CONSTITUTIONAL VALUE OF PREAMBLE

INTRODUCTION:

The constitution’s preamble presents an overview of the document. It is a form of summation of the constitution that conveys the fundamental characteristics of the nation upon which the entire constitution is based. Like every constitution, the Indian constitution also has a preamble that has the goals and objectives of the state and the constitution enumerated in it. The constitution of India was adopted on 26th November 1949 and came into force on 26th January 1950. It was drafted by the drafting commission with Dr.B.R. Ambedkar as its chairman after studying the constitution of various countries; hence it has various features borrowed from different countries which were felt to be important for a welfare state. For example, the ideals of republic, liberty, equality, and fraternity were borrowed from the motto of the French revolution and the concept of justice was borrowed from the Russian constitution. All of these fundamental characteristics are stated in the preamble of the Indian constitution, which conveys the constitution’s main goals and intentions, as well as the goals and ideals that the document’s authors sought to attain. It is regarded as a “key to open the minds of the makers of the constitution.”[1]

Preamble – The face of the Constitution:

The preamble of the Indian constitution was introduced in the form of objective resolution as the first substantive issue to be discussed and decided as a guide for the making of the constitution. But, an interesting facet of the preamble is that though it was the first thing that was introduced, it was the last thing that was finalized. This was because the preamble forms a part of the constitution.[2]The preamble of the Indian constitution comprises all of the significant characteristics that reflect the constitution’s and state’s goals and objectives. The Indian preamble talks about the source of the constitution, the nature of the state, the objectives of the constitution and the state, and the date of adoption of the constitution. The Preamble begins with the phrase “We the people of India” which indicates the source of the constitution as the people of the country have framed the constitution for themselves and ends with the date of adoption i.e., 26th November 1949. The words indicating the source are also considered the most powerful words in the preamble. In between the source and the date of adoption, the preamble contains the nature and objectives of the state.

Nature and Objectives:

The words which reflect the nature of the state are SOVEREIGN, SOCIALIST, SECULAR, DEMOCRATIC AND REPUBLIC. The words ‘Sovereign’, ‘Democratic’ and ‘Republic’ were present in the preamble from the very beginning of the drafting of the preamble, but the words ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ were added in the preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act in the year 1976.[3]

  • The word ‘Sovereign’ is to denote that India is an independent state which can make laws for itself without any other country’s interference.
  • The word ‘Democratic’ means that the government of the state would be made by the people themselves that is through the elections that take place at regular intervals where every individual has the right to choose their representative through a universal adult franchise. 
  • The word ‘Republic’ indicates that the head of the state is an elected person but not a hereditary monarch.
  • The word ‘Socialist’ was added to indicate the philosophy of socialism, the presence of this term in the preamble is to indicate that the constitution aims at the elimination of inequality in income, status, and standard of life and looks toward the state ownership of production and industry. 
  • The term ‘Secular’ means that the state has no religion and it indicates the equal recognition of every religion and equal tolerance towards every religion under the Indian constitution. 

The Preamble further has the objectives and goals that the state through this constitution aims to achieve. The objectives of the constitution enumerated in the preamble are JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY, FRATERNITY, and Unity and Integrity.  The term ‘Justice’ indicates the goal of the state to ensure the justice of all the citizens. It includes social justice by the establishment of an equitable society and equal status of all the citizens, economic justice by equal distribution of wealth among the citizens, and political justice by providing rights for equal political participation. The state though the constitution also provides ‘Liberty’ of thought and expression to the people. The constitution aims at providing ‘Equality’ to all the citizens which is also incorporated as a fundamental right under Article 14 of the Constitution. ‘Fraternity’ refers to a feeling of brotherhood among the people and thereby securing unity and integrity of the state which is also one of the fundamental features of the constitution. The term Integrity was also added by the 42nd constitutional amendment act, 1976 along with the terms ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’.[4]

Amendments to the preamble:

The validity of the preamble amendments has been called into question on various occasions. There were differing viewpoints on whether or not the preamble may be amended under Article 368 of the Indian constitution. On the one hand, it has been stated that only the constitution can be altered under Article 368 of the constitution and that the preamble is not a component of the constitution; on the other hand, it has been contended that the preamble is a part of the constitution and can be amended. The confusion regarding the validity of amendments was cleared in the case Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala.[5] The court in this case held that the preamble can be amended but the amendment should not violate the basic structure of the preamble. The court, in this case, held that the preamble can be amended but the amendment should not violate the basic structure of the preamble.  The preamble of the constitution has been amended once in the year 1976 by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act. The amendment made two changes in the preamble of the constitution which are as follows:

  1. The first change made by this act was that the words “SOVEREIGN DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC” were substituted with the words “SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC”. The words ‘Socialist’ and ‘Secular’ were added along with the other three ideals which were already present.
  2. The second change which was made was the substitution of the words “unity of the nation” with the words “unity and integrity of the nation”. The term integrity was added before unity. 

Case Laws:

There are several case laws in which the importance and significance of the preamble of the constitution were discussed, but two case laws discussed below are of great significance since these discussed and attempted to give clarity regarding the issues and confusions concerning the preamble of the constitution.

Re: Berubari Union Case:[6]

In this case, it was argued that the preamble states that India is a democratic sovereign republican government over the entire territory of the nation and it was also argued that the preamble is out of the reach of any legislation or any amendment made to the constitution. The court decided that while the preamble is a key to unlocking the ideas of the constitution’s creators, it is not a part of the constitution. It cannot place any restrictions on the parliament’s exercise of power through any act or law.

Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala:[7]

As indicated in the previous section, this case is a historic decision since it clarified the issue of constitutional changes. In this decision, the court held that the preamble is an essential part of the constitution and that the observations made in the Berubari case were incorrect. The court ruled that the Preamble is not only a part of the constitution but also a part of the basic structure of the constitution and that it can be altered as long as it does not violate the constitution’s essential structure.

CONCLUSION:

The Indian Constitution, in my opinion, is one of the best in the world because it is the constitution of a country that is one of the world’s largest democracies and diverse in many ways. The Indian constitution was written in such a way that it treats everyone in the country equally and values variety. The Indian constitution is a synthesis of all the positive characteristics from around the world that are required for a welfare state and are expressed in the preamble. The Indian constitution’s preamble reflects the state’s fundamental objectives; it is a summation of the constitution’s essential concepts, which might be considered its foundation pillars. It is the most essential element of the constitution since it sets the tone for the rest of the document.

Author(s) Name: Syed Owais Khadri (CMR University)

References:

[1]Mahendra Pal Singh. V.N. Shukla’s Constitution of India, (13th Ed., Eastern Book Company 2017) 1

[2]Ibid at 2

[3]Ibid at 3

[4]Ibid at 5

[5]Kesavananda Bharati vs. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461

[6]Re: Berubari Union, AIR 1960 SC 845

[7]Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala, AIR 1973 SC 1461