Our Constitution came into effect on 26th January 1950, almost 3 years after the independence of India. Our leaders had put in lot of effort to get us our much loved independence-which we eventually achieved on 15th August 1947 after years of fighting against the British Rule-had it all in their mind to make our India a Democratic Sovereign Republic which is all reflected by the constitution. It is the longest Constitution ever written. It is so elaborate and nicely thought of that it leaves no source from which doubt could pop up.
Indians today are governed by two different ideologies. Their political ideal set in the preamble of the Constitution affirms a life of liberty, equality and fraternity. Their social ideal embodied in their religion denies them.
- R. Ambedkar
“ 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.
What does a Preamble mean?
The word ‘Preamble’ means an introduction, it means the start, the beginning of a statute. All statutes consist of a Preamble which acts as an introduction to the statute but the Preamble to the Constitution to India has a different important value.
Importance of the preamble
The preamble to our Constitution shows all the basics of what the Constitution has inside it. It is the most beautiful part of our Constitution. It is a show of what our Constitution makers had in their mind while making the Constitution. It shows the objectives of how our Constitution makers wanted the country to be-the country of their dreams.
The Preamble is almost like a purified version of The Objectives Resolution of Pandit Nehru which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 22nd January, 1947. The Objective resolution read:-
- This Constituent Assembly declares its firm and solemn resolve to proclaim India as an independent Sovereign Republic and to draw up for her future governance a Constitution;
- WHEREIN 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 the Independent Sovereign India shall be a Union of them all; and
- WHEREIN the said territories, whether with their present boundaries or with such others as may be determined by the Constituent Assembly and thereafter according to law of the Constitution 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 as are inherent or implied in the Union or resulting therefrom; and
- WHEREIN all power and authority of the Sovereign Independent India, its constituent parts and organs of government, are derived from the people; and
- WHEREIN shall be guaranteed and secured ;to all the people of India 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 law and public morality; and
- WHEREIN adequate safeguards shall be provided for minorities, backward and tribal areas, and depressed and other backward classes; and
- WHEREBY shall be’-maintained the integrity of the territory of the Republic and its sovereign rights on land, sea and air according to justice and the law of civilised nations; and
- The ancient land attain its rightful and honoured place in the world -and make its full and willing contribution to the promotion of world peace and the welfare of mankind.
The reflection of our Preamble can be seen here in this Objective Resolution. The Preamble of the Constitution was finalized by the Constituent Assembly in the last to see whether the preamble is in conformity with Constitution or not.
Is preamble a part of the Constitution?
The Preamble to the Constitution has been given specific value and that it is important for the deriving basic values and an introduction from our Constitution. In case of ordinary statutes, the preambles are not given much value but it is not so in the case of Constitution. The proceedings of the Constituent Assembly show that it was intended that the Preamble be a part of the Constitution. The Preamble was adopted and enacted in the same way the Constitution was.
In re Berubari Union Case, it was held by the Supreme Court that Preamble was not a part of the constitution but later on, when in the case of Kesavananda Bharati, when the Court was shown the procedure of adoption of the Constitution and the Preamble, it was held that Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution.
Can Preamble be used in interpreting the Constitution?
In A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras, the SC rejected the contention that the Preamble to our Constitution acts like a guiding star in the interpretation of the Constitution.
In the Berubari Union case, the Supreme Court observed that the Preamble had never been held as a source of substantive power and that shows that it has only a limited application. But in the case of Kesavananda Bharati, the Supreme Court attached way more importance to the Preamble and said that the Preamble would certainly help in giving valuable guidance and would help in interpretation of the Constitution and hence, the preamble should be read and interpreted in the grand and noble vision of the Preamble.
Can the Preamble be amended?
It was contended in the Kesavananda Bharati case that the Preamble though a part of the Constitution cannot be amended since it was not a provision of the Constitution. The Court rejected that the Preamble was very much a part of the constitution and hence it can be amended and it was not out of the amending power of the Parliament.
Explanation Of The Parts Of The Preamble
We, The People Of India having solemnly resolved…
The Constitution begins with the words We, the people of India. This basically shows that this great Constitution of India was given by the people to themselves. It also shows that the common man holds the maximum power and that the sovereignty of the State lies wholly in the hands of its people. The Constitution was made by the representatives of the people. It was founded by the authority of the people in whom the ultimate sovereignty lies. It is also a perusal of the fact that India is wholly democratic and that the source of power of the constitution is the people residing in it.
The words having solemnly resolved, shows that the founding fathers of our Constitution were firm and determined and had given serious thought to the provisions of the Constitution. They had performed their part with full dedication and given full dedication and exercised full wisdom and knowledge.
Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic…
Each of these words in the Constitution have a very important value. They show the type of characteristics the founding fathers of our Constitution wanted in the country. The words socialist and secular were added by the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976.
The word Sovereign means that the country and its people are free and is not under any other authority. It is not dependent on any other country for anything. It is both internally and externally sovereign and recognizes no ther foreign power as its master.
The term Socialist actually means a political system in which everything is governed and owned by the State. This is not the meaning of Socialist in our Constitution though. In our country it is interpreted in a different way just the way the word democracy is interpreted by different countries in different ways. In our Constitution, it basically means that it is the goal of the State to secure a better life for its people and to provide them with equality of opportunity.
Secular is a word that shows that India is a country which is neutral when it comes to religion. It does not support or disregard any religion. It does recognize any religion as the State Religion and treats all the religion equally with equal respect in all manners. It is not concerned with the religion of any individual and does interfere with the freedom of individual in terms of religion. India is neither Pro-God nor Anti-God. It is not concerned of the relationship of man with God but is only concerned about the relationship of men with other men.
The word Democratic needs no explanation. It was always in the minds and hearts of our founding fathers to make India a democratic country in which every person is treated equally and is given a say in the way the government runs. It is a country totally devoted to the people. There is an active participation of the people in the way the country is run and the administration of the country works. It is the will of the people which is paramount and forms the basis of authority of the Government.
The word Republic is used as a distinction from the Monarchy which is set-up in Britain. A Republic is a form a government in which the Head of the State is an elected person and not a hereditary monarch like the king or the Queen. In such a government, the actual power rests with the government and their elected representatives or officers and hence forms a republican form of government. We have President as the Executive Head of the State who is elected by the people (though indirectly).
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…
Justice is a word which is very close to the heart of our founding fathers and has always been promoted. An act is called just if it promotes the general well being of the society and people in general. Hence, the attainment of common good of the community and not the good of a single person is called justice. It provides for social justice by removal of any titles, or any privilege which a person may gain due to his caste, religion, status, etc. and economic justice is provided by the Constitution by providing of equal pay for equal work not considering his caste, creed, race, religion, etc. And by political justice we mean that no one should be discriminated from taking part in the way the government runs and to help in the development of the country. Everyone has a right to vote, to contest elections and form government. Everyone has a role to play.
Liberty has two different aspects, positive and negative. According to the negative aspect, the individual is free to do what he wants and the State cannot interfere. But according to the positive aspect of Liberty, it means that State has the right to interfere in the lives of individuals and to check that in the usage of one’s own liberty, a person does not harm the liberty of some other individual. The Constitution of India provides for the liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.
Equality is provided to the citizens of our country by abolition of all the titles which they had and by abolition of all the distinctions or discriminations. There should be no discrimination between the citizens on the grounds of religion, race, caste, religion, sex or place of birth. No one is discriminated in case of employment in public offices, everyone is equal for the State.
Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation…
Fraternity means that of a spirit of brotherhood and the feeling that all the citizens in the country are the children of the same soil. We are a country full of diversities and different religions. The Constituent Assembly seems to have noticed this and hence they thought of adding this into the Preamble of our Constitution.
Dignity of the Individual is important for the promotion of brotherhood and the development of the Nation as a whole. This dignity is provided to the individual by providing equal fundamental rights and by providing of a number of Directives to the State to secure a good and dignified life for all individuals.
Unity and Integrity of the Nation shows that the founding fathers our Constitution were concerned about the independence which we got by the uniting of all the individuals against outside force. They knew that the presence of Unity will always keep India together and will keep help in fighting any separatist tendencies which tried to divide the country. The country has been shown as a Union of States to show that the units have no rights to secede from it. India is a diverse nation and to keep all of us together, it is necessary to bring up tolerance for other communities and sects and to keep India unified.
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
And hence, at last, it shows that the people of India give themselves the Constitution on 26th November, 1949. On this day the constitution was enacted and adopted but the date of commencement of the Constitution was set to be 26th January, 1950. On 26th November, 1949, Articles 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 60, 324, 367, 379 and 394 came into effect. The rest of the constitution came into force on 26th January 1950.
Hence, the Preamble to the Constitution is not just an introduction to it but it has importance in various aspects and in short shows what the constitution was thought to be, what was there in the minds of our founding fathers and what are the objectives of our beautifully and well thought of Constitution.