Preamble of Indian Constitution for Law Students
Chief Jusitce Subba Rao in Golak Nath v[I]. State of Punjabhad held that “The preamble to an Act sets out the main objectives which the legislation is intended to achieve”.
Unlike the Constitution of Australia, Canada or U.S.A., the constitution of India has an elaborate preamble. The purpose of the preamble is to clarify who has made the constitution, what is its source, what is the ultimate sanction behind it, what is the nature of the polity which is sought to be established by the constitution.
Black’s Law Dictionary states that the preamble means a clause at the beginning or a statute explanatory of the reasons for its enactment and the objectives sought to be accomplished. Generally, a Preamble is a declaration made by the legislature of the reasons for the passage of the statute and is helpful in the interpretation of any ambiguities within the statute to which it is prefixed. [v]
The Constitution opens with a Preamble. Initially, the Preamble was drafted by Sh. B. N. Rau in his memorandum of May 30, 1947 and was later reproduced in the Draft of October 7, 1947. In the context of the deliberations by the Constituent Assembly, the Preamble was reformulated. The Committee claimed that they had tried to embody in it the spirit, and as far as possible, the language of the Objectives Resolution.[vi] Constitutions all over the world generally have a preamble. The form, content and length of the preamble differ from constitution to constitution. Irrespective of these differences the preamble generally sets the ideas and goals which the makers of the constitution intend to achieve through that constitution.
The proper function of preamble is to explain and recite certain facts which are necessary to be explained and recited, before the enactment contained in an act of Parliament could be understood. A preamble may be used for other reasons, such as, to limit the scope of certain expressions or to explain facts or introduce definitions. It usually states, or professes to state, the general object and meaning of the legislature in passing the measure. Hence it may be legitimately consulted for the purpose of solving an ambiguity or fixing the connotation of words which may possibly have more meaning, or determining of the Act, whenever the enacting part in any of these respect is prone to doubt. In a nutshell, a court may look into the object and policy of the Act as recited in the Preamble when a doubt arises in its mind as to whether the narrower or the more liberal interpretation ought to be placed on the language which is capable of bearing both meanings. In A.K Gopalan v. State of Madras[vii], it was contended that the preamble to our constitution which seeks to give India a ‘democratic’ constitution should be the guiding start in its interpretation and hence any law made under Article 21 should be held as void if it offends the principles of natural justice, for otherwise the so-called “fundamental” rights to life and personal liberty would have no protection. The majority on the bench of the Supreme Court rejected this contention holding that ‘law’ in article 21 refers to positive or state made law and not natural justice, and that this meaning of the language of article 21 could not be modified with reference to the preamble. In Berubari Union case[viii]the Supreme Court held that the preamble had never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the government or on any of its departments. The court further explained that “what is true about the powers is equally true about the prohibitions and limitations”. It, therefore, observed that the preamble had limited application. The court laid down that the preamble would not be resorted to if the language of the enactment contained in the constitution was clear. However, “if the terms used in any of the articles in the constitution are ambiguous or capable of two meanings, in interpreting them some assistance may be sought in the objectives enshrined in the Preamble.” In State of Rajasthan v. Basant Nahata [ix] it was held that a preamble with an ordinary Statute is to be resorted only when the language is itself capable of more than one meaning and not when something is not capable of being given a precise meaning as in case of public policy.
In Kesavananda Bharati[x] case the Supreme Court attached much importance to the preamble. In this case, the main question before the Supreme Court related to the scope of amending power of the Union Parliament under Article 368 of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court traced the history of the drafting and ultimate adoption of the Preamble. Chief Justice Sikri observed,
“No authority has been referred before us to establish the propositions that what is true about the powers is equally true about the prohibitions and limitations. Even from the Preamble limitations have been derived in some cases. It seems to me that the preamble of our Constitution is of extreme importance and the constitution should be read and interpreted in the light of the grand and noble vision expressed in the preamble.”
A majority of the full bench held that the objectives specified in the preamble contain the basic structure of our constitution, which cannot be amended in exercise of the power under Article 368 of the constitution. It was further held that being a part of the constitution, the preamble was not outside the reach of the amending power of the Parliament under article 368. It was in the exercise of this amending power that the constitution (42nd amendment) Act 1976 amended the preamble inserting therein, the terms socialist, secular and integrity.
In the 1995 case of Union Government v. LIC of India also the Supreme Court has once again held that the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution.
The Preamble serves the following purposes:
a) It indicates the source from which the Constitution comes, viz., the people of India.
b) It contains the enacting clause which brings into force, the Constitution which makes it an act of the people, for the people and by the people.
c) It declares the rights and freedoms which the people of India intended to provide to all citizens and the basic type of government and polity which was to be established. [xi]
1. Beruberi Case
2. Kesavananda Bharati case
Berubari[xii] casewas the Presidential Reference “under Article 143(1) of the Constitution of India on the implementation of the Indo-Pakistan Agreement Relating to Beruberi Union and Exchange of Enclaves which came up for consideration by a bench consisting of eight judges headed by the Chief Justice B.P. Singh. Justice Gajendragadkar delivered the unanimous opinion of the Court. The court ruled out that the Preamble to the Constitution, containing the declaration made by the people of India in exercise of their sovereign will, no doubt it is “a key to open the mind of the makers” which may show the general purposes for which they made the several provisions in the Constitution but nevertheless the Preamble is not a part of the Constitution.
Kesavananda Bharati[xiii] casehas created history. For the first time, a bench of 13 judges assembled and sat in its original jurisdiction hearing the writ petition. Thirteen judges placed on record 11 separate opinions. To the extent necessary for the purpose of the Preamble, it can be safely concluded that the majority in Kesavananda Bharati case leans in favor of holding,
(i) That the Preamble to the Constitution of India is a part of the Constitution;
(ii) That the Preamble is not a source of power or a source of limitations or prohibitions;
(iii) The Preamble has a significant role to play in the interpretation of statutes and also in the interpretation of provisions of the Constitution.
Kesavanada Bharati case is a milestone and also a turning point in the constitutional history of India. D.G. Palekar, J. held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution and, therefore, is amendable under Article 368. It can be concluded that Preamble is introductory part of our Constitution. Preamble is based on the Objective Resolution of Nehru. Preamble tells about the nature of state and objects that India has to achieve. There was a controversial issue whether Preamble was part of Indian Constitution there were number of judicial interpretation but finally Kesavanada Bharati case it was held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution
The preamble to the Indian constitution was amended by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 whereby the words Socialist, Secular and Integrity were added to the preamble by the 42nd amendment Act, 1976, to ensure the economic justice and elimination of inequality in income and standard of life. Secularism implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance and does not identity any state religion. The word integrity ensures one of the major aims and objectives of the preamble ensuring the fraternity and unity of the state.
“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.”
The words “we the people of India” echo in the opening words in the preamble to the constitutions of the United States and of Ireland. It is emphasized that the constitution is founded on the authority of the people, in whom is vested the ultimate sovereignty. The Supreme Court in Union of India v. Madangopal[xvi], referred to these words in the preamble while recognizing the power of the Indian legislatures, to enact laws with retrospective operation beyond the commencement of the constitution itself. The court observed that “our constitution as appears from the preamble derives its authority from the people of India”.
‘We, the people if India’, means in other words, ‘we, the citizens of India’, whether voters or non- voters. The terms- ‘people of India’ and ‘citizens’ are synonyms terms. Both the words describe the political body which lays the basis of sovereignty and which hold the power and conduct of the government through their representatives; they are what we familiarly call the ‘sovereign people’ and every citizen is one of this people and they are a constituent member of this sovereignty.
Constitutional expert D.D. Basu has stated that though the constitution of India has been made by men who cannot be said to be fully representatives of the nation and it has been ratified by a direct vote of the people, the Constitution of India, like that of the United States professes that is has been founded on the consent and acquiescence of the people.[xvii] The preamble says that the people of India enacted and adopted the constitution, after “having solemnly resolved…” It explains that the founding fathers had given a serious thought to the provisions of the Constitution. They had performed a sacred duty and exercised full wisdom and political knowledge on their part. They had no axe to grind beyond “securing a good and workable constitution”. [xviii]
The term ‘socialist’ has not been defined in the constitution. Professor M.P Jain observes that the term ‘does not however envisage doctrinaire socialism in the sense of insistence on state ownership as a matter of policy’. It does not mean total exclusion of private enterprise and complete state ownership of material resources of the nation. D.D. Basu regards that Supreme Court has gone a step further toward social justice. P.M Bakshi understands socialism in the context of social justice.[xx] A broad spectrum of Indian jurists and authors admit the relevance of socialism in India. Swarn singh, the chief architect of the 42nd amendment Act, 1976 explained that by the word ‘socialism’ nothing more was meant than what was explained at the Awadi session of Congress, which is short aimed at a ‘mixed economy’. Mrs. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, further explained that the term ‘socialist’ was used simply to indicate that the goal of the state in India was to secure a ‘better life for the people’ or ‘equality of opportunity’. She said that socialism like democracy was interpretable differently in different countries. She, thus, made it clear that India had her own concept of socialism and all she wanted was a better life for the people. That the framers wished to go socialist was never in doubt. Our first Prime Minister and a member of the Constituent Assembly Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru exclaimed “I stand for socialism and I hope, India will stand for Socialism and that India will go towards the constitution of a socialist state, and I do believe that the whole world will go that way.” [xxi]
In Excel Wear v. Union of India[xxii], the Supreme Court observed that “the addition of the word socialist might enable the courts to lean more in favour of nationalization and state ownership of the industry. But, so long as private ownership of industries is recognized and governs an overwhelming large proportion of our economic structure, the principle of socialism and social justice cannot be pushed to such an extent so as to ignore completely or to a very large extent, the interest of another section of the public, namely, the private owners of the undertaking.”
In D.S Nakara v. Union of India[xxiii], the court observed that, “the basic framework of socialism is to provide a decent standard of life to the working people and especially provide security from cradle to grave.” The principle aim of socialist State, the Supreme Court held, was to eliminate inequality in income and status and standard of life.
In Air India Statutory Corporation v. United Labour Union[xxiv], the Supreme Court elaborated the concept of “socialism” and stated that the word socialism was expressly brought in the constitution to establish an egalitarian social order through rule of law as its basic structure.
In Samatha v. State of Andhra Pradesh[xxv]the Supreme Court observed that the word Socialist used in the Preamble must be read from the goals, Article 14,15,16,17,21,23,38,39,46 and all other cognate Articles sought to establish, i.e. to reduce inequalities in income and status and to provide equality of opportunities and facilities.
The Supreme Court in St. Xavier’s College v. State of Gujarat[xxvi], explained “secularism is neither anti-God nor pro-God, it treats alike the devout, the agnostic and the atheist. It eliminates God from the matters of the state and ensures that no one shall be discriminated against on the grounds of religion”. That, every person is free to mould or regulate his relations with his God in any manner. He is free to go to God or to heaven in his own ways. And, that worshipping God is left to be dictated by his own conscience.
In S.R Bommai v. Union of India[xxvii], a nine judge bench of the apex court observed that the concept of “Secularism” was very much embedded in our constitutional philosophy. What was implicit earlier had been made explicit by the constitution (42nd amendment) in 1976.
In Aruna Roy v. Union of India[xxviii], the Supreme Court has said that secularism has a positive meaning that is developing, understanding and respect towards different religions. Recently in I.R Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu[xxix] it has been held that secularism is a matter of conclusion to be drawn from various Articles conferring Fundamental Rights. “If the secular character is not to be found in Part III”, the Court ruled, “it cannot be found anywhere else in the Constitution, because every fundamental right in Part III stands either for a principle or a matter of detail”.
In Valsamma Paul v. Cochin University[xxx], the apex court emphasised that inter-caste marriages and adoption were two important social institutions through which “secularism” would find its fruitful and solid base for an egalitarian social order under the Constitution of India. “Secularism,” the court said, was a bridge between religions in a multi-religious society to cross over the barriers of their diversity. In the positive sense it was the cornerstone of an egalitarian and forward looking society which our constitution endeavored to establish.
The Supreme Court in Mohan Lal v. District Magistrate, Rai Bareilly[xxxi], observed: “[D]emocracy is a concept, a political philosophy, an ideal practised by many nations culturally advanced and politically mature by resorting to governance by representatives of the people elected directly or indirectly”. The basic principle of democracy in a society governed by the rule of Law is not only to respect the will of the majority, but also to prevent dictatorship of the majority”.
Democracy may be a direct or indirect democracy. In a direct democracy every people exercise the power of the government. The people as a whole not only carry on the government, but can even change the constitution by their direct vote. In an indirect democracy, the people elect their representatives who carry on the administration of the government directly. It is also known as representative democracy. In India, constitution provides for a Parliamentary Representative Democracy. The apex court in Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms[xxxii], observed: “A successful democracy posits an ‘aware’ citizenry”. “Democracy cannot survive”, the court said, without free and fair elections, without free and fairly informed voters.” This states that free and fair elections are the most important features of democracy. Thus democracy implies that all three powers of the government i.e. the executive, the legislature and the judiciary should be separate, yet mutually independent. Democracy is also a way of life and it must maintain human dignity, equality and rule of law.
Thus, the sovereign Constitutional state established by the framers could only be Ramrajya and people’s democracy. Only in the democratic state the sovereignty would be vested in the people and the Nation. In reaffirmation to the democratic principle, the Constitution was adopted, enacted and adopted by the Constituent Assembly in the name of, and for “We, the People of India.” [xxxiii]
the Indian government as a ‘republican form of government’, in which, the ultimate power resides in the body of the people exercised via universal adult suffrage. The president of India who is the executive head of the state is elected by the people (though indirectly) who holds office for a term of five years. All citizens are equal in the eyes of law, there is no privileged class and all public offices are open for all the citizens without any distinction on basis of race, caste, sex or creed.
In a republic, the state sovereignty is vested in, and held by the people, and the political power is exercised popularly as an expression of the people’s sovereign command, grace or pleasure. The Constitution is adopted and given to themselves by the People. The Constitution of India has been adopted enacted and given “To ourselves by “We, the People”.
In Air India Statutory Corporation v. United labour Union[xxxiv], the Supreme Court observed that the aim of social justice was to attain substantial degree of social, economic and political equality which was the legitimate expectation and constitutional goal. It was held that social justice was dynamic device to mitigate the sufferings of the poor, weak, dalits, tribals and deprived sections of the society and to elevate them to the level of equality, to live a life with dignity of person.
The expression ‘economic justice’ means justice from the stand pint of economic force. In short, it means equal pay for equal work, that every person should get his just dues for his labour irrespective of his caste, sex or social status.
Political justice means the absence of any unreasonable or arbitrary distinction among men in political matters. The constitution has adopted the system of universal adult suffrage, to secure political justice.
The expression ‘justice’ is the harmonious reconcilement of individual conduct with the general welfare of the society. An act or conduct of a person is said to be just if it promotes the general well-being of the community. Therefore, the attainment of the common good as distinguished from the good of individuals is the essence of justice. Justice is considered to be the primary goal of a welfare state and its very existence rests on the parameters of justice.
Liberty is the most cherished possession of a man. Liberty is the right of doing an act which the law permits. Constitution has recognized the existence of rights in every man. “Liberty is confined and controlled by law, whether common law or statute. It is a regulated freedom. It is not an abstract or absolute freedom. The safeguards of liberty lie in the good sense of the people and in the system of representative and responsible government, which has been evolved. Liberty is itself the gift of law and may by the law forfeited abridged”[xxxvi]
It was held in Meyer v. Nebraska, “Liberty denotes not merely freedom from bodily restraint but also the right of the individual to contract, engage in any of the common occupations of life, to acquire useful knowledge, to marry, establish a home and bring up children, to worship God according to dictates of his own conscience, and generally to enjoy those privileges long recognized at common law as essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”[xxxvii]
According to John Salmond, “the sphere of my legal liberty is that sphere of activity within which the law is contend to leave me alone”The constitutional law of the country has fully guaranteed liberty through its mechanisms, judiciary and established rules of justiciability.
D.D. Basu has observed that it is the same equality of status and opportunity that the constitution of India professes to offer to the citizens by the preamble.[xxxviii] Equality of status and opportunity is secured to the people of India by abolishing all distinctions and discriminations by the state between citizen and citizen on the ground of religion, race, caste sex and by throwing open ‘public places’, by abolishing untouchablity and titles, by securing equality for opportunity in the matters relating to employment or matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state. It is exactly this equality of status and opportunity that our constitution professes to offer to the citizens by the preamble. The principle of equality of law means not the same law should apply to everyone, but that a law should deal alike with all in one class; that these should be equality of treatment under equal circumstances. It means “that should not be treated unlike and unlikes should not be treated alike. Likes should be treated alike.”[xxxix]Equality is one of the magnificent cornerstones of Indian democracy.[xl] An equality status permeates the basic structure of the constitution.[xli]
Dignity of the Individual
Dignity of the individuals is to be maintained for the promotion of fraternity. Therefore, the preamble of the constitution of India assures the dignity of each and every individual. This dignity is assured by securing to each individual equal fundamental rights and at the same time, by laying down a number of directives for the state to direct its policies towards, inter alia, securing to all citizens, men and women equally, the right to an adequate means of livelihood, just and humane conditions of work, a decent standard of life. The constitution of India seeks to achieve ‘dignity of individual’ by guaranteeing equal fundamental rights to each individual, so that he can enforce minimal rights, if invaded by anybody in the court of law. Dignity of individual in a nation is the dignity of the nation itself. The preamble of constitution of India recognizes and ensures enforcement of Fundamental Right necessary for existence, full development of personality, dignified lives such as equality and freedom of the Indians. It is to be noted that our Supreme Court has read the preamble with article 21 to come to the conclusion that the right to dignity is a fundamental right.
The Preamble of the Constitution of USA
The Preamble of the constitution of USA declares,
“We the people of United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves, and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for United States of America”.
The preamble of the constitution of the USA, in a precise form contains a “declaration” and a descriptive objective. The declaration is to the effect that the people of United States “ordain and establish” the constitution for the United States of America.
On the other hand, the preamble of the constitution of India serves two purposes:
1. It indicates the source from which the constitution derives its authority, and
The constitution of U.S.A is the supreme law of the land. It guarantees fundamental right of person, property, and liberty. It is however, noteworthy that these rights were incorporated in the constitution by a number of amendments effected after the constitution was promulgated. They were not enumerated in the original draft of the constitution. But by subsequent amendment individual liberty has been effectively safeguarded. Only 133 years later with 19th amendment, women acquired the right to vote. The rights of the citizen are made enforceable by recourse to judiciary. These rights cannot be modified or suspended except by a constitutional amendment. The constitution of U.S.A is based on popular sovereignty in the U.S.A is attributed to the people. Unlike the United Kingdom where the hereditary monarchy is the head of the state, the United States of America is a republic with the president as the elected head of the state. The constitution has derived its authority from the people.
Thus the constitution of the U.S.A is a unique constitution presenting a constitutional model entirely different from U.K. Its stability and strength is the envy of the different constitution of the world .Some of the developing democracies like Sri Lanka and Pakistan have opted for it. The constitution has aura of the sacred about it. It occupies a shrine up in the higher stretches of American reverence.[xliii]
The Preamble of the Constitution of the Canada
The constitution of Canada consists of many laws as well as political convention and judicial practices. The preamble state that the province of Canada nova Scotia and new Brunswick have expressed their desire to be federally united into one domain under the crown with the constitution similar in the Principle to that of the united kingdom. The preamble of the constitution has cited the four –fold objective:
The Preamble declares four aims in the governance of India-
According to the preamble of the constitution of India, the word Sovereign occupies a vital role in the country. It means supreme or independent and embodies India is internally and externally sovereign and is free from the control of any foreign power. The word Socialist also has enormous significance as it implies economic and social equality. The word was added by the 42nd Amendment Act 1976 during the emergency. The preamble also guarantees secularism. The word Secularism was also inserted into the preamble by the 42nd amendment act 1976. Secularism implies equality of all religions and religious tolerance and does not identify any state religion. The preamble of Indian Constitution also puts forth the words Democratic and Republic. India follows a Democratic form of government. The people of India elect their government at all levels such as Union, State and local by a system of universal adult franchise. India is also a Republic, in a country where the head of the state is elected directly or indirectly, for a fixed tenure. The president of India is the titular head of the state. Thus, the preamble plays a pivotal role.
In Kashi Prasad v. State of U.P[xliv]the court held that even though the preamble cannot be used to defeat the provisions of the legislation itself, but it can be used as a vital source in making the interpretation of the legislation.
The provision of the constitution of India cannot be overridden by the Preamble.
In Re Berubari[xlv], the Supreme Court held that the Preamble was not a part of the constitution and therefore it could not be regarded as a source of any substantive power.
In Kesavananda Bharati’s[xlvi] case, the Supreme Court rejected the above view and held the preamble to be a part of the constitution. The constitution must be read in the light of the preamble. The preamble could be used for the amendment power of the parliament under Article 368 but basic elements cannot be amended. The 42nd Amendment has inserted the words “Secularism, Socialism and Integrity” in the preamble.
2. The constitution must be read as a whole.
3. Principles of Harmonious construction must be applied.
4. The constitution must be interpreted in a broad and liberal sense.
5. The court has to infer the spirit of the constitution from the language.
6. Internal and External aids may be used while interpreting.
7. The Constitution prevails over other statutes.
To conclude, it will not be wrong to say that the spirit or the ideology behind the Constitution is sufficiently crystallized in the preamble. It is also right to state that preamble is the basic part of any document and it is but obvious to our constitution because it is the supreme law of our country. The preamble declares that the people of India adopted, enacted and gave to themselves the constitution on 26th November, 1949 but the date of commencement of the constitution was fixed to 26 January, 1950. Article 394 provides that Articles 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 60, 324, 367, 379 and 394 came into force on the adoption of the constitution on 26th November, 1949. The rest of the provisions of the constitution came into force on 26th January, 1950 and this day is referred to as the commencement of the constitution. The preamble is of considerable legal significance in so far as embodies an enacting clause. It cannot be resorted to as the basic in construing the various provisions of the constitution, which are couched in plain language.
The Preamble highlights some of the fundamental values and guiding principles on which the constitution is based. It is a guiding light having interpretational value. It plays a pivotal role in case of ambiguity. The Preamble of the Constitution of India is one of the best of its kind ever drafted. Both in ideas and expression it is a unique one. It embodies the spirit of the constitution to build up an independent nation which will ensure the triumph of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.
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