Indian constitution has a preamble attached to it. Though the preamble of the Constitution of India does not constitute an operative part of the Indian constitution, yet it serves several important purposes. It explains the ideals and objectives of the constitution.
After 42nd amendment in 1976, the preamble to the constitution 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:
JUSTICE, social, economic and political;
LIBERTY, of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship:
EQUALITY, of status and 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 26th day of November 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES, and THIS CONSTITUTION.”
An analysis of the preamble reveals that the source of the constitution is “We, the people.”
But the constitutions were neither framed by the people nor were the members of the Constituent Assembly directly elected representatives of people. They were elected under the Cabinet Mission Plan during the British rule on the basis of restrictive franchise. Yet the claim that the constitution is derived from the people is justified because of its broad-based popular acceptance ever since it came into force.
The very first sentence of the preamble declares India to be a Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic.
The term ‘sovereign‘ implies that India is internally supreme and externally free. State authority of India is supreme over all men and all associations within India’s territorial boundary. This is India’s internal sovereignty. Externally India is free from all external controls. India’s membership of the commonwealth or of the United Nations does not impose any external limit on her sovereignty. The Commonwealth is a free association of .sovereign Nations. It is no longer British Commonwealth. India does not accept the British Queen as the head of state. As Nehru pointed out, India joined the commonwealth by her “free will.” As for the U.N. it is not a super state but club of free nations. Membership of the U.N. in no way limits the authority of sovereign states. On the other hand, this membership is a mark of sovereignty of state, for only sovereign states are admitted to the membership of the United Nations.
The terms socialist and secular were added to the preamble by 42nd amendment in 1976. India’s honeymoon with socialism began in the early fifties at the Avadi Congress. Glaring disparity in income distribution induced the government to control the commanding heights of the economy in the interest of suffering masses. That is why the right of private property was removed from the list of fundamental rights through a constitutional amendment.
Again secularism is a glaring necessity in India’s socio-political context. Inhabited by people of all faiths, it is imperative that India does not accept any religion as the state-religion. India’s secularism ensures that religious minorities do not suffer from a sense of inferiority as do the minority communities in Pakistan or Bangladesh.
The terms ‘Democratic Republic‘ in the preamble are very important. India’s aim is to build up not only a democratic political system but also a democratic social system. In the matter of political organization, India has opted for representative democracy. This implies that government power shall be vested in the popularly elected representatives of the people. In India popular elections give legitimacy to our rulers.
A system is republican where no office of the state is held on the basis of hereditary prescriptive rights. In India every office of the state from the highest to the lowest is open to every citizen. Any citizen may occupy any office on the basis of merit. Thus, headship of the state is not hereditary as in England, nor is it based on military power as in dictatorial regimes.
To build up an ideal democracy, the preamble emphasizes justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as political ideals. These ideals listed in the preamble are, according to Prof. Barker, the quintessence of western democracy.
The ideal of justice implies a system where individuals can realize their full potentialities. In the view of our founding fathers it is not enough that there is political or legal justice. Political and legal justice is a myth unless accompanied by social and economic justice. Social justice implies that all social discriminations like caste or untouchability must be ended. Economic justice implies that economic exploitations should be ended. However, social and economic justice still remains unrealized dreams.
The ideal of liberty aims at ensuring these freedoms which make men really free. Liberty to be meaningful must mean liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. This concept of liberty is essentially political in nature. Non-mention of the economic liberty is certainly a drawback of the preamble.
The ideal of equality is aimed at removing discriminations between citizens. This is particularly important in the Indian society, vitiated by caste system and untouchability. But here again one should remember that equality in the social arena is bound to be empty unless accompanied by economic equality.
Finally, fraternity as an ideal is sought to be fostered to ensure the dignity of the individual and unity of the nation. One should however note that a fraternal feeling among Indians would grow only in proportion to the realization of the ideals of justice, liberty and equality. Thus fraternity is not an independent ideal but a resultant of the successful realization of important ideals listed earlier.