The Preamble to the Indian Constitution: Meaning and Significance

21 Jun 2024  Read 1454 Views

Most things we purchase come with a manual explaining how to use them and their purpose. Similarly, every act or piece of legislation comes with a preamble. Think of it as an introduction from the lawmakers, explaining why a particular law was created. The preamble helps clear up any doubts about the law it introduces.

Talking about the preamble to the Indian Constitution is a short 73-word introduction that explains the main ideas guiding Indian democracy. It sets the stage for the Constitution, describing the vision and principles the framers had for the nation.

But the preamble is more than just a formal introduction. Each word was carefully chosen to capture the essence of India's identity and goals. Keep reading to understand the preamble, its purpose and its status in this blog in a very simple and easy way. So, let's start!

Background of the Preamble

The ideas behind the Preamble of India's Constitution were based on Jawaharlal Nehru's Objectives Resolution, which the Constituent Assembly adopted on 22 January 1947. 

Even though the Preamble can't be enforced in court, it explains the goals of the Constitution and helps interpret the Articles when the language is unclear.

Why the Preamble in the Constitution is important?

The Preamble is super important for the Indian Constitution for several reasons:

  • It clearly explains the aims and aspirations of our Constitution.

  • It outlines the ideals our founding fathers wanted future governments to achieve.

  • It clearly describes the nature of the Indian political system, and it declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic

  • It details the type of society India aims to establish, ensuring economic, social and political justice. The goal is to create an equal and fair society in India.

  • The Preamble includes the date of its adoption, which is 26 November 1949.

From where Preamble is Borrowed?

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution draws inspiration from various sources:

- The concept of the Preamble itself is taken from the Constitution of the USA.

- The idea of justice, encompassing social, economic, and political aspects, is borrowed from the Constitution of the Soviet Union (Russia).

- The principles of a Republic, along with the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity, are from the French Constitution.

- The terms ‘Socialist’, 'Secular' and ‘Integrity’ were added to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976.

Components of the Preamble 

1. First and foremost, it clearly defines the nature of the Indian political system.

The beginning of the Preamble states:

"WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC, REPUBLIC"

It means that the Preamble tells us that the power of the Constitution comes from the people of India. As it starts with "We the people of India," showing that the Constitution gets its authority from the Indian citizens.

Let's understand the meaning of each term

i. SOVEREIGN

"Sovereign" means that India is not dependent on or a dominion of any other nation but is an independent state. It's essential to understand that the people of India have decided to make India a sovereign state. This means the ultimate authority to determine the nature of Indian polity lies with the people. If they wish to change the political nature of India, they have the power to do so.

It's also important to note that in India, the Constitution is supreme, not the parliament or the judiciary. The Constitution holds the highest authority because the people of India have given it to themselves. Therefore, the ultimate power rests with the people, and they can amend the Constitution whenever they choose.

ii. SOCIALIST
The term "Socialist" signifies that the state aims to create an egalitarian society (where all are considered equal, regardless of gender, caste, age, etc). This goal can be achieved through social and economic democracy. The Constitution attempts to establish these forms of democracy through certain Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy.

iii. SECULAR
"Secular" means that the state has no official religion. India, as a state, will respect all religions equally. No religion will receive preferential treatment, and no religion will face discrimination.

iv. DEMOCRATIC
"Democratic" implies that the ultimate power lies with the people. This power can be exercised either directly or indirectly. India has chosen an indirect form of democracy, also known as representative democracy. In this system, the people elect representatives who exercise supreme power, govern, and make laws on their behalf.

v. REPUBLIC
"Republic" means that the head of the state is elected, not appointed through nomination or heredity. This is exemplified by how the President of India is elected indirectly for a fixed term of five years.

2. Secondly, it defines the type of justice the Indian Constitution aims to achieve. 

In this context, the Preamble says:

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

Now, understand the meaning of each term

i. Social Justice

Social justice means ensuring that the benefits of a country's growth reach those from the lowest strata of society

For example, the concept of reservation under Article 15 of the Indian Constitution aims to achieve social justice. It allows people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enjoy the benefits of India's progress.

ii. Economic Justice

Economic justice ensures that no one in the country is denied success due to low or no income. In other words, poverty should not prevent people from participating in the country's growth. The State has taken several steps to achieve this, such as the 103rd Constitutional Amendment, which provides reservation benefits based on economic grounds. This is an effort to achieve economic justice.

iii. Political Justice

Political justice means that every citizen, regardless of race, caste, creed, religion, gender, economic status, educational qualification, profession, etc., has the right to participate in the political processes of the country.

For example, participating in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assembly elections.

3. Thirdly, it also outlines the type of liberty that an individual is entitled to.

In this context, the Preamble states:

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship

Let's understand the meaning of each term:

i. Liberty of Thought: This means giving individuals the right to think as they wish, including the right not to think.

ii. Liberty of Expression: This means that individuals have the right to express themselves in any manner they choose. This right is especially important for people in creative fields. These rights are crucial for ensuring a free exchange of opinions and information in society and the country.

iii. Liberty of Belief: This means that individuals have the right to form their own belief systems.

iv. Liberty of Faith: This ensures that individuals can choose to have faith in any practice, convention, or religion they wish.

v. Liberty of Worship: This ensures that individuals can worship any deity they choose.

The Constitution of India attempts to provide these liberties to individuals through various articles contained in the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. Article 19 is one such example.

4. Fourthly, it also talks about the type of fairness the Constitution should aim for. 

Here's what the Preamble says about this:

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

Now, let's break down what each term means:

i. Equality of status: This means that every Indian citizen is seen as equal in the eyes of the law, regardless of their position in society.

ii. Equality of opportunity: This means that every Indian citizen has the right to the same chances in life, no matter their social standing. For instance, the Right to Education Act aims to make this a reality.

Our founding leaders worked to achieve these goals through Articles 14 to 18 of the Indian Constitution. 

5. Finally, the Preamble also mentions the importance of encouraging a sense of fraternity among all citizens by upholding each individual's dignity and preserving the nation's unity and integrity.

As the Preamble mentions:

FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;

Fraternity refers to a sense of brotherhood and emotional connection with the country and its people. It plays a role in promoting dignity and unity within the nation.

The Indian Constitution aims to achieve this ideal through various provisions in the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSPs) and Fundamental Duties.

For example, Article 39 states that the State must take measures to ensure the healthy development of children. Similarly, Article 51A(d) outlines the duty of every Indian citizen to defend the nation and contribute to national service when required.

If you want to read about constitutional bodies in India, then click on the links to learn more about them. Part 1 & Part 2

Is the Preamble Part of the Indian Constitution?

In the Berubari case in 1960, the Supreme Court ruled that the preamble is not part of the Constitution and doesn't limit Parliament's powers. However, in the subsequent Keshavanand case 1973, the Court clarified that the preamble is indeed an integral part of the Indian Constitution.

Can the Preamble be Amended?

In the Keshavanand case, the Supreme Court ruled that while the preamble can be amended, its 'basic features' cannot be changed. For instance, the terms "Sovereign Democratic Republic" in the preamble are considered basic features that cannot be altered.

Conclusion

Clearly, the Preamble to the Indian Constitution is like an introduction that explains what our country stands for and what we want to achieve. It talks about things like freedom, equality, and justice for everyone. It's a kind of roadmap that guides our country's laws and goals, making sure we work towards a fair and united India where everyone has a chance to succeed. 

Even though it's not technically a part of the Constitution that courts can enforce, it still holds a lot of importance in showing what we value as a nation and where we want to go in the future.

About the Author: Anirudh Nikhare | 66 Post(s)

Anirudh did his Bachelor's in Law and has practical experience in IPR, Contracts, and Corporate. He is your go-to legal content writer turning head-scratching legal topics into easy-to-understand gems of wisdom. Through his blog, he aims to empower readers with knowledge, making legal concepts digestible and applicable to everyday life.

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