Preamble and Salient Features of The Indian Constitution

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#1 What is Preamble?

The Preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that reflects the hopes and aspirations of the people. The preamble can be referred to as the preface which highlights the entire Constitution. It embodies the basic philosophy and the fundamental values on which our constitution is based.

#2 Inspiration for Preamble to The Indian Constitution

The ideals behind the Preamble to India’s Constitution were laid down by Jawaharlal Nehru’s Objectives Resolution, adopted by the Constituent Assembly on January 22, 1947. Although not enforceable in court, the Preamble states the objectives of the Constitution and acts as an aid during the interpretation of Articles when language is found ambiguous.

#3 Preamble Reads

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;


#4 What does the Preamble indicates?

The Preamble indicates:

1) Source of the authority of the Constitution lies with the people of India.

2) It declares India to be a socialist, secular, secular, democratic and a republic nation.

3) The objectives stated in the Preamble are to secure justice, liberty, equality to all citizens. It seeks to promote fraternity among the people assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.

4) It mentions the date (November 26, 1949) on which the constitution was adopted.

#5 Nature of Indian State as per the Preamble to the Constitution

 Sovereign – The Preamble proclaims that India is a Sovereign State. ‘Sovereign’ means that India has its own independent authority and it is not a dominion or dependent state of any other external power. The Legislature of India has the powers to enact laws in the country subject to certain limitations imposed by the Constitution.

Socialist –The term “Socialist” was added to the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976. India has adopted ‘Democratic Socialism’ which means the achievement of socialist ends through democratic means. It holds faith in a mixed economy where both private and public sectors co-exist side by side.

Secular – The term secular in the Constitution of India means that all the religions in India get equal respect, protection and support from the state. Indian concept of Secularism is positive secularism as compared to negative secularism in the West (State is strictly divorced from religion). The word ‘Secular’ was incorporated in the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976.

Democratic – The term Democratic indicates that the Constitution has established a form of government that gets its authority from the will of the people expressed in an election. That means the supreme power lies with the peopleIt calls into activity the intelligence and character of ordinary men and women.

Republic – In a republic, the Head of the state is elected by people directly or indirectly. Political sovereignty is vested in the people rather than a monarch as in the case of Britain (Britain is a democracy but not a republic, it is a constitutional monarchy).In India, the president is elected indirectly by the people.

#6 Objectives enshrined in the Preamble and their importance 

JUSTICE – The term Justice in the Preamble embraces three distinct forms: Social, economic and political.

1) Social justice in the Preamble means that the Constitution wants to create a more equitable society based on equal social status.

2) Economic justice means equitable distribution of wealth among the individual members of the society so that wealth is not concentrated in a few hands. Economic justice is the main aim of the state as envisaged by Directive Principles. (Concept of welfare State)

3) Political Justice means that all citizens have equal rights in political participation. Indian Constitution provides for universal adult suffrage and equal value for each vote.

LIBERTY –Liberty comes from the Latin root word “liber” meaning freedom. It is the opportunity to develop oneself fully.

1) The Constitution (Supreme Law of Land) secures to all citizens liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship through Fundamental Rights, which are enforceable in the Court of Law. (Art.19). Indian Constitution embodies the concept of Positive liberty. For liberty to be enjoyed by everyone there should be reasonable restraints. The freedom of many requires restraint of law on freedom of some, hence it is said that “If there are no laws, there is no liberty”.

2) The Ideals of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” are taken from the French Revolution. “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” has also given an influence as natural law to the First Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Indian constitution apart from preamble these are well reflected in fundamental rights and directive principles as well.

EQUALITY – The term ‘equality’ means absence of special privileges to any section of the society and the provision of adequate opportunities for all individuals without any discrimination. The Preamble secures to all citizens equality of status and opportunity. This provision embraces three dimensions of equality – civic, political and economic.

FRATERNITY– Fraternity means a sense of brotherhood. According to the Preamble, fraternity assures two things – (1) dignity of the individual (2) Unity and integrity of the nation. The word ‘integrity’ was added by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976.

Importance of Objectives: It provides a way of life. It includes fraternity, liberty, and equality as the notion of a happy life and which cannot be taken from each other.

1) Liberty cannot be divorced from equality; equality cannot be divorced from liberty; nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity.

2) Without equality, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many.

3) Equality without liberty would kill individual initiative.

4) Without fraternity, liberty would produce the supremacy of the few over the many.

5) Without fraternity, liberty and equality could not become a natural course of things

#7 Is the Preamble a part of the Indian Constitution 

Interpretation by the Supreme Court:

1. Berubari Union case, 1960 – The Supreme Court said that the Preamble shows the general purposes behind the several provisions in the Constitution, and is thus a key to the minds of  the makers of the Constitution. Despite this recognition of the significance of the Preamble, the Supreme Court held that the Preamble is not a part of the Constitution.

2. Kesavananda Bharati case, 1973 – Supreme Court rejected the earlier opinion (in the Berubari Case) and held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution. It observed that the Preamble is of extreme importance and the Constitution should be read and interpreted in the light of the grand and noble vision expressed in the Preamble. But it has no legal effect independent of other parts.

3. LIC vs. Union of India Case, 1995 – The Supreme Court again held that the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution but it is not directly enforceable in court of justice.

#8 Amendment to the Preamble

The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution – amended the Preamble and changed the following:
1) Description of India from “sovereign democratic republic” to a “sovereign, socialist secular democratic republic”
2) Changed the words “unity of the nation” to “unity and integrity of the nation”

#9 Sources of the Indian Constitution 

  SourcesBorrowed Features
Government of India Act 1935Major part (2/3rd part) is taken up from this legislation. (1)distribution of power among centre and states (2) Office of Governor (3) Judiciary (4) Public Service Commission (5) emergency provision (6) Administrative Detail
Australian Constitution(1)Concurrent list (2)Freedom of trade, commerce and intercourse (3)Joint-sitting of the two Houses of Parliament
Canadian Constitution(1)Federation with a strong Centre (2) Vesting of residuary powers in the Centre (3) Appointment of state governors by the Centre (4)Advisory jurisdiction of the Supreme Court
Irish Constitution(1)Directive Principles of State Policy (2) Nomination of members to Rajya Sabha (3)Method of election of the President
Japanese Constitution(1)Procedure Established by law
Soviet Union’s Constitution(1)Fundamental duties (2)Ideal of justice (social, economic and political) in the Preamble
US Constitution(1) Fundamental rights (2) Independence of judiciary (3)Judicial review (4)Impeachment of the president (5) Removal of Supreme Court and High Court judges (6) Post of vice-president
German (Weimar) Constitution(1) Suspension of Fundamental Rights during emergency
South African Constitution(1) Procedure for amendment in the Indian Constitution (2) Election of members of Rajya Sabha
French Constitution(1)Republic (2) Ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in the Preamble

#10 Important features of the Indian Constitution

Peculiar features of Indian Constitution are as follows:

1. Lengthiest Constitution in the World ( 448 articles and 12 Schedules)

2. Framed From Different Sources

3. Federal System with Unitary Features:-

Indian Constitution includes major  federal characteristics of governance such as:-(1) Dual government system (center and state) (2)Division of powers between the three state organs (executive, judiciary and legislature) (3)Constitutional supremacy (4)Independent judiciary (5) Bicameralism (lower and upper house)

Indian Constitution is unique in the sense that it includes many unitary features such as:-(1)Strong Centre (2)Indian Constitution is unique in sense that it includes many unitary features such as:-
(1)Strong Centre (2) All India services common to the center and the states (3) Emergency
Provisions (4) Appointments of Governors by President.

4. Independent as Well As Integrated Judicial System

5. Parliamentary Form of Government:-India has adopted the parliamentary form of government where the President is the constitutional head of state. The Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister is the real executive. PM and the ministers are appointed from the members of parliament implying that the executive emerges from the legislature. The President has to appoint the leader of the majority party in Lok Sabha (leader of a group of parties) as the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers are collectively responsible to the lower House of the Parliament i.e. Lok Sabha. They can remain at the helm of affairs so long as they enjoy the confidence of Lok Sabha. Parliament (Lok Sabha) may remove them from power by expressing no confidence against the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers.

6. Balance between the Sovereignty of Parliament and Judicial Supremacy:-Parliament is the  representative of the people’s will, has the authority to make laws and it can also amend the major part of the Constitution. Also the he Supreme Court through Articles 13, 32 and 136, is vested with the power of judicial review. 

7. Blend of Rigidity (Special procedure for Amendment ) & Flexibility (Ordinary procedure)

Simple Majority: It means a majority of more than 50% of members present on a particular day and voting on any bill or issue. Bills and motions passed through Simple majority are: (1) The Ordinary bills (2) Vote of Thanks on President’s address (3)Censure motion (4) Money bills (4) Financial bill (5) Election of Speaker (6) Resolution seeking the approval of Parliament for imposition of President’s rule in any state (7) No confidence motion and Confidence motion in Lok Sabha.

Absolute Majority: This refers to a majority of more than 50% of the House’s total membership. In case of Lok Sabha, it will be 273 or more (i.e. 50% of 545).It is used during the general elections, for government formation at the Centre and the States. Without it, there would be an unstable government or hung assembly.

Effective Majority: This refers to a majority of more than 50% of the effective strength of the House. Effective Strength = Total strength – Vacancies. It is used in (1) Removal of the Chairman of Rajya sabha (Vice President of India, Deputy Chairman in the Rajya Sabha (Article 67(b)). (2) Removal of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the State Legislatures.

Special Majority: Any type of majority other than simple, absolute and effective are called Special Majorities. There are four types of special majorities in reference to Indian Constitutional framework: (1) Special Majority according to Article 249 (2) Special Majority according to Article 368 (3) Special Majority according to Article 368 + 50 percent state ratification by a simple majority (4) Special Majority according to Article 61







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