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Indian Polity (Preamble) for UPSC Preparation



The Preamble of the Indian Constitution serves as a guiding light, encapsulating the fundamental principles and aspirations of the nation. For UPSC aspirants, comprehending the significance of the Preamble is essential. In this website blog, we delve into the intricacies of the Preamble, its components, key phrases, legal interpretations, and its relevance in Indian polity.


The Preamble of the Indian Constitution


The Preamble of the Indian Constitution is based on the Objectives Resolution, which was moved by Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on December 13, 1946. The Objectives Resolution outlined the basic principles and goals of the constitution-making process, such as sovereignty, democracy, justice, equality, liberty, fraternity, secularism and cosmopolitanism. The Objectives Resolution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on January 22, 1947, and later incorporated in the Preamble with some modifications.


The Preamble was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949, along with the rest of the constitution. It was enacted and given to the people of India on January 26, 1950, when the constitution came into force. The original text of the Preamble was amended only once, by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976, which added the words “socialist” and “secular” to describe the nature of the Indian state, and the words “unity and integrity of the Nation” to emphasise the national integration.


The Preamble reads as follows:


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.


Components of the Preamble


The Preamble can be divided into four components:


  • The source of the constitution: The phrase “We, the people of India” signifies that the constitution is made by and for the people of India, and not given to them by any external authority. It also implies the concept of popular sovereignty, which means that the ultimate power and authority of the state lies with the people.

  • The nature of the Indian state: The Preamble declares India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and republican state. These terms describe the essential features and values of the Indian polity. Sovereignty means that India is free from any external control and can conduct its own affairs, both internally and externally. Socialism means that India strives to achieve social and economic justice for all its citizens, by reducing inequalities and ensuring a fair distribution of resources. Secularism means that India respects all religions and does not favour any one religion over another. Democracy means that India is governed by the representatives of the people, who are elected by them through a free and fair electoral process. Republic means that India has an elected head of state, who is accountable to the people and not a hereditary monarch.

  • The objectives of the Indian state: The Preamble states the goals and aspirations of the Indian state, which are to secure justice, liberty, equality and fraternity for all its citizens. Justice means that the state shall ensure that all its citizens are treated fairly and impartially, without any discrimination or oppression. Liberty means that the state shall protect the rights and freedoms of all its citizens, such as freedom of speech, expression, belief, faith and worship. Equality means that the state shall ensure that all its citizens have equal status and opportunity, regardless of their caste, creed, gender, religion or region. Fraternity means that the state shall promote a sense of brotherhood and solidarity among all its citizens, respecting their diversity and dignity, and fostering the unity and integrity of the nation.

  • The date of adoption of the constitution: The Preamble mentions the date of adoption of the constitution, which is November 26, 1949. This date is significant because it marks the culmination of the long and arduous process of constitution-making, which began with the appointment of the Constituent Assembly on December 9, 1946, and ended with the signing of the constitution by 284 members of the Assembly on January 24, 1950. The constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, which is celebrated as the Republic Day of India.


Key Phrases in the Preamble


Some of the key phrases in the Preamble that reflect the vision and philosophy of the constitution are:


  • “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic”: This phrase describes the nature and identity of the Indian state, as well as its commitment to the ideals of socialism, secularism, democracy and republicanism. It also indicates that India is a federal state, which consists of a union of states that have a degree of autonomy, but are subject to the authority of the central government.

  • “Justice, social, economic and political”: This phrase indicates that the state shall strive to provide justice to all its citizens, not only in the legal sense, but also in the social, economic and political spheres. Social justice means that the state shall work towards the elimination of social evils, such as casteism, communalism, untouchability, etc., and promote the welfare of the weaker sections of the society, such as the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, women, children, etc. Economic justice means that the state shall ensure that the resources of the country are utilized for the benefit of all, especially the poor and the marginalized, and that there is no concentration of wealth or exploitation of labour. Political justice means that the state shall guarantee the participation of all its citizens in the governance of the country, through universal adult franchise, free and fair elections, and a responsible and accountable government.

  • “Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship”: This phrase implies that the state shall respect and protect the fundamental rights of all its citizens, especially the right to freedom of speech and expression, the right to freedom of conscience and religion, and the right to freedom of association and assembly. It also implies that the state shall not impose any restrictions on these rights, except for the purposes of maintaining public order, morality, security, etc., as prescribed by the constitution and the law.

  • “Equality of status and of opportunity”: This phrase implies that the state shall ensure that all its citizens are equal before the law, and that there is no discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, caste, sex, place of birth, etc. It also implies that the state shall provide equal opportunities to all its citizens, in terms of education, employment, health, etc., and that there is no denial of any rights or privileges to any person or group of persons.

  • “Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation”: This phrase implies that the state shall promote a sense of brotherhood and solidarity among all its citizens, irrespective of their differences and diversities. It also implies that the state shall respect the dignity and worth of every individual, and that there is no violation of human rights or dignity of any person or group of persons. It also implies that the state shall safeguard the unity and integrity of the nation, and that there is no threat or challenge to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.


Preamble as Part of the Constitution


One of the important questions that arises in relation to the Preamble is whether it is a part of the constitution or not. The answer to this question is not very clear, as there have been different opinions and interpretations given by various authorities and courts over the years. However, the general consensus is that the Preamble is a part of the constitution, but not an enforceable part.


The Preamble is a part of the constitution, because it is a part of the basic structure of the constitution, which cannot be amended or altered by the Parliament. The Preamble reflects the essence and spirit of the constitution, and provides the key to its interpretation. The Preamble also serves as a source of guidance and inspiration for the people of India, as well as the organs of the state, such as the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.


However, the Preamble is not an enforceable part of the constitution, because it does not confer any rights or obligations on anyone. The Preamble is not a source of power or authority for the state, nor a limitation or restriction on its powers. The Preamble is not a source of rights or remedies for the citizens, nor a ground for challenging any law or action of the state. The Preamble is not justiciable, meaning that it cannot be invoked or enforced in a court of law.


Supreme Court Judgments Relating to the Preamble


The Supreme Court of India has given several landmark judgments relating to the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, which have clarified and enriched its meaning and significance. Some of the important cases are:


  • Re: Berubari Union Case: In this case, the Supreme Court said that the Preamble is not a part of the Constitution and because of this, Preamble has no substantive power. The court also held that the Preamble could not alter the boundaries of India.

  • Golaknath v State of Punjab: In this case, the Supreme Court held that the Parliament cannot amend the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution, as they are inviolable and sacrosanct. The court also observed that the Preamble is a key to the minds of the makers of the Constitution and shows the general purpose behind the various provisions in the Constitution.

  • Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerala: In this case, the Supreme Court overruled the Golaknath case and held that the Parliament can amend any part of the Constitution, including the fundamental rights, but subject to the condition that the basic structure of the Constitution is not violated. The court also recognised the Preamble as a part of the Constitution and said that it reflects the basic structure of the Constitution.

  • Indira Nehru Gandhi v Raj Narain: In this case, the Supreme Court struck down the 39th Amendment Act, which sought to immunise the election of the Prime Minister from judicial scrutiny, as it violated the basic structure of the Constitution. The court also held that the Preamble is the soul of the Constitution and embodies the basic features of the Constitution such as democracy, rule of law and judicial review.

  • Minerva Mills v Union of India: In this case, the Supreme Court declared the 42nd Amendment Act, which gave primacy to the Directive Principles of State Policy over the Fundamental Rights, as unconstitutional, as it destroyed the harmony and balance between the two. The court also reaffirmed the importance of the Preamble and said that it is the conscience of the Constitution and expresses the political, moral and religious values of the Constitution.


What is the basic structure of the Constitution?


The basic structure of the Constitution is a concept that refers to the fundamental principles and values that underlie the Constitution and cannot be altered or destroyed by any amendment. The basic structure of the Constitution includes features such as the supremacy of the Constitution, the sovereignty of the nation, the democratic and republican form of government, the secular and federal character of the Constitution, the separation of powers, the fundamental rights, the rule of law, the judicial review, and the unity and integrity of the nation. The basic structure doctrine was developed by the Supreme Court of India in several landmark cases, such as the Kesavananda Bharati case, the Indira Gandhi case, and the Minerva Mills case. The doctrine aims to preserve and protect the spirit and essence of the Constitution from any amendment that violates or distorts it.


Previous Year Civil Service Questions:


  1. Examine the significance of the Preamble in the Indian Constitution and its role in guiding the governance of the country. (UPSC 2021)

  2. Discuss the key phrases in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution and their significance in shaping the polity of the nation. (UPSC 2019)

  3. Evaluate the relevance of the Preamble in interpreting the provisions of the Indian Constitution, with reference to relevant Supreme Court judgments. (UPSC 2018)


 

Q.) Which one of the following objectives is not embodied in the Preamble to the Constitution of India?


(a) Liberty of thought

(b) Economic liberty

(c) Liberty of expression

(d) Liberty of belief


Answer: (b) Economic liberty

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