The Preamble acts as an introduction to a Statute. It tells about the objectives that the legislation wishes to achieve. In re Berubari case[i], the Supreme Court has expressed that the Preamble is a key to open the mind of the makers and shows the purpose why they have made several provisions in the Constitution.
The Preamble is based on the ‘Objective Resolution’ of Jawaharlal Nehru. He had introduced it on December 13, 1946. The Constituent Assembly adopted it on January22, 1947. In forming the Preamble on the basis of Objective Resolution, the Drafting Committee felt that the Preamble should only deal with the basic features of the State and its objectives and the other matters can be dealt with in the other provisions of the Constitution. The Committee has mentioned the words ‘Sovereign’, ‘Democratic’, ‘Republic’ as used in the Objective Resolution. The word ‘Fraternity’ has also been used by the Committee. However, this word is not a part of the Objective Resolution. The Committee has tried to keep the spirit and language of the Objective Resolution in the Preamble as far as possible.
The Preamble serves the following purposes:
1. It shows the source from which the Constitution comes.
2. It comprises of the enacting clause which brings into force the Constitution.
3. It tells about the rights and freedoms which the Indians intended to secure to all citizens and the type of Government and polity which was to be established[ii].
The Constitution has declared that the people of India have themselves enacted and adopted the Constitution.
Objectives enshrined in the Preamble
The Preamble secures to every citizen:
- Social, Economic and Political justice
- Liberty of expression, thought, faith, belief and worship
- Equality of status and opportunity
- Fraternity which assures the dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation
The Indian Constitution provides socio-economic-political justice to its citizens. Social justice refers to abolition of inequalities from the society. Political Justice means elimination of unreasonable distinctions in the political matters of the State. Economic justice means each person is entitled to an equal wage for equal work.
The Indian Constitution mentions about liberty of thought, belief, expression and worship. Liberty is a state where there is absence of restrictions. It is the power to do what is allowed by the law of the land.
Equality refers to providing of equal rights to the citizens. There should not be any discrimination and people should be given equal opportunities. The Constitution under Article14- Article 18 has deal with equality in detail.
Fraternity refers to a spirit of brotherhood or oneness. This word has been inserted by the Drafting Committee keeping in view the diversities in India regarding religion, castes, culture, etc.
We, the People of India
The Preamble uses the phrase ‘We, the people of India’. This means that the source of authority of the Constitution is the people of India. The Constitution has been enacted and adopted by the people of India themselves.
The 42nd Amendment Act, 1976
This amendment has inserted the words Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic, Secularism, Integrity.
The word ‘Sovereign’ means supreme. It shows independence from the outside authorities. India has both internal and external sovereignty. External Sovereignty refers to the relationship between the State and the other States in international level. Internal Sovereignty refers to the relationship between the State and the individuals. Membership in the UNO does not in any way affect her sovereignty. The word ‘Sovereign’ has been adopted from Article 5 of the Ireland Constitution.
Socialist in general refers to the ownership in means of production. The Welfare State actively participates in the economic and commercial activities of the citizens. It tries to provide social justice by not letting the means of production to accumulate in the hands of few.
The word ‘secular’ implies that there is no specific religion of the State. People are free to practise any religion and all religions shall be respected. The State does not provide priority to any religion.
Democratic Government is a people’s Government. The citizens elect the Administrator they wish to be elected by. Democracy can be of 2 types – Direct democracy and Indirect Democracy. In case of Direct Democracy, every person exercises his power of governing and they can directly change the Constitution with their votes. In case of indirect democracy, people elect representatives who govern them.
In a Republic State, any hereditary procedure shall not be followed and the Ruler shall be elected by free and fair elections. India follows a Republic procedure. The ultimate power lies in the hands of the citizens. The Government is elected on the basis of Universal Adult Franchise.
The word ‘integrity’ puts an end to separatist tendencies in order to make the people feel that every part of India is there home.
Preamble: Whether a part of the Constitution?
There has been continuous argument regarding whether the Preamble is a part of the Constitution or not. In the re Berubari case[iii], regarding to the implementation of the Indo-Pakistan Agreement relating to Berubari Union and Exchange of Enclaves, the Court has ruled out that the Preamble is a key to open the minds of the makers of the Constitution but is not a part of the Constitution.
In the case of Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala[iv], majority of the Judges of the bench held that:
- The Preamble is a part of the Constitution.
- It is not any source of power.
- It plays an important role in the process of interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution.
Amendment of the Preamble
It was argued in the case of Kesavananda Bharati V State of Kerala that as the Preamble is a part of the Constitution, it can be amended under Article 368. The Petitioners contended that the amending power is limited and the Preamble contains the basic features of the Constitution. Amending the Preamble would mean destroying the basic features of the Constitution. It was also urged that it is not a part of the Constitution, so it cannot be amended. However, it was considered that the re Berubari opinion was wrong and the Preamble is a part of the Constitution.
The Preamble contains the basic features of the Constitution and it cannot be amended. If the basic features are amended the Constitution will not survive. Also it will not remain the same Constitution anymore.
The Preamble of the Constitution of Canada
The Preamble of the Constitution of Canada states that the province of Canada- Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have expressed desire to be federally united into one domain under the crown with the Constitution. The Preamble enshrines 4 objectives. They are:
- Fulfilment of the desire of the Constituent units of Canada to form a union under the crown.
- Welfare of the Provinces and promotion of the interest of the British Empire
- Creation of a legislative authority and an executive government
- Eventual admission of union of other parts of British North America into the Union.
The Preamble of the Indian Constitution seems more structured than the Preamble of U.S.A and Canada.
The Preamble acts as an introduction to the Indian Constitution. The ideologies of the Constitution have been enshrined in it. It gives a clear idea regarding the goals to be achieved by the Constitution.
Union of India vs. Mandangopal[v]
In this case, the Court observed that our Constitution derives its authority from the people of India.
Excel War vs. Union of India[vi]
In this case it was held that the word ‘socialism’ might enable the Court to lean in favour of nationalism and State ownership of an industry.
D.S Nakara vs. Union of India[vii]
In this case, it was observed by the Court that Socialism aims at providing the working people a decent standard of living.
St. Xavier’s College vs. State of Gujarat[viii]
It was explained by the Court that Secularism is neither anti-God nor pro-God. Secularism refers to the elimination of God from the matters of State and the State has nothing to do with the religion of the people.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why is the Preamble required?
The Preamble acts as an introduction to the Constitution. It tells about the objectives that the legislation wishes to achieve and the source from which the Constitution comes that is the people of India.
2. Can the Constitution be amended?
The power of amendment has been given to the Parliament under Article 368. However, the power under Article 368 is limited. The Preamble cannot be amended as it contains the basic features of the Constitution.
Edited by Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i] re Berubari, AIR 1960 SC 845
[ii] Kesavananda Bharati V State of Kerela, AIR 1973 SC 1461
[iii] re Berubari, AIR 1960 SC 845
[iv] Kesavananda Bharati V State of Kerela, AIR 1973 SC 1461
[v] Union of India V Mandangopal AIR 1954 SC 158
[vi] Excel War V Union of India, AIR 1979 SC 25
[vii] D.S. Nakra V Union of India, AIR 1983 SC 25
[viii] St. Xavier’s College V Union of India, AIR 1974 SC 1889