The Preamble to a Constitution is expected to embody the fundamental values and the philosophy on which the Constitution is based and the aims and objectives the founding fathers enjoined to strive to achieve. In other words Preamble is a preliminary or introductory statement in speech or writing. It has been rightly stated that ‘Preamble’ is like an introduction or preface of a book. It explains the purposes and objectives with which the document has been written. As such the ‘Preamble’ provides the guidelines of the 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’, in brief, explains the objectives of the Constitution in two ways: India-I One, about the structure of the governance and the other, about the ideals to be achieved in independent India. It is because of this, the Preamble is considered to be the key of the Constitution. A motion was adopted by the Assembly that’ the Preamble stands a part of the Constitution’. It would be pertinent to look at what do these objectives mean and how have these been reflected in the Constitution.
The opening and closing words of the Preamble, “We the people of India, adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution” convey that the Constitution emanated from the people and the sovereignty under the Constitution was in the people.
The type of government assured to the people of India by the Constitution was described in the Preamble as Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic.
‘Sovereignty’ is one of the foremost element of any independent State. It means absolute independence i.e. a government which is not controlled by any other power: internal or external. A country cannot have its own Constitution without being sovereign. Hence, India is a sovereign country. It is free from external control. It can frame its own policies as well as it is free to formulate its own foreign policy.
The word ‘Socialist’ was not there in the Preamble in the Constitution originally. It was added by the 42nd Amendment in 1976. The term ‘Socialist’ is somewhat controvercial as it means different things to different persons. In our Constitution it has been used in the context of economic planning. The use of the word ‘Socialist’ implied acceptance of the State’s major role in economy. It also means commitment to attain the ideals such as removal of inequalities, provision of minimum basic needs to all, equal pay for equal work, avoidance of concentration of wealth and means of production in a few hands. Combining the ideals of political, social and economic democracy with that of equality and fraternity, the Preamble aims to establish what Mahatma Gandhi described as “The Indian of my dreams … an India, in which the poorest shall feel that it is their country in whose making they have an effective voice … an India in which all communities shall live in perfect harmony … where women will enjoy the same rights as men”.
The unity and fraternity of the people of India, professing a numbers of faiths has been sought to be achieved by enshrining the ideal of a ‘Secular State’, which means that the State protects all religions equally and does not uphold any religion as the State religion. In other words ‘India is neither religious, nor irreligious nor anti-religious.’ It implies that in India there will be no ‘State religion’- the State will not support any particular religion out of the public fund. It highlights that the State shall have no religion of it own. All persons shall be equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right to profess, practise and propagate any religion of his/her choice. This has two implication
The term ‘Democratic’ is very comprehensive. In a narrow political sense, it refers only to the form of government, a representative and responsible system under which those who administer the affairs of the State are chosen by the electorate and accountable to them. However, in the broadest sense, it embraces in addition to political democracy also social and economic democracy. The last line of the Preamble says “…. hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution”. In fact, the democratic principles of the country flow from the last line of the Preamble. Democracy is generally known as a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
The term ‘Republic’ implies ‘an elected Head of the State’. A democratic State may have an elected or a hereditary head. The British monarch, a hereditary ruler, is no hindrance to the latter type. There, the monarch, a hereditary ruler is no hindrance to democratic government as the real rules of the State is in the hands of the representative of the electorate. Under a Republic form, on the contrary, the Head of the State, single or collective, is always elected for a prescribed period. For example in U.S.A., the Head of the State and Chief Executive (the President) is elected for a period of four years. Similarly, in Switzerland, a collegium of seven members is elected for a term of four years to constitute the executive.
The Preamble proceeds further to define the objectives of the Indian political system. There are four objectives : Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. It has correctly been said that the struggle for freedom was not only against the British rule but also was to usher in an era of restoring the dignity of men and women, removal of poverty and to end all types of exploitation. Such strong motivations and cherished ideals had promoted the framers to lay emphasis on the provisions of the aforesaid four objectives.
Justice implies a harmonious reconcilement of individual conduct with the general welfare of society. The essence of justice is the attainment of the common good. It embraces, as the Preamble proclaims, the entire social, economic and political spheres of human activity. In other words justice promises to give people what they are entitled to in terms of basic necessities or rights to food, clothing, housing, participation in the decision making and living with dignity as human beings. The Preamble not only covers various dimensions of justice India-I but also grants the political justice in the form of ‘universal adult franchise’ or ‘representative form of democracy’.
The term Liberty is used in the ‘Preamble’ not only in a merely negative sense but in a positive sense also. It signifies not only the absence of any arbitrary restraint on the freedom of individual actions but also the creation of conditions which provide the essential ingredients necessary for the fullest development of the personality of the individual. The ‘Preamble’ lays emphasis on liberty of thought and expression which have been granted in the Constitution through the Fundamental Rights.
In fact, liberty and equality are complementary to each other. Equality does not mean that all human beings are equal mentally and physically. On the other hand, it signifies equality of status, and equality of opportunity. The equality of status is provided by prohibition of artificial restriction on the ground of religion, race, caste, colour, place of residence etc. It is supplemented by the prohibition of untouchability and by the abolition of titles. At the same time, equality of opportunity is provided by the guarantee of rule of law signifying equality before law and non- discrimination in matters of public employment.
The ‘Preamble’ emphasises the objective of Fraternity in order to ensure the dignity of the individual and the unity of the nation both. Fraternity is understood as a spirit of brotherhood, the promotion of which is absolutely essential in our country which is composed of various races and religions.’ Regarding ‘dignity of the individual’ K.M. Munshi said “It is an instrument not only of ensuring and maintaining democratic set up vehementally but it also recognizes that personality of every individual is sacred.” Similarly the words ‘Unity and Integrity’ “have to prevent tendencies of regionalism, provincialism, linguism, communalism and secessionist and separate activities” more and more so that the dream of the national integration on the lines of enlightened secularism is achieved.
The Constitution of a country, in simple terms, is a collection of the legal rules providing the framework for the governance of the country. It reflects the dominant beliefs and interests or some compromise between conflicting beliefs and interests, which are characteristics of the society at the time it was framed and adopted. It is a fact that no Constitution is perfect and the Constitution of India is no exception to this general rule. However, it goes to the credit of India that the wage for constitutional government was so deep-rooted that India devised a Constitution of its own within three years after achieving the political independence. The Constitution India adopted was intended to be not merely a mean of establishing a governmental machinery but also an effective instrument for orderly social change. The strength and stability of a Constitution depends largely on its ability to sustain a healthy and peaceful social system and when the occasion demands, facilitate the peaceful transformation of its economic and social orders. From this point of view the Constitution has not even a single ideal which even its severest critic would characterise as outmoded or reactionary. Its basic objective is to establish a Democratic, Socialist, Secular Republic with a view to secure Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity to all its citizens.