What does the word Preamble mean?

preamble of India is an introductory statement to any formal document in general, Statute and Constitution in particular. It contains the Philosophy and objectives of a document.

Which is the first country to have Preamble in Constitution?

When the USA got independence in 1775, The USA becomes the first country to have the written Constitution in the world. Apart from that the USA is also the first country to have Preamble in Constitution, Fundamental Rights in Constitution etc.

When the United Nations was formed in 1945, it took reference to the USA’s Preamble and released an UN Charter with reference to UN’s objectives.

Precursor to Indian Preamble:

Ever since the objective of freedom fighters to frame a Constitution for our free India, the idea of Introduction of Preamble into our Constitution gets stronger and stronger.

With this in the background an “Objective Resolution” was drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1946 and unanimously adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22 January 1947.

Few Interesting Constitutional debates over Preamble:

·         One member urged the Assembly to rename India as the ‘Union of Indian Socialistic Republics, similar to the USSR. But this suggestion would go against the already adopted constitutional scheme so the idea has been dropped.

·         Another member sought to include ‘In the name of God. Many were opposed to this suggestion and ultimately the word ‘God’ has to be decided based on vote. The Assembly was divided with 41 voting in favour and 68 voting against the word ‘God’.  Later the word ‘God has been dropped’

·         Similarly, the proposal to include Gandhi’s name in Preamble have also been dropped.

In the end the assembly adopted the Preamble in the format presented by Drafting Committee.

Preamble of Indian Constitution:

Indian Preamble is based on this Objective Resolution. By reading our Preamble we can understand the intention of our forefathers, the history behind its creation, and the core values and Principles of the nation.

Fun Fact: Even though Preamble is placed before all the Articles, It was drafted last, to ensure that it was in conformity with the Constitution.

What are the ingredients of Indian Preamble?

  • The preamble basically gives the idea of the following things:
    • Source of the Constitution (From the people of India)
    • Nature of Indian State: Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic
    • Objectives of Constitution: Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity
    • Date of its adoption: 26 Nov 1949

Fun Fact: From 2015, the date of adoption (26 Nov) of our Constitution is celebrated as Constitution Day of India.

Is our Preamble be a part of Constitution?

This is an interesting question for a debate itself.

  • In Berubari Union Case of 1960 Supreme Court held “Though Preamble is the key to open the mind of the makers, Preamble is not a part of Constitutionand stated reasons such as,
    • Removing Preamble from Constitution does not affect the Values of Constitution
    • Preamble does not offer any Rights or Obligation on any organs of State
    • Preamble’s nature of non-justiciable (cannot enforceable in court of law) character
  • The same question came up in the famous Kesavananda Bharati Case of 1973. But this time Supreme Court reversed its stance and held “Preamble is an integral part of Constitution” and stated reasons such as
    • Preamble plays an important role in the interpretation of statutes and provisions of the Constitution
  • In Union of India vs LIC of India case 1995, Supreme court once again held “Preamble is an integral part of Constitution”

The amendments to Preamble:

  • Since Preamble became part of Constitution, the Government of the day got the power to amend the Preamble.
  • Preamble is amended only once so far. It was amended in 1976 by 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act.
    • The amendment added the terms ‘Socialist’, ‘Secular’, and ‘Integrity’ in to the Preamble (though these were implicit in the Constitution the amendment made them explicit).

Ideals in the Preamble:

  • Sovereign: The term means that India as an own independent State. Neither dependent on any external State nor a dominion of external State.
  • Socialist: It means that the State aims to achieve socialist ends by democratic means. (i.e., both private and public sectors co-exist).
    • Supreme Court in Nakara Case 1982, stated “Indian socialism is a blend of Marxism and Gandhism, leaning heavily towards Gandhism”. This clearly defines the term Socialist in Preamble is by democratic mean.
  • Secular: This term means that State gives Equal treatment to all the religions (Sarva Darma Sama Bhava) and India as a State have No religion.
    (For Ex, Pakistan declared themselves as Islamic State and Bhutan declared themselves as Tibetan Buddhist State)
Few Important debate over ‘Secular’ word in Preamble:

·         Indian Secularism is a positive concept (State can allow people to profess, practice and propagate the religion of their choice). Unlike France which is follows the Negative concept.

·         There are few sections of people, politicians and experts who wants to ‘remove the word Secular and Socialist from Preamble’. For the reason said by Dr.B.R. Ambedkar itself (‘there was no need to include the term ‘secular’ as the entire Constitution embodied the concept of secular state).

For source click here: Mint , The Hindu

  • Democratic: The term simply means People ruling themselves through representatives.
  • Republic: The term indicates that the political sovereignty is vested in people which means, head of the state (President) is elected by the people.
    • The term also indicates that the absence of any privileged class (All public offices opens to all).

Aspirations of Preamble:

Constitution always aim towards minimum interference by State, to ensure and maintain harmony throughout the nation. Preamble contains certain aspiration to achieve the same. They are:

  • Justice: The word Just means The term Justice in Preamble is ensured to people through the provisions of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy.
    • The ideals of Justice comprise of social, economic, and political justice. The concept has been taken from the Russian Revolution (1917).
    • Social Justice – It aims to create a society without discrimination on any grounds like caste, colour, race, sex, religion, etc.
    • Economic Justice – It simply means non-discrimination between people on the basis of economic factors like their income, wealth, economic status etc.

Fun Fact: A combination of Social and Economic justice denotes Distributive Justice.

  • Political Justice – It implies that all the people have an equal political right in various domains such as access to political offices, voice in government, etc.
  • Equality: It implies absence of any special privileges to any section of society and all the people will have equal opportunities without any discriminations.
    • Like Justice, Equality also comprises of Civic, Political and Economic equality.
  • Liberty: ‘Liberty’ in simple term means Freedom for people to choose their way of life, political views, profession, behaviour in society, etc. Liberty does not mean absolute freedom to do anything, there are few checks and balances set by the law, which every citizen has to follow.
  • Fraternity: The term implies a sense of brotherhood and an emotional attachment with the country and the people.
  • Liberty, Equality and Fraternity are called as Unity of trinity. It is so called because all three will act harmoniously to bring out the best and one cannot act without another.

Preamble as a whole:

By reading Preamble one will get the comprehensive understanding about the Nature of Indian society, our ideals and aspirations as a nation and also as an individual.

That is why N.A.Palkhiwala, a notable Jurist and Constitutionalist have described Preamble as the identity card of the Constitution”. Not only him various other political thinkers, Constitutionalists and Jurists have also praised Preamble similarly.



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