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Introduction

The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution in the world. It is the bedrock to all of the Indian polity. The Preamble is a brief introductory statement to the Constitution of India. It constitutes the philosophy embodying the ideals and aspirations to which the national movement committed. The Preamble can be referred to as the preface which highlights the entire Constitution.

Introduction: Preamble | Indian Polity for UPSC CSE

Original Text of Preamble

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 [3] of the Nation;
  • In Our Constituent Assembly This 26th Day of November 1949, Do Hereby Adopt, Enact and Give to Ourselves This Constitution.

Original Text of the PreambleOriginal Text of the Preamble

Question for Introduction: Preamble
Try yourself:The following are enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution of India: 

(1) Equality of status and opportunity
(2) Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship
(3) Justice- social, economic and political
(4) Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual
(5) Unity and integrity of the nation.

What is the correct order in which these appear in the Preamble?

View Solution


History of Preamble

1) The source of the Preamble is the historic Objective Resolution of J.L Nehru presented on 13th December 1946 and later adopted by the Constituent Assembly on January 22, 1947. That resolution was '.....a declaration, a firm resolve, a pledge, an undertaking and for all of us a dedication'.

The objectives of the resolution were:

  • India shall be an independent sovereign republic; 
  • The territories that now comprise British India, the territories that now form the Indian States, and such other parts of India as are outside British India and the States as well as such other territories as are willing to be constituted into Independent Sovereign India, shall be a Union of them all;
  • The said territories, shall possess and retain the status of autonomous units together with residuary powers, and  exercise all powers and functions of government and administration, save and except such powers and functions as are vested in or assigned to the Union, or resulting therefrom;
  • Power and authority of Sovereign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of governments are derived from the people; 
  • All the people of India shall be guaranteed and secured justice, social, economic and political; equality of status, of opportunity, and before the law; freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship, vocation, association and action, subject to the law and public morality;
  • Adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes;
  • The integrity of the territory of the Republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea, and  air shall be maintained according to justice and the law of civilised nations; and
  • The ancient land attain its rightful and honoured place in the world and makes its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind

Beohar Rammanohar SinhaBeohar Rammanohar Sinha

2) The Preamble was designed by Beohar Rammanohar Sinha - a famed artist from Jabalpur.

3) The date of adoption of the Constitution of India i.e. 26 November 1949 is mentioned in the Preamble.
4) Article 394 contains all those articles which came into existence on 26 November 1949.
5) The original copies of the Constitution were written by hand by Prem Behari Narain Raizada.

Prem Bihari Narain RaizadaPrem Bihari Narain Raizada

Question for Introduction: Preamble
Try yourself:The philosophy of the Preamble is based on which of the following: 
View Solution


Interpretation

The Preamble declares that the Union of India has 5 basic characteristics- Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic. These are supplemented with certain key values that are enshrined in the Constitution- Justice, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity.

Values of ConstitutionValues of Constitution

1. Sovereign

  • Sovereignty means the independent authority of a state.
  • It means that it has the power to legislate on any subject; and that it is not subject to control of any other state or external power.
  • The words ‘We the People of India’ indicate that the source of all authority under the Constitution is the people of India and not any external or internal authority.
  • However, India’s membership in the Commonwealth of Nations should not be considered as India accepting the British monarch as its sovereign head.
  • The Constitution of India does not recognise. It is only a voluntary declaration which indicates a free association with no legal obligation.

2. Republic

  • It implies the head of the Indian state, the President, is elected by the people and all the offices including that of the President is open to all citizens.
  • India became independent in 1947 as a Dominion within the British Commonwealth; however, in 1950 following the adoption of the Constitution, India became a Republic.

3. Democracy

  • It implies an established form of Constitution which gets its authority from the will of the people expressed in an election.
  • However, the term Democratic is a broad concept. In the Preamble it means not just political democracy but social and economic democracy as well.

4. Socialist

  • This term was included in the Preamble through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act.
  • To resolve the vagueness of the term, the 45th Constitutional Amendment Act provided the definition that Socialist Republic is a republic in which there is freedom from all forms of exploitation, social, political or economic.
  • However, this definition was opposed in the Rajya Sabha and was deleted from the Act.
  • As a result, to this day the term Socialist is undefined.

5. Secular

  • It was also inserted by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act in 1976.
  • It highlights that the State shall have no religion of its own and all persons shall be equally entitled to freedom of conscience and right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion.
  • The 45th Constitution Amendment Bill defined 'Secular Republic' as a "Republic in which there is equal respect for all religions.”
  • But this definition was removed from the Act following opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

6. Justice

Meaning of Justice as per the ConstitutionMeaning of Justice as per the Constitution

  • Justice in the Preamble means common good.
  • Justice stands for rule of law, absence of arbitrariness and a system of equal rights, freedom and opportunities for all in a society.
  • It is stretched to the social, economic and political arena.
  • Social justice aims at abolishing the artificial social barriers like caste, untouchability etc. In a backward county like ours, such ideals are preconditions to a healthy and genuine democracy.
  • Economic justice means attainment of equality in economic status and promotion of the equitable distribution of material resources. Economic justice is an important guideline in shaping the economic policy of the government.
  • Political justice implies fair and free participation of the people in the political process of the country. It involves free and fair election, the participation of the masses in the universal franchise, non-discrimination on the ground of sex, religion, etc.

7. Liberty

  • The idea of Liberty refers to the freedom on the activities of Indian nationals.
  • This establishes that there are no unreasonable restrictions on Indian citizens in terms of what they think, their manner of expressions and the way they wish to follow up their thoughts in action.
  • These are enshrined in the Constitution under the chapter on Fundamental Rights.
  • However, liberty does not mean freedom to do anything, and it must be exercised within the constitutional limits.

8. Equality

  • Guaranteeing of rights is meaningless unless all inequality is banished from the social structure and each individual has assured equality of status and opportunity.
  • The equality of status is provided by prohibiting discrimination based on the grounds of religion, race, sex, colour, place of residence and the like.
  • It is supplemented by the prohibition of untouchability and by the abolition of titles.
  • Moreover, equality of opportunity is provided by the guarantee of rule of law signifying equality before law and non-discrimination in matters of public employment.
  • Further, the Constitution also seeks to achieve political equality by providing for universal adult franchise.

9. Fraternity

  • This refers to a feeling of brotherhood and a sense of belonging with the country among its people.
  • It embraces psychological as well as territorial dimensions of National Integration.
  • It leaves no room for regionalism, communalism, casteism etc., which hinders the unity of the State.
  • It assures (i) The dignity of the individual and (ii) the unity and integrity of the nation.
  • The word 'integrity' has been added to the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment.

Question for Introduction: Preamble
Try yourself:‘Economic Justice’ as one of the objectives of the Indian Constitution has been provided in:
View Solution

Scope and Significance of the Preamble

  • The Preamble declares that it is the people of India, who had enacted, adopted and given the Constitution to themselves. Furthermore, the source of all authority under the Constitution is derived from the people of India.
  • It states the objectives—justice, liberty, equality and fraternity— which the constitution seeks to establish and promote for its citizens.
  • Although not an operative part of the Constitution, the Preamble aids the legal interpretation of the Constitution where the language may be ambiguous.
  • It describes the basic type of government assured to the people by the Constitution— Sovereign, Secular, Democratic Republic.
  • It states the date of adoption and enactment of the Preamble.

Limitations of the Preamble

  • The Preamble is not considered as the source of any substantial government power and also cannot place restrictions on the powers of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
  • It cannot be enforced in a court of law and has no powers to override other provisions in the Constitution.
  • It is only resorted to if and when legal ambiguity arise in the provisions of the Constitution.

Question for Introduction: Preamble
Try yourself:Which of the following is true about preamble? 

(1) It is not enforceable by courts. 
(2) It is part of constitution. 
(3) Preamble enshrines narrow objectives of governments.

Choose the correct answer: 

View Solution

Amendability of the Preamble

  • In 1950, the Supreme Court opined in the Gopalan vs. State of Madras Case that the Preamble is not enforceable in a court of law.
  • Supreme Court again upheld the non-enforceability of the Preamble and further maintained that the Preamble is not a part of the Constitution and hence cannot be amended by the Parliament under Article 368 in the Berubari Union Case, 1960.
  • However, the Supreme Court rejected the above views and held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution and that it is subject to amendment under Art. 368 in the famous Kesavananda Bharati Case, 1973.

Keshavananda BharatiKeshavananda Bharati

  • The Court also ruled that the 'basic features' of the Preamble are beyond the amending power of parliament.
  • In the 1994 S.R Bommai Case, the Supreme Court laid down new applications of the Preamble:
    • The Preamble indicates the basic structure of the Constitution.
    • A proclamation under Article 356(1), which violates any of the basic features, as summarized in the Preamble of the Constitution is liable to be struck down as unconstitutional.
    • Any political party, which appeals to religion in its election manifesto, acts in violation of the basic structure, and the President may impose President’s Rule on a report of the Governor that a party has issued such a manifesto.
  • This position was further upheld by the Court in the LIC Case of 1995.
  • In fact, the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976 had amended the Preamble and added three words into it - Socialist, Secular and Integrity. It is the only instance when the Preamble was amended.

Amended PreambleAmended Preamble

Question for Introduction: Preamble
Try yourself:Consider the following statements: 

(1) Preamble has been amended only once through 44th constitutional amendment act 1976. 
(2) Secular, Socialist and liberty were added to the constitution through the 42nd Constitutional amendment act 1976.

Which of the above statements is true?

View Solution

Question for Introduction: Preamble
Try yourself:Consider the following statements

(1) The word secular appeared nowhere in the Constitution before it was inserted into the Preamble. 
(2) The word secular signifies state will protect religion of majority in state.

Which of the following statements are true?

View Solution


Practice Questions

Q1. The Preamble of the Constitution read along with the Directive Principles of State Policy promotes the concept of social justice. Analyse. (250 words)
Q2. The Preamble embodies the philosophy of the Constitution and yet it is not enforceable at a Court of law. Explain. (250 words)

The document Introduction: Preamble | Indian Polity for UPSC CSE is a part of the UPSC Course Indian Polity for UPSC CSE.
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FAQs on Introduction: Preamble - Indian Polity for UPSC CSE

1. What is the purpose of the preamble in a constitution?
Ans. The preamble in a constitution serves as an introductory statement that outlines the goals and objectives of the document. It sets the tone for the rest of the constitution and provides a broad overview of the principles and values on which the constitution is based.
2. Is the preamble legally binding?
Ans. While the preamble itself is not legally binding, it is considered an important part of the constitution and can be referred to when interpreting the provisions of the constitution. It helps in understanding the spirit and intent behind the constitution and can influence judicial decisions.
3. Can the preamble be amended?
Ans. The preamble of a constitution is usually not amenable to amendment. It is considered to be a part of the basic structure of the constitution and altering it would require significant changes to the underlying principles and values of the constitution.
4. What does "sovereign" mean in the preamble?
Ans. In the preamble, "sovereign" refers to the ultimate authority and power of the people to govern themselves. It signifies that the government derives its authority from the people and is accountable to them.
5. Are there any limitations to the preamble?
Ans. The preamble, although an important part of the constitution, does not confer any specific rights or obligations. It is a statement of intent and does not have the same legal force as the substantive provisions of the constitution. Its limitations lie in its interpretive value rather than its enforceability.
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