Salient Features of the Preamble of the Indian Constitution
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
HISTORY OF THE PREAMBLE
Jawaharlal Nehru introduced an “objective resolution” on 13th December 1947. The resolution was adopted by the constituent assembly which became the basis of the preamble of the Indian Constitution. The drafting committee of the constitution was of the opinion that Preamble should only define the essential features of the new state and their socio-political objective. Initially, the preamble was drafted by Shri. B. N. Rau on May 30, 1947, and later introduced in the draft of October 1947.
MEANING, OBJECTIVE, AND PURPOSE
The preamble is an introduction to a statute. As per the Black Law Dictionary, Preamble means a clause at the beginning or a statue explanatory of the reasons for its enactment and the objectives sought to be accomplished.
The preamble is a director for the constitution and its functioning, not granting any power. It is the aim which the constitution through legislation is sought to achieve. The preamble can also be used to solve ambiguity to decide the connotations of the particular word and to limit the extent of applicability of certain terms.
In A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras the contention raised was Preamble of the Indian Constitution gives us a Democratic constitution, which should be the guiding principle for interpreting the constitution. Therefore, any law formulated under Article 21 should be declared void from the very beginning as it will violate the principle of natural justice and the fundamental rights cannot be protected. The Supreme Court, answering the contention gave the view that the word ‘law’ used in article 21 only refers to positive and state made law and not natural justice. The contention was rejected, and Supreme Court opined that with respect to the Preamble, Article 21 cannot be amended.
In Berubari Union Case, the Supreme Court ruled that Preamble has limited application and cannot be referred to as a source to a substantive power granted to the government. To explain limited application, the court clarified, that reliance will be placed on preamble only when any word or phrase used in the statute is ambiguous and is capable of drawing two meanings.
In Kesavanand Bharati v. State of Kerala, while deciding the matter in dispute gave grave importance to the preamble. Chief Justice Sikri narrated,
“…It seems to me that the preamble of our Constitution 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.”
In the case of Union Government v LIC of India, it was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court that preamble is integral of the constitution which serves various purpose namely gives the source of constitution, brings the constitution in force (an act of the people, for the people and by the people), it enshrines the rights and freedoms to which the citizens of India are entitled to.
CONTENTS OF THE PREAMBLE
- It begins with “We the people of India”, clearly meaning that the people gave themselves this Constitution. It indicates the source of authority. In determining a question of powers of the Legislature to enact laws in Union of India v. Madangopal, the Supreme Court held that “Our Constitution as appears from the preamble derives its authority from the people of India.”
- Sovereign: Sovereignty refers to ultimate power, legal political, individual, etc. the power is absolute and supreme. Sovereignty signifies independence. It can be categorized into external sovereignty i.e. sovereignty in international law and an internal sovereignty i.e. the relationship between the states and the individuals.
- Socialist: socialist means the political-economic system which advocates the state’s ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. Our constitution does not define socialist. It means state ownership, not totally excluding private enterprise. The term socialist was used in reference to equality of opportunity or the better life for the people. This opinion was supported by the case of D.S. Nakara v. Union of India by opining that the aim of socialist is only eliminating inequality. In Air India Statutory Corporation v. United Labour Union, Supreme Court ruled that socialism is to create a public command with the help of rule of law as its basic structure.
- Secular: It is the view of life. The term secular was introduced in the 42nd amendment of the Constitution in 1976 but without a definition. The term explains that the state has no religion and it will and shall always treat all religions equally and with equal respect. In R. Bommai v Union of India, the Supreme Court bench held that secularism was implicit earlier and 42nd amendment made it explicit.
- Democratic: It enshrines the concept that the government is of the people and people, directly or indirectly control the ruling of the government.
- Republic: the power rests with the people, through the elected representatives. Republic derived from res publica means public property. Indian Government is republic form of government, the power via universal adult Suffrage rests with the people.
- Justice: It means the abolition of all types of discriminations and inequalities such as race, caste, title, religion, language, etc. To attain justice, part IV (Directive Principles of State Policy) was enacted. The constitutional goal is to achieve social political and economic equality. This was enshrined for the welfare of the society.
- Liberty: for the development of every individual along with the nation, there should be liberty. Being allowed to do something which is legal is liberty, quoted by Aristotle. Liberty is granted to people and is control by the law, which is created by the elective representatives of the people. So simple terms, the Constitution is for the people.
- Equality: it is the principle to treat everyone equally and grant the same treatment. In furtherance of this goal, article 14 of the Indian Constitution was enacted i.e. equality of the law and equal before the law. Equality of status and equal opportunity for all is professed. In India, likes are treated alike and unlike are treated unlike.
- Fraternity: By considering the diversities which prevailed in India, the word fraternity was added to the preamble to promote brotherhood and belongingness amongst the people. The dignity of the Individual needs to be preserved to promote and practice fraternity.
Preamble a part of the Constitution or not?
The two very important cases in this respect is the Berubari case and the case of Kesavanand Bharti. In the case of Berubari, the eight-judges bench held preamble not to be a part of the constitution and that it is not a source of any power enjoyed by the government. Kesavanand case reversed the findings and held firmly that preamble is a part of the Constitution and the preamble has an important role in the interpretation of the statute and its provisions.
The preamble is a guiding star of the Indian Constitution providing for rights, duties, and values. It plays a very significant role in the case of any ambiguity with reference to the interpretation of any term or phrases. The spirit of an independent nation is with the preamble. It is of considerable legal significance. Though it cannot be regarded as a source of power to the people, it is a key to the makers of the Constitution.
 Constitution of India, 1949, available at: legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/coi-4March2016.pdf
 AIR 1950 SC 27
 AIR 1960 SC 845
 1973 SC 1461
 AIR 1954 SC 158
 Collin’s New Gem Dictionary, 6th Edition
 As stated by the then Prime Minister, Smt. Indira Gandhi
 AIR 1983 SC 25
 AIR 1997 SC 645