The Preamble to Constitution of India (in brief, Preamble) is more
than just 63 words perfectly arranged and catalogued (in a certain way) in some
normative sentences; most importantly, it is all about the democratic
aspirations and ideals of the people of India [I. C. Golaknath & Ors. Vs State
of Punjab & Anr., 1967 SCR 2]. It is pertinent to note that the Preamble to
Constitution of India does not subscribe to the ideology and philosophy
practised by one section of the society, even if that section happens to be in a
majority. However, it does not mean that the values enshrined in the Preamble to
Constitution of India discard the value systems of minority sections.
Preamble to Constitution of India is staggeringly different from many other
Preambles which we get to see (of other nations). It does not take the
tribulation on itself to derive aspirations from Religion, God, Identity etc. It
particularises and promises to ensure Liberty, Equality, Fraternity and Justice
to the people of India, and thats about it. The Preamble clears the air that the
people of India have resolved to secure to all its citizens Social, Economic and
It is not the case that Identity, Religion, or God are not/should not be
important to us, its just that our Preamble makes room for us to choose for
ourselves, our God, our History, our Faith and most importantly, to own our
thoughts. This resolution has been made by people of the nation solemnly, and
not by invoking any divine or spiritual power. In-fact, the Constitution of
India treats Believer, atheist and agnostic alike, as it doesnt differentiate
on trivial issues.
What did the Preamble mean to Constituent assembly?
The Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India had observed and was aware
of the fact that the Preamble should be limited to defining the important
features of the new nation and the socio-political objectives must be imbibed in
the most important text of the Constitution of India i.e., the Preamble.
It is very clear from the mere reading of the Preamble that the ultimate and
conclusive objective of the framers of the Constitution of India was to give
birth to an introduction (to the Constitution of India) which mirrors the
possible and definitive ideals of a Welfare State and an Egalitarian Society.
By necessary implication, the text of the Preamble to Constitution of India had
to include in itself, the aims and aspirations of the people of India who
sacrificed their lives for the attainment of the countrys independence.
WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a
SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its
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
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY
ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
The original text of our Preamble to Constitution of India as adopted by the
Constituent Assembly in the year 1949 declared India as a Sovereign Democratic
Republic. Through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment of 1976, which was enacted
during the infamous Emergency days, the words Socialist and Secular were
also added to the Preamble (It is said that the then Prime Minister, Indira
Gandhi was keen to prove that her Government was true to the spirit of the
Constitution of India).
The Indira Gandhi Government endeavoured to reassure that the minorities in the
country would be safe and the moneyed class would not dominate the economy. The
Preamble to Constitution of India as we see now, reads - SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST
SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC. It is worth noting that the purpose of introducing
the two words by the Indira Gandhi Government may have been cynical, but they
did make explicit the commitments the nation had already made to its people as
well as to itself.
The first line of preamble says: We the people of India......, which means
that the Constitution of India appears to have originated out of collective will
of the Indians. Though the Constitution of India says so, whether really it is
so? Indian culture is thousands of years old and is one of the oldest civilisation of the earth. The period of a few centuries, prior to achieving
independence in 1947, was a period of foreign invasion starting from the
invasion by the Moghuls and culminating into the colonisation of India by the
During this period of over three centuries, attempts were made to
destroy the Indian culture, blunt the conscience of the Indians and to impose on
them the Western culture. As a result of this eclipse of the Indian culture and
the national conscience, while adopting the Constitution of India, like a hypnotised person we looked to the West for formulation of our Constitution and
the subsequent governance. In the process, either willingly or unwillingly, the
Indian context was discarded not by the masses but by the rulers who were thrown
up as a result of the faulty process of governance adopted by us under
Constitution of India and under various laws flowing from it.
As Constitution of India is the conscience of our Nation India that is Bharat so
is the Preamble as the conscience of Constitution of India. Our Constitution’s
spirit is the Preamble, which is the Backbone of Constitution of India. It is
the guiding spirit for Indian Nation on the touchstone of Basic Features of
Constitution of India. Preamble indicates the language and expressions of the
Constitution of India as its Vision- Mission and not in a rigid or exhaustive
The Preamble to Constitution of India is not a mere solemn resolution; it is
something more than a resolution. It is declaration; it is a firm resolve; it is
a pledge and an understanding. It is not a spirit of narrow legal wording, but a
majestic expression of constitutional morality, constitutional polity and
constitutional culture. It is an expression of dedication to the people of
India. The Preamble, in fact, is the very life-breath of the Constitution of
India which the founder-authors have framed. Its dedication to the people of
India unequivocally speaks about the sovereignty of the people of India; viz.,
the sovereignty will vest in the whole body of people of India.
founder-authors expressed that the sovereignty of the people of India will not
be bartered away or bargained in the name of Commonwealth; it does not vest in
any foreigner. Sovereignty does not vest even in the Government. Government only
represents the people of India. Acharya J. B. Kriplani expounded the genesis of
the Preamble to Constitution of India which encapsulates also the genesis of
basic feature philosophy for the future emulation.
His eloquent words were:
… What we have stated in this Preamble are not legal and political principles
only. They are also great moral and spiritual principles and if I may say so,
they are mystic principles. In fact these were not first legal and
constitutional principles, but they were really spiritual and moral principles.
… Take democracy.
What is it? It implies the equality of man, it implies
fraternity. Above all it implies the great principles of non-violence. How can
there be democracy where there is violence? Even the ordinary definition of
democracy is that instead of breaking heads, we count heads. … If we want to use
democracy as only a legal, constitutional and formal device, I submit, we shall
fail. As we have put democracy at the basis of our Constitution, I wish that the
whole country should understand the moral, the spiritual and the mystic
implication of the word democracy.
If we have not done that, we shall fail as
they have failed in other countries. Democracy will be made into autocracy and
it will be made into imperialism, and it will be made into fascism. But as a
moral principle, it must be lived in life. It is not lived in life, and the
whole of it in all its departments, it becomes only a formal and a legal
principle. We have got to see that we live this democracy in our life. It would
be inconsistent with democracy to have it only in the legal and political field.
Politically, we are a democratic people but economically we are divided into
such classes that the barriers cannot be cross. If we have got to be democratic
we have got to be economically so too.
I also say democracy is inconsistent with caste system. That is social
aristocracy. We must do away with castes and classes, otherwise we cannot swear
by democracy. And we must remember that economic democracy does not merely mean
that there should be no classes, that there should be no rich and poor; but the
State itself should live in a manner that is consistent with the life of the
poor, if people happen to be poor. It is not economic equality if for pomp and
pageant; we spend thousands and lakhs of rupees. It is again not democracy if at
every corner of the Government House human beings are made to stand statue like
and unmoving. Such things are against the dignity of the individuals. If we
establish democracy, we have to establish it in the whole of our life, in all
its departments, whether it be in administration, or in society or in the
economic field. This we must know and understand.
Then we have said that we will have liberty of thought, expression, belief,
faith and worship. … All these freedoms can only be guaranteed on the basis of
non-violence. … But there is mental violence. We have to respect it as having an
element of truth. No religion in the world is perfect, and yet there is no faith
without some element of God’s truth.
Then we have said that there should be equality of status and opportunity. This
implies that in our public affairs, we should be absolutely above board; that
there should be no nepotism, there should be no favoritism; there should be no
mine and not mine. … We can give equality of opportunity and equality of
status only when what is considered as Ours is put behind and what is
considered as Not Ours is put before. Unless we do these things, we will not
be able to fulfill the aims of our Constitution.
Again I come to the great doctrine of fraternity which is allied with democracy.
It means that we are all sons of the same God, as the religious would say but as
the mystic would say that there is one life pulsating through us all. … What we
have enunciated are not merely legal, constitutional and formal principles, but
moral principles; and moral principles have got to be lived in life. They have
to be lived whether it is private life or it is public life, whether it is
commercial life, political life or the life of an administrator. They have to be
lived throughout. These things, we have to remember if our Constitution is to
… We have to remind ourselves that we are here as the representatives of the
people. We have to remind ourselves that we are the servants of the people. We
often forget that we are here in a representative capacity. We often forget that
we are the servants of the people. It always happens that our language, because
of our thoughts and actions, gives little countenance to this basic idea. …
Therefore, on this solemn occasion, it is necessary to lay down clearly and
distinctly that sovereignty resides in and flows from the people......
Mr. Naziruddin Ahmed in his eloquent expression responded that on the actual
working of democracy its success depends.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar in his concluding remarks on the Preamble to Constitution of
India expressed with elocution:
… The general intention of the House, viz. that this Constitution should emanate
from the people and should recognize that the sovereignty to make this
Constitution vests in the people. … The Preamble falls into three distinct
parts. There is one part which is declaratory. The second part is descriptive.
The third part is objective and obligatory. Now, the declaratory part consists
of the phrase: We the people of India, in our Constituent Assembly, day, this
month … do hereby adopt enact and give to ourselves Constitution.
Constitution say or does this Constitution not say that the Constitution is
ordained, adopted and enacted by the people. I think anybody who reads its plain
language, not dissociating it from other parts, namely, the descriptive and the
objective, cannot have any doubt that is what the Preamble means. … Does this
Constitution or does it not acknowledge, recognize and proclaim that it emanates
from the people? I say it does.…
As most Members know that United States
Constitution was drafted by a very small body of 13 States which met at
Philadelphia to draw up the Constitution.
Therefore, if the representatives of
13 States assembled in a small conference in Philadelphia could pass a
Constitution and say that what they did was in the name of the people, on their
authority, basing on it their sovereignty. I personally myself, do not
understand unless a man was an absolute pedant that a body of people 292 in
number, representing this vast continent, in their representative capacity,
could not say that they are acting in the name of the people of this country. …
No person in this House desires that there should be anything in this
Constitution which has the remotest semblance of its having been derived from
the sovereignty of the British Parliament. Nobody has the slightest desire for
that. In fact we wish to delete every vestige of the sovereignty of the British
Parliament such as it existed before the operation of this Constitution. There
is no difference of opinion between any Member of this House and any Member of
the Drafting Committee so far as that is concerned.…
This Preamble embodies
what is the desire of every Member of the House that this Constitution should
have its root, its authority, its sovereignty, from the people.....
Utility of Preamble
The Preamble/Aims/Objectives of any Bill/Act is an introductory part of that
document, which goes on to explain the purpose, logic, and philosophy of that
particular document. A Preamble sets the tone of the introduction to a document,
highlighting the principles and fundamental values of the document. It
canvasses the source of the documents authority.
However, the case with the Preamble to Constitution of India is slightly
different. In fact, the text of the Preamble doesnt consist of mere flourish
words but they set the tone of an ideal atmosphere for practice and observance
as a matter of law through Constitutional mechanism (Similar remarks were made
in the case of Indra Sawhney Vs Union of India, 1992 Supp. (3) SCC 217). In
the case of Preamble, it is special because the edifice of our Constitution is
built upon the concepts crystallised in the Preamble to Constitution of India. [Minerva Mills Ltd. & Ors. Vs Union of India & Ors., 1981 SCR (1) 206].
In the case of In Re: The Berubari Union And ... Vs Unknown, AIR 1960 SC 845,
the Supreme Court held that the Preamble to Constitution of India is not a part
of the Constitution, but it should be considered as a guiding principle for the
provisions enshrined under the Constitution of India.
However, in the case of Kesavananda Bharti Vs State of Kerla, AIR 1973 SC
1461, the Supreme Court rightly rejected this idea and held that the Preamble is
very much a part of the Constitution of India. This Judgment implies that
through the route of Article 368 of the Constitution of India, the Parliament
can amend the Preamble to Constitution of India. However, in the same case, it
was further propounded that through the route of Article 368, the basic
structure of the Constitution of India cannot be altered.
Later on, in the case of Smt. Indira Nehru Gandhi Vs Shri Raj Narain, 1975
(Supp) SCC 1, the Supreme Court attempted to further outline the importance of
the Preamble to Constitution of India. This Judgment was quite impactful as it
supplied due importance to the Preamble. The Constitution Bench, in this case
observed that Preamble is the source of any basic feature (of the Constitution
of India) thus ensuring that it is revered, honoured and admired widely by
people (and Governments) at large.
Moreover, in the case of Jacob M. Puthuparambil & Ors. Vs Kerla Water Authority
& Ors., 1990 SCR (Suppl.) (1) 562 Honble Supreme Court observed that while the
Preamble promises socio-economic justice to all, the fundamental rights under
part III of the Constitution of India confer certain justiciable socio-economic
rights. Apart from that, the Directive Principles of State Policy occurring
under Part IV of the Constitution of India aim to fix the socio-economic goals
which the State must strive to attain. The Supreme Court went on to say that
these three together constitute the core and conscience of the Constitution of
The limitation of the Preamble to Constitution of India is that no ordinary
legislation can be struck down just because it goes against the values contained
in the Preamble. While it is true that such values form the very basis of
existence of all the Fundamental Rights, and it may be the case that such a
legislation (or some of its features) infringes the guaranteed fundamental
rights, but unless and until such a legislation or its provisions contravene the
guaranteed fundamental rights themselves (and not just the Preamble) they wont
be held unconstitutional.
We must also remember that it is a well-established Rule of Interpretation that
what is contrary to the Constitution of India cannot be justified with reference
to the Preamble and values enshrined therein. It is also pertinent to note that
the Preamble to Constitution of India cannot be regarded as a source of
prohibition or limitation on the power a legislature as held in the case of Raghunathrao
Ganpatrao Vs Union of India, 1993 SCR (1) 480.
Nature of the Preamble and Supreme Courts view on Preamble
As many of us know, the Preamble to Constitution of India is based on the
Objective Resolution introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly
on December 13, 1946. The Constituent Assembly held its first meeting on
9th December, 1946 and on 13th December, 1946 it moved this resolution. The
foremost purpose of passing this resolution was to declare the aims and purposes
of the Constituent Assembly in clear terms. It is remarkable that by doing so,
the Constituent Assembly didnt just set the highest standards for itself, but
for the ages to come. This resolution was finally adopted on 22 January, 1947.
The Preamble has been called the soul of the Constitution of India (and rightly
so) because every particular detail and characteristic about the ideals of
Constitution of India could be traced back to the Preamble to Constitution of
India. It is needless to say that the Preamble must act as the guide/key to the
understanding of the Constitution of India and what makers of the Constitution
had in their mind while framing the Constitution of India. The Preamble to
Constitution of India was adopted on November 26, 1949, but was ultimately
implemented from January 26, 1950, the day which we also know today as Republic
To talk about the nature of Preamble, we can categorically say that the Preamble
to Constitution of India is an epitome of those attributes, which appear in
various Articles of the Constitution of India and such features are guiding
principles for the Governments as well. The makers of the Constitution of India
were well aware of the fact that Preamble to Constitution of India must bear the
stamp of extensive deliberation and should be marked by ultra-precision and
The Preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that
sets out the guiding purpose, principles and philosophy of the Constitution. In
the case of Kuldip Nayar & Ors. Vs Union of India & Ors., 2006 (7) SCC 1,
the Supreme Court held that the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution
In the case of I. C. Golaknath & Ors. Vs State of Punjab & Anr., 1967 SCR
2 Constitution Bench of Honble Supreme Court (Per Majority) held that It (The
Preamble) contains in a nutshell, its (The Constitution) ideals and its
aspirations. The Preamble is not a platitude but the, mode of its realisation is
worked out in detail in the Constitution of India.
Important words and their meanings present in the Preamble
There are several words which appear in the Preamble to the Constitution of
India but they cannot be explained objectively. However, we can very well have
an idea about what do they mean and what purpose do they serve. In this section,
we will talk about such words and the plain understanding of such words coupled
with their interpretation as put forth by the Supreme Court through various
We, the people of India:
The phrase We, the people of India emphasizes that Constitution of India
is created by and for the people of India, thus implying that no external power
has given this Constitution to us (unlike the Act of 1935). In other words, it
means that we have created the Constitution of India for ourselves through our
own efforts and by our own people.
Sovereign: Constitution of India also emphasizes the concept of Sovereignty.
By the word Sovereign, we mean that all power emanates from the people of
India and Indias political system will be accountable and responsible only to
the people of this country. The insertion of this word also meant that the
Constituent Assembly was not bound by limitations which were imposed on it by
the Cabinet Mission Plan of 1946 or otherwise. In a way, it was a declaration
that the Constituent Assembly has the power to outweigh any kind of limitations
imposed on it by external powers.
In the case of Synthetic & Chemicals Pvt. Ltd. Vs State of Utter Pradesh,
1989 SCR (Suppl.) (1) 623, the Supreme Court explained that the word Sovereign
means that the State has the freedom to do everything within the restrictions
imposed by the Grund norm i.e., the Constitution of India. When we talk about
the exercise of sovereign power, it means that the State has the sufficient
authority to enact any law/rule/regulation to discharge its functions; however,
the authority is subject to the limitations set by the Constitution of India.
In this case, the Court held, The sovereign power is plenary and inherent in
every sovereign State to do all things which promote the health, peace, morals,
education and good order of the people. This power of sovereignty is, however,
subject to Constitutional limitations. This power, according to some
constitutional authorities, is to the public what necessity is to the
individual. The importance of Sovereignty lies in the fact that no nation can
have its constitution unless it is Sovereign.
The term Socialist was added in the year 1976 by the 42nd
Constitutional Amendment. Socialism can be understood as an economic
philosophy whereby the means of production and distribution of resources fall
under the authority of State. However, as we know, India has adopted a model of Mixed Economy, whereby the production work, apart from the state, can
be carried out by people in the private sector and they can have limited
ownership over the resources as well. So it is safe to say that India doesnt
follow the traditional concept of Socialism.
As we pointed out in the beginning, it is very difficult to explain what exactly
is Socialism? It could mean many different things to different people and
thinkers. Different people have a different conceptual understanding of it. The
concept of Socialism or a Socialist State has undergone several changes from
time to time, from country to country and from thinker to thinker.
However, there are some fundamental concepts related to the term which can never
become off-beat. In the Indian scenario, Socialism is a politico-economic system
that provides Social, Economic and Political Justice. Socialism, in the form of
Socialist Philosophy, lays greater emphasis on Democratic Socialism.
It is a popular misconception that Dr Ambedkar didnt want India to be a
socialist nation. The fact is that he did imagine a socialist model for the
Constitution. He always believed that if there is no socialist model in place,
it would be impossible to affect the downtrodden section of the society
(Untouchables/Dalits/poor) in a positive way.
He advocated in favour of uplifting the economic status of a person. He also
believed that Economic progress of an individual would be possible only through
a system of state control and not through a system of privatization. However,
the reason why he opposed the insertion of the word Socialist in the preamble
was that he wanted the future generations to decide for themselves, the course
of their economy.
In the case of Minerva Mills Ltd. (supra), the Constitution Bench of the
Supreme Court explained that we may find the concept of Socialism incorporated
in the Directive Principles of State Policy.
Court held that:
We resolved to constitute ourselves into a Socialist State which carried with it
the obligation to secure to our people justice-social, economic and political.
We, therefore, put Part IV into our Constitution containing directive principles
of State policy which specify the socialistic goal to be achieved.
We must not forget that while the Constituent Assembly chose not to insert the
word Socialist in the Preamble, the Indira Gandhi Government did that in 1976.
However 15 years later (in 1991) the economic policy of our country witnessed
drastic changes. In 1991, the Indian government adopted privatisation (instead
of state ownership) and that is why the existence of the word Socialist in the
Preamble is often debated.
Secular: The meaning which the word Secularism as occurring in the
Preamble entails is - the State will have no religion of its own and all its
people will be equally entitled to the freedom of their conscience and may
adopt, practice and propagate the religion of their choice. In the case of S.
R. Bommai Vs Union of India, 1994 SCC (3) 1, a Nine Judge Bench of the
Supreme Court of India had highlighted the concept of Secularism as a core
feature of the Constitution of India.
This word indicates that the Constitution has established a
form of government which derives its authority from the will of the people. The
Ruler/Government in power will be elected by the people and he/it shall be
responsible to them. Significantly, the words Democratic and Republic should
be understood together rather than theorizing them separately.
As held in the case of R. C. Poudyal & Anr. Vs Union of India & Ors.,
1993 SCR (1) 891, in our Constitution, Democratic-Republic means peoples
powers. It is related to the actual, active and effective exercise of power by
the people. In fact, Democracy is a multi-faceted system; it refers to the
political participation of the people in running the administration of the
government. It describes the state of affairs and rule of law under which, every
citizen has been assured the right to equal participation in the polity. The
same proposition has been discussed in the case of Mohan Lal Tripathi Vs
District Magistrate, 1992 SCR (3) 338.
Unlike a monarchy, where the head of state is appointed on a
hereditary basis to keep the power to rule for a lifetime, a Democratic-Republic
is a system of polity whereby the head of state is elected (directly or
indirectly) for a fixed term, through the participation of state subjects. As we
know, there is no bar to a citizen being elected to any public office. Every
citizen of India is eligible to become the President or Prime Minister of the
Preamble: A much needed reminder?
Preamble to the Constitution of India, therefore, the backbone of the complete
edifice of the Constitution. It shapes the Constitution of India into a dynamic
document. It mirrors the inner theme of the Constitution of India. The phrase or
expression We the People of India reflects the source and authority for
drawing up the Constitution. It is a statement of objects, aims and philosophy
of the Constitution and its makers. The Preamble is considered a key to open the
mind of the Constitution makers and is a guide to interpretation of the
provisions of the Constitution. It is a part of the textual Constitution
embodying the experiences of its authors; it is the genesis of the Constitution
The opening words of the Preamble We the People of India made it
unequivocally clear that the Constitution has emanated from the people of India
and not from any external authority (British Parliament or crown of England) or
any less authority than the people of India. Its poetry in prose language is
undoubtedly a masterpiece of uniqueness encompassing the quintessence of the
basic features of the basic structure of the edifice on which the Constitution
of India is built. Sovereign, secular, socialist, democratic, republic, justice,
equality, liberty, fraternity, dignity of the individual and unity and integrity
of the Nation are entrenched as immutable basic structure of the edifice of the
Constitution of India.
The Preamble to the Constitution of India is the best way through which we can
continuously remind ourselves the aspirations of the people of not just the
Constituent Assembly but also the people who could not live enough to witness
India which is free of external dominance. In the end, it is important to
recognise the Preamble to the Constitution of India as the very basis of our
existence. It is the starting point of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and it
goes on to solidify our independent aspirations.
Written By: Dinesh Singh Chauhan, Advocate - High Court of Judicature,
Email: [email protected], [email protected]