The Preamble to India’s Constitution

What is a Preamble, and what is the history of the Preamble to India’s Constitution?

  • A preamble is an introductory statement in a document that explains the document’s philosophy and objectives. In a Constitution, it presents the intention of its framers, the history behind its creation, and the core values and principles of the nation.
  • The ideals behind the Preamble to India’s Constitution were laid down by Jawaharlal Nehru’s Objectives Resolution, adopted by the Constituent Assembly on January 22, 1947.
  • Although not enforceable in court, the Preamble states the objects of the Constitution, and acts as an aid during the interpretation of Articles when language is found ambiguous.

The Preamble reads:

  • “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:

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A preamble is an introductory statement in a document that explains the document’s philosophy and objectives.

  1. JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
  2. LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
  3. EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;
  4. and to promote among them all
  5. 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.”

What do the key words in the Preamble stand for?

  • The words, “We, the people of India…” indicate the ultimate sovereignty of the people of India. Sovereignty means the independent authority of the State, not being subject to the control of any other State or external power.
  • The text declares India to be a “Republic” — indicating a government by the people and for the people.
  • It states “social, economic, and political justice” as an objective.
  • Nehru had said in 1956, “Democracy has been spoken of chiefly in the past, as political democracy, roughly represented by every person having a vote. But a vote by itself does not represent very much to a person who is down and out, to a person, let us say, who is starving and hungry. Political democracy, by itself, is not enough except that it may be used to obtain a gradually increasing measure of economic democracy, equality and the spread of good things of life to others and removal of gross inequalities.”
  • “Liberty”, “equality”, and “fraternity” have also been made ideals.
  • Dr B R Ambedkar, in his concluding speech in the Constituent Assembly, had said, “Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy. What does democracy mean? It means a way of life which recognises liberty, equality and fraternity which are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of democracy. Liberty cannot be divorced from equality, equality cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced from fraternity.”
  • The 42nd Amendment to the Constitution, passed in 1976, replaced the words “sovereign democratic republic” to “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”. It also changed “unity of the nation” to “unity and integrity of the nation”.

Source: IE