ors. Vs Union of India & Ors., 1981 SCR (1) 206]. In the case of In Re: The Berubari Union And ... Vs Unknown, AIR 1960 SC 845, the Supreme Court held that the Preamble to Constitution of India is not a part of the Constitution, but it should be considered as a guiding principle for the provisions enshrined under the Constitution of India. However, in the case of Kesavananda Bharti Vs State of Kerla, AIR 1973 SC 1461, the Supreme Court rightly rejected this idea and held that the Preamble is very much a part of the Constitution of India. This Judgment implies that through the route of Article 368 of the Constitution of India, the Parliament can amend the Preamble to Constitution of India. However, in the same case, it was further propounded that through the route of Article 368, the basic structure of the Constitution of India cannot be altered. Later on, in the case of Smt. Indira Nehru Gandhi Vs Shri Raj Narain, 1975 (Supp) SCC 1, the Supreme Court attempted to further outline the importance of the Preamble to Constitution of India. This Judgment was quite impactful as it supplied due importance to the Preamble. The Constitution Bench, in this case observed that Preamble is the source of any basic feature (of the Constitution of India) thus ensuring that it is revered, honoured and admired widely by people (and Governments) at large. Moreover, in the case of Jacob M. Puthuparambil & Ors. Vs Kerla Water Authority & Ors., 1990 SCR (Suppl.) (1) 562 Honble Supreme Court observed that while the Preamble promises socio-economic justice to all, the fundamental rights under part III of the Constitution of India confer certain justiciable socio-economic rights. Apart from that, the Directive Principles of State Policy occurring under Part IV of the Constitution of India aim to fix the socio-economic goals which the State must strive to attain. The Supreme Court went on to say that these three together constitute the core and conscience of the Constitution of India. The limitation of the Preamble to Constitution of India is that no ordinary legislation can be struck down just because it goes against the values contained in the Preamble. While it is true that such values form the very basis of existence of all the Fundamental Rights, and it may be the case that such a legislation (or some of its features) infringes the guaranteed fundamental rights, but unless and until such a legislation or its provisions contravene the guaranteed fundamental rights themselves (and not just the Preamble) they wont be held unconstitutional. We must also remember that it is a well-established Rule of Interpretation that what is contrary to the Constitution of India cannot be justified with reference to the Preamble and values enshrined therein. It is also pertinent to note that the Preamble to Constitution of India cannot be regarded as a source of prohibition or limitation on the power a legislature as held in the case of Raghunathrao Ganpatrao Vs Union of India, 1993 SCR (1) 480. Nature of the Preamble and Supreme Courts view on Preamble As many of us know, the Preamble to Constitution of India is based on the Objective Resolution introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on December 13, 1946. The Constituent Assembly held its first meeting on 9th December, 1946 and on 13th December, 1946 it moved this resolution. The foremost purpose of passing this resolution was to declare the aims and purposes of the Constituent Assembly in clear terms. It is remarkable that by doing so, the Constituent Assembly didnt just set the highest standards for itself, but for the ages to come. This resolution was finally adopted on 22 January, 1947. The Preamble has been called the soul of the Constitution of India (and rightly so) because every particular detail and characteristic about the ideals of Constitution of India could be traced back to the Preamble to Constitution of India. It is needless to say that the Preamble must act as the guide/key to the understanding of the Constitution of India and what makers of the Constitution had in their mind while framing the Constitution of India. The Preamble to Constitution of India was adopted on November 26, 1949, but was ultimately implemented from January 26, 1950, the day which we also know today as Republic Day. To talk about the nature of Preamble, we can categorically say that the Preamble to Constitution of India is an epitome of those attributes, which appear in various Articles of the Constitution of India and such features are guiding principles for the Governments as well. The makers of the Constitution of India were well aware of the fact that Preamble to Constitution of India must bear the stamp of extensive deliberation and should be marked by ultra-precision and rigorousness. The Preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that sets out the guiding purpose, principles and philosophy of the Constitution. In the case of Kuldip Nayar & Ors. Vs Union of India & Ors., 2006 (7) SCC 1, the Supreme Court held that the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution of India. In the case of I. C. Golaknath & Ors. Vs State of Punjab & Anr., 1967 SCR 2 Constitution Bench of Honble Supreme Court (Per Majority) held that It (The Preamble) contains in a nutshell, its (The Constitution) ideals and its aspirations. The Preamble is not a platitude but the, mode of its realisation is worked out in detail in the Constitution of India.
Important words and their meanings present in the Preamble
There are several words which appear in the Preamble to the Constitution of India but they cannot be explained objectively. However, we can very well have an idea about what do they mean and what purpose do they serve. In this section, we will talk about such words and the plain understanding of such words coupled with their interpretation as put forth by the Supreme Court through various landmark decisions. We, the people of India: The phrase We, the people of India emphasizes that Constitution of India is created by and for the people of India, thus implying that no external power has given this Constitution to us (unlike the Act of 1935). In other words, it means that we have created the Constitution of India for ourselves through our own efforts and by our own people. Sovereign: Constitution of India also emphasizes the concept of Sovereignty. By the word Sovereign, we mean that all power emanates from the people of India and Indias political system will be accountable and responsible only to the people of this country. The insertion of this word also meant that the Constituent Assembly was not bound by limitations which were imposed on it by the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 or otherwise. In a way, it was a declaration that the Constituent Assembly has the power to outweigh any kind of limitations imposed on it by external powers. In the case of Synthetic & Chemicals Pvt. Ltd. Vs State of Utter Pradesh, 1989 SCR (Suppl.) (1) 623, the Supreme Court explained that the word Sovereign means that the State has the freedom to do everything within the restrictions imposed by the Grund norm i.e., the Constitution of India. When we talk about the exercise of sovereign power, it means that the State has the sufficient authority to enact any law/rule/regulation to discharge its functions; however, the authority is subject to the limitations set by the Constitution of India. In this case, the Court held, The sovereign power is plenary and inherent in every sovereign State to do all things which promote the health, peace, morals, education and good order of the people. This power of sovereignty is, however, subject to Constitutional limitations. This power, according to some constitutional authorities, is to the public what necessity is to the individual. The importance of Sovereignty lies in the fact that no nation can have its constitution unless it is Sovereign.
The term Socialist was added in the year 1976 by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment. Socialism can be understood as an economic philosophy whereby the means of production and distribution of resources fall under the authority of State. However, as we know, India has adopted a model of Mixed Economy, whereby the production work, apart from the state, can be carried out by people in the private sector and they can have limited ownership over the resources as well. So it is safe to say that India doesnt follow the traditional concept of Socialism. As we pointed out in the beginning, it is very difficult to explain what exactly is Socialism? It could mean many different things to different people and thinkers. Different people have a different conceptual understanding of it. The concept of Socialism or a Socialist State has undergone several changes from time to time, from country to country and from thinker to thinker. However, there are some fundamental concepts related to the term which can never become off-beat. In the Indian scenario, Socialism is a politico-economic system that provides Social, Economic and Political Justice. Socialism, in the form of Socialist Philosophy, lays greater emphasis on Democratic Socialism. It is a popular misconception that Dr Ambedkar didnt want India to be a socialist nation. The fact is that he did imagine a socialist model for the Constitution. He always believed that if there is no socialist model in place, it would be impossible to affect the downtrodden section of the society (Untouchables/Dalits/poor) in a positive way. He advocated in favour of uplifting the economic status of a person. He also believed that Economic progress of an individual would be possible only through a system of state control and not through a system of privatization. However, the reason why he opposed the insertion of the word Socialist in the preamble was that he wanted the future generations to decide for themselves, the course of their economy. In the case of Minerva Mills Ltd. (supra), the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court explained that we may find the concept of Socialism incorporated in the Directive Principles of State Policy. Court held that: We resolved to constitute ourselves into a Socialist State which carried with it the obligation to secure to our people justice-social, economic and political. We, therefore, put Part IV into our Constitution containing directive principles of State policy which specify the socialistic goal to be achieved. We must not forget that while the Constituent Assembly chose not to insert the word Socialist in the Preamble, the Indira Gandhi Government did that in 1976. However 15 years later (in 1991) the economic policy of our country witnessed drastic changes. In 1991, the Indian government adopted privatisation (instead of state ownership) and that is why the existence of the word Socialist in the Preamble is often debated. Secular: The meaning which the word Secularism as occurring in the Preamble entails is - the State will have no religion of its own and all its people will be equally entitled to the freedom of their conscience and may adopt, practice and propagate the religion of their choice. In the case of S. R. Bommai Vs Union of India, 1994 SCC (3) 1, a Nine Judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India had highlighted the concept of Secularism as a core feature of the Constitution of India.
This word indicates that the Constitution has established a form of government which derives its authority from the will of the people. The Ruler/Government in power will be elected by the people and he/it shall be responsible to them. Significantly, the words Democratic and Republic should be understood together rather than theorizing them separately. As held in the case of R. C. Poudyal & Anr. Vs Union of India & Ors., 1993 SCR (1) 891, in our Constitution, Democratic-Republic means peoples powers. It is related to the actual, active and effective exercise of power by the people. In fact, Democracy is a multi-faceted system; it refers to the political participation of the people in running the administration of the government. It describes the state of affairs and rule of law under which, every citizen has been assured the right to equal participation in the polity. The same proposition has been discussed in the case of Mohan Lal Tripathi Vs District Magistrate, 1992 SCR (3) 338.
Unlike a monarchy, where the head of state is appointed on a hereditary basis to keep the power to rule for a lifetime, a Democratic-Republic is a system of polity whereby the head of state is elected (directly or indirectly) for a fixed term, through the participation of state subjects. As we know, there is no bar to a citizen being elected to any public office. Every citizen of India is eligible to become the President or Prime Minister of the country.
Preamble: A much needed reminder?
Preamble to the Constitution of India, therefore, the backbone of the complete edifice of the Constitution. It shapes the Constitution of India into a dynamic document. It mirrors the inner theme of the Constitution of India. The phrase or expression We the People of India reflects the source and authority for drawing up the Constitution. It is a statement of objects, aims and philosophy of the Constitution and its makers. The Preamble is considered a key to open the mind of the Constitution makers and is a guide to interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution. It is a part of the textual Constitution embodying the experiences of its authors; it is the genesis of the Constitution of India. The opening words of the Preamble We the People of India made it unequivocally clear that the Constitution has emanated from the people of India and not from any external authority (British Parliament or crown of England) or any less authority than the people of India. Its poetry in prose language is undoubtedly a masterpiece of uniqueness encompassing the quintessence of the basic features of the basic structure of the edifice on which the Constitution of India is built. Sovereign, secular, socialist, democratic, republic, justice, equality, liberty, fraternity, dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the Nation are entrenched as immutable basic structure of the edifice of the Constitution of India. The Preamble to the Constitution of India is the best way through which we can continuously remind ourselves the aspirations of the people of not just the Constituent Assembly but also the people who could not live enough to witness India which is free of external dominance. In the end, it is important to recognise the Preamble to the Constitution of India as the very basis of our existence. It is the starting point of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and it goes on to solidify our independent aspirations.
Source: Legal Service India
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