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Chapter 6 - The Preamble


  • The term ‘preamble’ refers to the introduction or preface to the Constitution.
  • American Constitution was the first to begin with a Preamble.
  • N A Palkhivala said Preamble as the ‘identity card of the Constitution.’
  • The Preamble to the Indian Constitution is based on the ‘Objectives Resolution’, drafted and moved by Pandit Nehru, and adopted by the Constituent Assembly.
  • It has been amended by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act (1976), which added three new words—socialist, secular and integrity.

Key Words in the Preamble

1. Sovereign
The word ‘sovereign’ implies that India is neither a dependency nor a dominion of any other nation, but an independent state. There is no authority above it, and it is free to conduct its own affairs (both internal and external).

2. Socialist
The term was added by the 42nd Amendment in 1976. Democratic socialism holds faith in a ‘mixed economy’ where both public and private sectors co-exist side by side.

3. Secular
The term ‘secular’ too was added by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976 which means all religions in our country (irrespective of their strength) have the same status and support from the state.

4. Democratic
The Indian Constitution provides for rep-resentative parliamentary democracy under which the executive is responsible to the legislature for all its policies and actions. Universal adult franchise, periodic elections, rule of law, independence of judiciary, and absence of discrimination on certain grounds are the manifestations of the democratic character of the Indian polity.

5. Republic
The term ‘republic’ in our Preamble indicates that India has an elected head called the president. He is elected indirectly for a fixed period of five years. A republic also means two more things: one, vesting of political sovereignty in the people and not in a single individual like a king; second, the absence of any privileged class and hence all public offices being opened to every citizen without any discrimination.

6. Justice
The term ‘justice’ in the Preamble embraces three distinct forms—social, economic and political, secured through various provisions of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles.
The ideal of justice—social, economic and political—has been taken from the Russian Revolution (1917).

7. Liberty
The term ‘liberty’ means the absence of restraints on the activities of individuals, and at the same time, providing opportunities for the development of individual personalities.
The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in our Preamble have been taken from the French Revolution (1789–1799).

8. Equality
The term ‘equality’ means the absence of special privileges to any section of the society, and the provision of adequate opportunities for all individuals without any discrimination.

9. Fraternity
Fraternity means a sense of brotherhood. The Constitution promotes this feeling of fraternity by the system of single citizenship. Also, the Fundamental Duties (Article 51-A) say that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities.

Significance of the Preamble

  • The Preamble embodies the basic philosophy and fundamental values—political, moral and religious on which the Constitution is based.
  • Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer said ‘The Preamble to our Constitution expresses what we had thought or dreamt so long’
  • K M Munshi said Preamble is the ‘horoscope of our sovereign democratic republic’
  • Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava said ‘The Preamble is the most precious part of the Constitution. It is the soul of the Constitution. It is a key to the Constitution. It is a jewel set in the Constitution. It is a proper yardstick with which one can measure the worth of the Constitution’
  • "Principles of Social and Political Theory (1951)" - by Sir Ernest Barker

Preamble as Part of the Constitution

1. Berubari Union case (1960)
The Supreme Court said that the Preamble shows the general purposes behind the several provisions in the Constitution, and is thus a key to the minds of the makers of the Constitution.

2. Kesavananda Bharati case (1973)
The Supreme Court rejected the earlier opinion and held that Preamble is a part of the Constitution.

3. LIC of India case (1995)
The Supreme Court again held that the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution.

Note : The Preamble has been amended only once so far, in 1976, by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, which has added three new words—Socialist, Secular and Integrity—to the Preamble. This amendment was held to be valid.

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