Probably all of us had noticed that familiar page in all our textbooks in school life that had something written like “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved…”. Maybe we never bothered to go through that page seriously. However, that short paragraph-like text is the preamble to the constitution of India; the gateway to Indian polity and legal system.
Like any other preamble, the preamble to the constitution of India also does express the basic principles on which the whole constitution will be based. It can be considered as a very short outline of the philosophy which defines the corner-stones of the Indian constitution.
Although the idea of having a preamble to the constitution may have been borrowed from the US constitution, but talking about the content thereof, the preamble to the constitution of India borrows its significant portion from the objectives resolution by J. L. Neheru in 1946.
Although the preamble to the constitution is not enforceable in the court of law, still it can very well be used to interpret an article in light of the intention of the constituent assembly. Initially, in the re Berubari case the hon’ble apex court had held that the preamble is not a part of the constitution. However, in this case, the fact which was not brought before the notice of the court is that contrary to the popular assumption, the preamble to the constitution of India was presented before and voted by the constituent assembly just like other articles of the constitution. After noticing this fact, the apex court, in Kesavananda Bharati case, held that the preamble is a significant part of the constitution and also part of the basic structure of the constitution.
The preamble starts with the expression “We, people of India, having solemnly resolved…”. This starting phrase strongly supports the implication that the people of India hold the real power of sovereign in India, and the power of the constitution is merely a delegated one.
The phrase that follows is “… to constitute India into a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular Democratic Republic…”. This gives us an idea about the India that has been envisioned by the sculptors of our constitution. The power that has been delegated to the constitution of India will be directed towards constituting India into a sovereign, socialist, and secular, democratic republic.
Looking into the terms socialist and secular, it may be observed that India follows positive socialism and also a type of secularism that’s different from the American notion of secularism. Indian constitution doesn’t prohibit individual ownership towards the realisation of the goal of socialism. Also, nor does it totally separate the state from religion. Indian constitution rather adopts a middle way to balance things between different strata of the society.
Subsequently, the preamble promises to secure to all the citizens of India justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Interestingly, the order in which these terms are mentioned is equally important. The order of expression of these words defines the order of preference that’ll be used in case of inconsistency between two of them. That is, justice will have preference over all, followed by liberty, equality, and fraternity.
The preamble promises to secure to all the citizens of India social justice, economic justice, and political justice. Talking about liberty, it promises liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship. It also secures equality of status as well as equality of opportunities. Lastly, it expresses its intention that may justice, liberty, and equality, by acting as three pillars of fraternity amongst the citizens, uphold the unity and integrity of the nation.
Lastly, in the concluding phrases, the preamble states that we, the people of India, give to ourselves this constitution, thereby emphasising the system of self-governance in India. We’ll discuss about some other aspects of the Indian constitution in the upcoming blogs.