In this blog we will break down the preamble into chunks and try to understand its elements. A sound understanding of the Preamble can prove to be very beneficial for preparation of judicial services as well.
Most people don’t pay attention to punctuation. The Indian Constitution has been drafted very diligently and it is very important to understand why things are the way they are. Each comma, semi-colon and colon is important.
We won’t be discussing the meaning of each word of the Preamble, we will only point out things which probably have missed to notice and then we will let you and your curiosity explore the Preamble. We expect that you will try to read the preamble in more detailed manner after finishing this blog.
Also, do you know that the Constitution is referred to as “Bare Text”. You do not call it a “Bare Act”.
Table of Contents
According to M.P. Jain the Preamble of the Constitution of India answer the following questions:
- What is source of the Constitution; and
- Who drafted the Constitution; and
- What is nature of Indian Polity; and
- What are the objectives sought by the Constitution?
The source of the Constitution of India is “We the people of India”. The Constitution emanates from the people of India. The people of India have given to themselves the Indian Constitution.
The Indian Constitution has been drafted by “the Constituent Assembly”.
The nature of Indian Polity or the Government of India is “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic”. Have you ever noticed that there are no commas to separate these five words? It does not have any commas to separate the words because all the five words are adjectives to each other. It means a sovereign which is socialist, and a sovereign socialist which is secular, and sovereign socialist secular state which is democratic, and a state sovereign socialist secular democratic state which is republic.
The Constitution of India seeks to secure “Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”.
The preamble of our Indian Constitution starts with the words ‘We, the People of India’ which has been inspired from the Constitution of the United States of America, 1787.
The words “socialist” and “secular” have been added to the Constitution under section 2(a) of the 42nd Amendment, 1976.
The words “Unity and Integrity of the Nations” have been added to the Constitution under section 2(a) of the 42nd Amendment, 1976.
The Constitution of India, which made India a sovereign, democratic republic, was adopted, enacted and partially enforced on November 26, 1949.
Few of the Articles of the Constitution came into force on November 26, 1949 itself are Article 5,6,7,8,9,60,324,366,379,380,388,391,392 and 393 (refer to Article 394 of the Constitution).
The rest of the Constitution came into force on 26 January, 1950 which is celebrated as Republic Day.
The Preamble to the Constitution be amended under Article 368 of the Constitution, however, the Basic Structure of the Constitution can not be amended. This is called the Doctrine of Basic Structure. The idea for doctrine of Basic Structure was initially conceived in the case of Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan.
However, it was the Kesavananda Bharati case that brought this doctrine into fame. It held that the “basic structure of the Constitution could not be revoked even by a constitutional amendment”. The judgement listed some basic structures of the constitution as:
- Supremacy of the Constitution
- Unity and sovereignty of India
- Democratic and republican form of government
- Federal character of the Constitution
- Secular character of the Constitution
- Separation of power
- Individual freedom
Over time and many judicial pronouncements, many other features have also been added to this list of basic structure features. Some of them are:
- Rule of law
- Judicial review
- Parliamentary system
- Rule of equality
- Harmony and balance between the Fundamental Rights and DPSP
- Free and fair elections
- Limited power of the parliament to amend the Constitution
- Power of the Supreme Court under Articles 32, 136, 142 and 147
- Power of the High Court under Articles 226 and 227
Any law or amendment that violates these principles can be struck down by the apex court on the grounds that they distort the basic structure of the Constitution. There is no strict definition as to what comes under basic structure, what constitutes basic structure has to be judicially determined every time a matter comes up before the apex court.
The terms sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic in the Preamble suggests the nature of the state.
- India is a “Sovereign” Nation, refers it is no longer under the possession of any colony or crown. India can take verdicts on its own for the welfare of the country for internal (National) matters and as well as for external (International) matters.
- India is a Socialist State, the word “Socialism” was inserted in 1976 in the preamble. The word socialist signifies that India is accountable for its citizen to deliver them Social, Economic and Political justice. No Exploitation on basis of anything (caste, religion, color, etc) and equal distribution of income, wealth and resources to its citizens.
- India is a “Secular” State. This word is inserted in the Preamble by 42nd amendment, 1976. It was inserted just to show the secular nature of the constitution. It states that all religions should enjoy equality of status and respect. This word assures equal freedom to all religions in India.
- India is a “Democratic” State. The right to vote is one of the feature which ensures equal political right to every citizen. The People have the power to change their government through elections. The government enjoys limited powers and it should follow the Constitution.
- India is a “Republic”. This word states that India is not under any Monarch or is not ruled by a nominated head of state. President of India is the sovereign head of state. [Sorry to say, but in India, President is just “A Title”]
There are numerous judgements which lay down that, indeed, the Preamble be used for interpretation.
In the case of M. Nagraj v. UOI, the Supreme Court held that Preamble may be invoked to determine the ambit of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. The process of interpreting the Preamble of the Constitution is an inseparable part of the art and the science of the interpretation of the Constitution. Constitution must be construed in a wide and liberal manner so that the constitution provision does not get fossilized but remains flexible enough to maintain newly emerging problems and challenges.
The vexed question whether the Preamble is a part of the Constitution or not was dealt with in two leading cases on the subject:
- In re Berubari Case
- Keshavananda Bharati case
The holding in Berubari case has been succinctly summed up later by Shelat and Grover, JJ. in Keshavananda case (vide para 534) as under:
- A Preamble serves as a key to open the minds of the makers, and shows the general purpose for which they made the several provisions in the Constitution; and
- The Preamble is not a part of our Constitution; and
- It is not a source of the several powers conferred on government under the provisions of the Constitution; and
- Such powers embrace those expressly granted in the body of the Constitution ‘and such as may be implied from those granted’.
Kesavananda Bharati case has created history. For the first time, a bench of 13 judges assembled and sat in its original jurisdiction hearing the writ petition. Thirteen judges placed on record 11 separate opinions. To the extent necessary for the purpose of the Preamble, it can be safely concluded that the majority in Kesavanada Bharati case leans in favor of holding:
- that the Preamble to the Constitution of India is a apart of Constitution; and
- that the Preamble is not a source of power nor a source of limitations or prohibitions; and
- the Preamble has a significant role to play in the interpretation of statutes, also in the interpretation of provisions of the Constitution.
In the words of Jagan Mohan Reddy, J.-“The Preamble to the Constitution which our Founding Fathers have, after the Constitution was framed, finally settled to conform to the ideals and aspirations of the people embodied in that instrument, have in ringing tone declared the purposes and objectives which the Constitution was intended no sub serve.”
Kesavanada Bharati case is a milestone and also a turning point in the constitutional history of India. D.G. Palekar, J. held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution and, therefore, is amendable under Article 368. He termed submission that the Fundamental Rights are an elaboration of the Preamble, as “an overstatement and half- truth”. Undoubtedly, the Constitution is intended to be a vehicle by which the goals set out are hoped to be reached.
In the opinion of H.R. Khanna, J. the preamble is a part of the Constitution and walks before the Constitution”. S.D. Dwivedi, J. expressing his concurrence with the conclusion arrived at by A.N. Ray, J., held that the Preamble was a part of the Constitution because the heading “The Constitution of India” was placed above the Preamble. The Preamble cannot be a source of reading any inherent and implied limitations on the amending power. It is noteworthy that Justice Dwivedi has held the Preamble to be a part of the Constitution and then also referred to it as a provision of it.
In view of the provisions contained in Article 368 of the Constitution, Justice Beg discarded the contention that a creature of the Constitution could not possibly possess the power to create a recreate the Constitution as Article 368 expressly provides for the expansion or diminution of the scope of the powers of amendment. The amending power so as to meet the challenges of the times offered by rapidly changing social, political, economic, national and international conditions and situations was kept wide, elastic and extensible by the Constitution makers. In conclusion, Beg J. held that there was no limitation on the powers of constitutional amendment found in Article 368.
“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.”
- A.I.R 2007 SC 71. ↑