• The Preamble to the constitution embodies the essence of the entire constitution and is like an introduction and preface of a book. It explains the purposes and objectives with which the constitution has been written and hence provides the guideline to the constitution.
• The Objective Resolution , proposed by Pandit Nehru and passed by the Constituent Assembly, ultimately became the Preamble to the Constitution of India.
• The Preamble, in brief, explains the objectives of the Constitution in two ways: one, about the structure of the governance and the other, about the ideals to be achieved in independent India. It is because of this, the Preamble is considered to be the key of the Constitution.
The objectives which are laid down in the Preamble are:
• Description of Indian State as Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic. (Socialist, Secular is added by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976)
• Provision to all the citizens of India i.e.,
– Justice – social, economic and political.
– Liberty – of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.
– Equality – of status and of opportunity.
– Fraternity – assuring dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation.
Usefulness of the Preamble:
• The Preamble sets out the objectives which the constituent assembly intended to achieve. As Supreme Court has observed, the Preamble is a key to unravel the minds of the makers of the Constitution. It also embodies the ideals and aspirations of the people of India.
• The Preamble is non-justiciable in nature, like the DPSPs and cannot be enforced in a court of law.
• The Preamble cannot override the specific provisions of the constitution. In case of any conflict between the two, the latter shall prevail.
• The Preamble can neither provide substantive power (definite or real) to the three organs of the State, nor limit their powers under the provisions of the constitution.
• As observed by the Supreme Court, the Preamble plays a limited and yet vital role in removing the ambiguity surrounding the provisions of the Constitution.
Whether the Preamble is a part of the Constitution or not?
• The Supreme Court in the Keshvananda Bharti v/s State of Kerala (1973) case overruled its earlier decision (Berubari Case 1965) and made it clear that the Preamble is a part of the constitution and is subject to the amending power of the Parliament as any other constitutional provisions, subject to basic structure of the constitution.
• However, it is not an essential part of the constitution; still it serves as an important guide to interpret the true spirit of the Constitution.
Whether Preamble can be amended or not?
• The Supreme Court in Keshvananda Bharti (1973) case has held that, Preamble may be amended subject to basic structure of the constitution. In other words the amendment should not destroy the basic features of it.
• In fact, Preamble has been amended by 42nd Amendment 1976 whereby three words viz, socialist, secular and integrity were added.
Significance of the Preamble:
• The Preamble declares that it is the people of India who had enacted, adopted and given the Constitution to themselves. Thus, sovereignty lies ultimately with the people.
• It also declares the ideals and aspirations of the people that need to be achieved.
• Ideals are different from aspirations. While ideals have been achieved with the Constitution proclaiming India as Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic’, the aspirations include justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, which are yet to be achieved. The ideals are the means to achieve aspirations.
Ideals (mentioned in Preamble):
• The word ‘Sovereign’ emphasizes that there is no authority outside India on which the country is in any way dependent.
• By the word ‘Socialist'(added by the 42nd Amendment Act 1976), the Constitution means that the achievement of socialistic pattern of society through democratic means.
• India is a ‘Secular (added by the 42nd Amendment Act 1976) state’ does not mean that India is non-religious or irreligious, or anti-religious, but simply that the State in itself is not religious and follows the age-old Indian principle of “Sarva Dharma Samabhava”. It also means that the State shall not discriminate against the citizens in any way on the basis of religion.
• The State regards religion to be the private affair of a person including the right to believe or not to believe in a religion.
• The term ‘Democratic’ means that the rulers elected by the people only, have the authority to run the government. India follows a system of ‘Representative Democracy’, where the MPs and MLAs are elected directly by the people.
• Efforts are being made to take democracy to the grassroots through Panchayats and Municipalities (73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment Acts, 1992). However, the Preamble envisages not only political democracy but also social and economic democracies.
• The word ‘Republic’ means, the head of the state is an elected representative (directly or indirectly) and not the hereditary monarch.
Aspirations to be achieved (mentioned in Preamble):
• The Indian Constitution considers political justice to be the means to achieve social and economic justice by making the state more and more welfare oriented in nature.
• Political Justice in India is guaranteed by universal adult suffrage without any sort of qualification, e.g. education, property, social status and tax return.
• While social justice is ensured by abolishing any title of honour (Art. 18) and untouchability (Art.17), economic justice is guaranteed primarily through the Directive Principles.
• The Indian Constitution guarantees six democratic freedoms to the individuals under Art-19 and Right to Freedom of Religion under Arts-25-28. Thus providing essential liberty to the society for their fullest development of intellectual, mental and spiritual thoughts.
• Our Constitution ensures equality in the matters of status and of opportunity by declaring any discrimination illegal by the state only on the basis of religion, caste, sex or place of birth (Art-15) by throwing open public places to all by abolishing untouchability (Art-17) and by abolishing titles of honour Art-18).
• However, various laws and regulations have been passed for the upliftment of SCs, STs, OBCs, Children and also for women (Protective Discrimination).
• Fraternity as enshrined in the Constitution means a sense of brotherhood prevailing amongst all the sections of the people. This is sought to be achieved by making the State secular, guaranteeing fundamental and other rights equally to people of all sections, and protecting their interests. However, fraternity is an evolving process and by the 42nd amendment, the word `integrity’ was added, thus giving it a broader meaning.