Preamble | 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.

The preamble can be considered as a prologue to the Indian Constitution as it declares India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, and democratic republic.

It outlines the fundamental principles (to secure justice, liberty, equality to all citizens and promote fraternity) and objectives (to maintain unity and integrity of the nation) of the Indian Constitution.

Nanabhoy Palkhivala, the famous Indian jurist and constitutional expert called the Preamble the ‘identity card of the Constitution’ whereas Thakurdas Bhargav, a member of the Constituent Assembly called it as 'Soul of the Constitution.'

What does the word Preamble mean?

The word "preamble" originated from the Latin word praeambulus meaning "walking before."

In formal documents, "preamble" means an introductory statement in a statute that explains its philosophy and objectives and is helpful for clearing any ambiguities within the statute.

The United States of America was the first country in the world to have a Preamble for their constitution and it also starts with the words ‘We the people.’

History of the Preamble to Indian Constitution

Preamble

It was on January 22, 1947, that the Constituent Assembly adopted the ideas from the Jawaharlal Nehru’s Objectives Resolution for the Preamble.

(There are several claims for the authorship of Preamble. One of them is from a book named ‘Ambedkar’s Preamble: A Secret History of the Constitution of India’ written by Aakash Singh Rathore claims that the Preamble was written by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar [Memorandum of State and Minorities] and the other is that of B.N. Rau’s Draft Constitution.

But from the examination point of view, we'll go with the popular notion and accredit it to Jawaharlal Nehru.)

Many notions such as including Gandhiji's name, starting with the words, "In the name of God" etc were rejected during the discussion in the Constituent Assembly before the preamble became part of the constitution.

K.M Munshi, one of the members of the Drafting Committees of the Indian Constitution, called the preamble the "Political Horoscope" as it established the governance in the country.

The magnificent ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity were adopted from the motto 'Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité' of the French Revolution (1789).

The ideals of Justice ie, the Social, Economic, and Political which the preamble speaks of are borrowed from the Russian Constitution (Soviet Union).

And the idea to have a Preamble for the constitution is borrowed from the United States of America. But the Preamble of India is much more elaborate than that of the USA.

The Preamble, also known as the Face of Constitution, was decorated by Beohar Rammanohar Sinha of Jabalpur, one of Nandalal Bose’s students.

Is Preamble a part of the Constitution?

There were several occasions when the Preamble of the Indian Constitution became an object of discussion in the Supreme Court.

However, here, we will list three such cases, where the Supreme Court of India produced landmark judgments.

  • Berubari Union Case (1960)During the Partition time, Sir Cyril Radcliffe who was the joint chairman of the boundary commission assigned the Thana (police station) 'Berubari' in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal to India without writing it down.

    This became a bone of contention between the two nations when Pakistan raised a claim for it. The dispute continued until the Nehru-Noon agreement of 1958 through which the territory of Berubari was equally divided between India and Pakistan.

  • Due to heavy criticism, the Union govt decided to refer the matter to the Supreme Court (hence the name Re Berubari Case).

    For this case, the Supreme Court bench of 8 judges inferred the Preamble as a guiding principle, not as a part of the Indian Constitution. Therefore it is not enforceable in a court of law.

  • Kesavananda Bharati Case Vs State of Kerala (1973)In this case, the Supreme Court bench of 13 judges was assembled to hear a writ petition for the first time and overturned its earlier decision of Berubari Union Case.

    The bench held that the Preamble is the introductory part of the Constitution and can be amended under Article 368 of the Constitution.

  • Union Government Vs LIC of India (1995) Similarly to that of the Kesavananda Bharati case, that the Supreme Court stood by its decision, that the Preamble is the introductory part of the Indian Constitution but is not directly enforceable in a court of justice in India.

Amendment of the Preamble

The preamble, the backbone of the Indian Constitution has been amended only once so far, ie, on December 18 December 1976, during the emergency (after the Kesavanand Bharati case) through the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976.

Three new words 'Socialist,' 'Secular,' and 'Integrity' was added to the preamble of the Indian Constitution during the Emergency, by the 42nd amendment act of 1976.

  • 'Socialist' & 'Secular' were added between 'Sovereign' & 'Democratic' thus becoming 'Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic.'
  • 'Unity of the Nation' was changed to 'Unity and Integrity of the Nation.'


📝SideNotes:

  • Father of the Constitution Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.
  • The heart and soul of the Constitution Article 32 (Dr. B. R. Ambedkar).
  • The Thana system for each district was created by – Lord Cornwallis. (Lab Assistant, 2015)
  • Apart from India & USA, which country's Preamble starts with the opening words, 'We, the people...'? – Ireland.
  • The Objectives Resolution by Jawaharlal Nehru was put forward for discussion before the Constituent Assembly on – December 13, 1946.
  • Who criticized the objective resolution presented by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly as 'wrong, illegal, inaccurate and dangerous'? M.R. Jayakar.
  • Government of India Act 1919 too had a preamble included in it.
  • The English political scientist who described the Preamble as the 'Keynote to the Constitution' – Sir Ernest Barker.
  • The words 'Unity and Integrity of Nation' in the preamble was substituted for the word 'Unity of Nation' by – 42nd Amendment. (Dairy Extension Officer, 2017)
  • The words "SOCIALIST SECULAR" were added to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution by which Constitutional Amendment? 42nd. (Special Branch Assistant, Police 2013)
    • Which amendment of the constitution added the words ‘Socialist and Secular in the Preamble’? 42nd Amendment. (Clerk/Cashier, District Co-operative bank, 2015)

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