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The Preamble of the Indian Constitution, endorsed by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, and effective from January 26, 1950, articulates the foundational principles and sources of authority for the Constitution


The Preamble of the Indian Constitution, endorsed by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, and effective from January 26, 1950, articulates the foundational principles and sources of authority for the Constitution. Notably, the enduring significance of these constitutional ideals has been preserved through judicial interpretations, with the Preamble acting as the ultimate guardian and benchmark for determining constitutional values.[1] In legal construction, the “preamble” serves to illuminate the spirit and purpose of a statute, allowing for the identification of flaws and the correction of doubts.[2] Derived from Jawaharlal Nehru’s “objective resolution” of January 22, 1947, the Preamble Committee crafted a preamble that envisions India as a “sovereign democratic republic,” committed to justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity for all its citizens. This preamble reflects the ideals articulated in Nehru’s resolution and stands as a guiding framework for the nation’s constitutional principles.


These opening words, “We, the People of India,” are a declaration to the whole world that the constitution is made by its people, the natives of India, and sovereignty lies within them. The meaning of those words can be found in the words of Nani Palkhiwala: “It is a power of attorney given by freedom, not a charter of freedom given by power.[3] Thus, the indigenous people of India, regardless of colonial rule, became sovereign to decide how they wanted to rule themselves. Another important feature of this sentence is the subtle recognition of the principle of unity in diversity. Although divided by caste, class, race, and religion, the Constitution called us to recognise brotherhood among all and the concept of secret tolerance.[4]


The principle of sovereignty, as articulated in Article 5 of the Constitution of Ireland, has been adopted by the Constitution of India since January 26, 1950. Socialism, introduced through the 42nd Amendment[5], seeks to establish a political and economic system fostering a welfare state and equal opportunities. The interpretation of socialism, as highlighted in the Samatha v. State of Andhra Pradesh[6], forms the basis for understanding constitutional articles related to equality and fundamental rights. Secularism, denoting equal treatment of all religions by the state, is defined by Fali S. Nariman as the state’s non-recognition of any religion.

Challenges in applying these principles arise when personal laws clash with secular laws. Notably, the Supreme Court has played a pivotal role in addressing such conflicts. In the Shah Bano Begum[7] case, the Court expanded alimony rights for divorced Muslim women, challenging narrow interpretations of Islamic law. While the Court[8] initially took a conservative stance on religious matters, it later unequivocally declared practices like Triple Talaq as unconstitutional. Upholding the essence of democracy, the Court emphasized the importance of an informed citizenry, asserting that democracy, as a way of life, vests ultimate power in the people through universal adult suffrage, as emphasized in the Union of India v. Association of Democratic Reforms case.[9]


The principle of equity, as advocated by Senior Advocate Sh. Harish Salve, emphasizes equal treatment rather than uniformity in the application of the law, ensuring fairness. Precedents such as F.N. Balsara,[10] Anwar Ali Sarkari,[11] and EP Royappa[12] have established a test for discrimination under Article 14, stating that differentiation must have a reasonable connection with the action’s purpose and should not be arbitrary. The sanctity of equality within the constitution is emphasized, making it immune to parliamentary alteration.[13]

Equality, enshrined not only in anti-discrimination laws but also in provisions like Articles 15 and 16[14] allowing affirmative action, aims to create a level playing field. Freedom, a cornerstone of fundamental rights for both citizens and foreigners within India, has undergone a broad interpretation by the Supreme Court. Overruling precedents such as Nilabati Behra,[15] D.K. Basu,[16] Arnesh Kumar,[17] Maneka Gandhi,[18] and A.K. Gopalan,[19] the Court now interprets Article 21 expansively, recognizing individual freedom and liberty as the foundation of fundamental rights. This shift reflects a commitment to a comprehensive understanding of personal freedom within the constitutional framework.


Several cases have been decided on whether or not the preamble is a component of the constitution. A judicial interpretation has clarified the situation.

  • Re Berubari Union Case

The Supreme Court of India’s nine-judge court debated this subject, stating that the preamble is not a part of the Constitution. It does, however, provide insight into the minds of the Constitution’s framers and reveal their intentions.[20]

  • Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala

The court ruled that the Preamble to the Constitution is a component of the Constitution and that it does not impose any legal obligation or restriction but is relevant in interpreting acts and sections of the Constitution. In terms of amendments, the word “amendment of this Constitution ” in Article 368 suggests that any addition or change to any of the Constitution’s provisions made within the broad curve of the preamble is necessary to bring out the Constitution’s core purposes.[21]

  • Minerva Mills v. Union of India

A five-judge constitutional panel assessed the modifiability of the Preamble, which encapsulates the Constitution’s core ideas. The court determined that the 42nd Amendment merely reaffirmed existing constitutional principles by adding “socialist” and “secular.” Consequently, the Preamble can be amended under Article 368 of the Constitution, revitalizing constitutional thinking without altering its fundamental essence.[22]

  • R. Bommai v. Union of India

In a landmark decision, a nine-judge bench applied the Preamble as the foundation of the Constitution’s basic structure. It ruled that proclamations under Article 356(1) must undergo judicial scrutiny if they violate this basic structure. The Supreme Court held that any proclamation conflicting with fundamental values in the Preamble is deemed illegal, establishing a crucial precedent for constitutional interpretation and safeguarding foundational principles from executive overreach.[23]


As Dr. Ambedkar aptly said, no matter how good a constitution is, if its executors are not good, it turns out to be bad. The task is the responsibility of the people to ensure that the recognised principles are followed. In recent times, the principles have been used; but they also should be carried out. In the case of veteran journalist Arnab Goswami, where the Supreme Court ruled without hesitation, condemned the misuse of the penal code, and immediately admitted him to bail. We also noted the vigour of the Supreme Court towards the executive power of the country, always acting as a watchdog to prevent abuse of power. In the Aadhar scheme recently formed by the government as well, the court responding to the petition interpreted the right to privacy as an integral part of Article 21[24].Navtej Singh Johar[25] later overturned a 150-year-old law that prohibited intercourse between consenting adults.


The Preamble has been pivotal in shaping the trajectory of Indian law, serving as a benchmark for evaluating governments and legislatures. Its principles—sovereignty, socialism, secularism, democracy, justice, liberty, equality, and brotherhood—continue to guide the nation. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar emphasized that the Constitution’s effectiveness relies on the actions of its executor i.e., the people. Each citizen bears the responsibility of upholding and embodying the Preamble’s ideals in actions, policies, and collective consciousness, ensuring the enduring legacy of the Constitution.

Authors Name: Sara & Asad Naushad Khan (Faculty of Law, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi)


[1]Rhiddhiman Mukherjee and Dibyangana Das, ‘Preamble to the Constitution: The Heart, the Soul and the Goal of the Indian Constitution’(2021) International Journal of Law Management and Humanities <file:///C:/Users/asama/Downloads/Preamble-to-the-Constitution-The-Heart-the-Soul-and-the-Goal-of-the-Indian-Constitution.pdf> accessed 11 January 2024.

[2]Justice G.P. Singh, Principles of Statutory Interpretation (Justice A.K.Patnaik, 14th ed. 2020) 174.

[3]Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala [1973] 4 SCC 225.

[4]Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala [1987] AIR 748 SC.

[5]Constitution of India 1950, Amend. XLII, s.3.

[6]Samatha v. State of Andhra Pradesh [1997] AIR 2397SC.

[7]Mohd. Ahmend Khan v. Shah Bano Begum[1985] AIR 945 SC.

[8]Shayara Bano v. Union of India[2017] 9 SCC1.

[9]Union of India v. Association of Democratic Reform[2002] 5 SCC294.

[10]State of Bombay v. F.N. Balsara [1951] AIR 318 SC.

[11]State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar [1952] AIR 75 SC.

[12]E.P. Royappa v. State of Tamil Nadu[1974] AIR 555 SC.

[13]Indra Sawhney v. Union of India[1993] AIR 477 SC; M.R. Balaji v. State of Mysore [1963] AIR 649 SC.

[14]The Chairman v. Chandrima Das[2000] 4 SCC465.

[15]Nilabati Behera v. State of Orissa[1993] 2 SCC746.

[16]. D.K. Basu v. State of West Bengal [1997] 1 SCC416.

[17]Arnesh Kumar v. State of Bihar [2014] 8 SCC273.

[18]Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India [1978] AIR 597 SC.

[19]A.K. Gopalan v. State of Madras [1950] AIR 27 SC.

[20][1960] AIR 845 SC.

[21]Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala [1973] 4 SCC 225.

[22]Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India [1980] 3 SCC 625.

[23]S.R. Bommai v. Union of India [1994] 3 SCC 1.

[24]Constitution of India 1950, art. 21

[25]Navtej Singh Johar v. Union of India [2016] 7 SCC 485.