Preamble of the Constitution of India : Important Terms, Definitions and Significance

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Preamble of the constitution of India is based on the Objective Resolution presented by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru on 16th December, 1946. It is like a mirror which shows a brief overview of the contents inside the Constitution.

The Preamble was first time added in the Constitution of USA, from where India got the inspiration and added it in the Indian constitution.

Eminent jurist N.K. Palkhiwala called it as the Identity Card of the Constitution

The Preamble was amended by 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act 1976, added three more terms in the constitution i.e. Socialist, Secular and Integrity.

Also Read: Evolution of : The Basic Structure of The Construction

Text of the Preamble

We, The People of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic and to secure to all it's 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 on this Twenty-sixth day of November, 1949, do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution.

Important Take Aways from the Preamble

Sources of Authority 

The Preamble declares that the supreme authority of power lies in the people of India and government (whether state or Central) are only the representatives of the People of India.

Objectives of the Constitution

Preamble declares the objectives of the Constitution, which it want to achieve. Those objectives are justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.

Nature of the Indian State

Preamble declares the nature of the Indian state as sovereign, socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republican.

Date of Adoption of the Constitution

The Preamble also specifies the date of adoption of the constitution as 26th November, 1949, when the members of the Constituent Assembly put their signatures on the Constitution.

Important Terms in the Preamble and their Definitions

1. Sovereign 

It implies that India is neither a dependency nor a dominion of any other nation rather it is an independent nation. Being a sovereign nation, India can take all it's internal and external decisions itself, without any interference of any other country.

Membership of the Commonwealth (1946) and United Nations Organisation (1945) does not affect the sovereignty of the country.

Being a sovereign Nation, India can acquire any foreign territory and cede it's any part in favour of any other country.

2. Socialist 

The term Socialist was added in the Preamble by 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976. But even before this Amendment, Socialist character was present in the constitution implicitly, the Amendment only made it explicit.

Indian brand of Socialism is a Democratic Socialism not a Communist Socialism. The Democratic Socialism favours Mixed Economy while the Communist Socialism favours complete Nationalisation of the Economy (both Private and Public Sector).

Supreme Court observed that the Indian Socialism is for removal of poverty, inequality of opportunity, disease and ignorance. The Indian Socialism is the blend of Marxist and Gandhian Socialism, leaning heavily towards the Gandhian one.

  • However, the LPG Reforms 1991 diluted the Socialist character of the country as well as the Constitution.

3. Secular

The term Secular was also added in the Constitution by 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act 1976.

However, while delivering a judgement in 1974, Supreme Court observed that the Secular word was not mentioned explicitly in the Constitution, that does not mean that Secularism is not the Characteristic of the Constitution. Articles 25 to 28 of the Indian Constitution are only meant for Secularism.

4. Democratic

The term Democratic enshrined in the Preamble of the constitution does not only means political democracy but it also means social and economic democracy.

Democracy is basically of two types, the first one is the 

  1. Direct Democracy 
  2. Indirect Democracy

In Direct Democracy all decisions are taken by the citizens of the country on the basis of Referendum, initiative, recall and plebiscite.

Example - Switzerland

While in Indirect Democracy all decisions are taken by the representatives of the citizens, who are elected by direct or indirect voting. It is of two types the first one is 

  1. Parliamentary Democracy
  2. Presidential Democracy

India has Parliamentary form of Indirect Democracy, in which Executive is responsible to the Parliament.

During the final reading of the Constitution on 25th November, 1949, B.R. Ambedkar said that:-

"Political Democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of Social Democracy".

5. Republic 

The Preamble mentions that the Indian Democracy is a Republican Democracy which means having an elected head of the state i.e. President.

Republican means wo more thing:

  1. Republican Nations vests their sovereignty to it's citizens not to an individual or group of individuals. 
  2. In a republican nation there must be an absence of one more privileged class/group. Hence, all government offices are open to every citizen of the nation.

6. Justice 

Ideals of Justice was borrowed from the Russian Revolution (1917) and added into the preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, 1976.

Justice can be discussed in three parts i.e. Social Justice, Political Justice nd Economic Justice.

Types of Justice Important Provisions
Social Justice Equal opportunities for all individuals with out any discrimination with improvement in the status of backward classes i.e. OBCs, SCs and STs. 
Economic Justice

  • Elimination of economic inequality. 
  • Non-discrimination among people on the basis of Economic Status.

Political Justice All citizens should have equal political rights (i.e. equal access to all public offices and equal voice in government).

7. Liberty

It means freedom of Expression, belief, thought, profession, religion, and so on. This theme is realised in various Articles i.e. 19, 20,21, 22, 25,26, 27 and 28 in form of Fundamental Rights, which can be tried in courts of law in case of their violation.

In other words liberty means restraint on restrictions on people but providing equal opportunities to all without any discrimination.

However, liberty is not absolute, it can be restricted in certain conditions such as during emergency or when it is used for illicit means or to harm others freedom and dignity.

8. Equality 

This term has very diverse meaning. It means complete absence of any kind of privileged class/section/group in the country and equal treatment of every people in all terms i.e. political, social and economic. It's significance can be judged from the fact that it is added in the Constitutions as Fundamental Rights under Article 14 to 18.

Equality also has three dimension i.e. Social Equality, Economic Equality and Political Equality.

Dimensions of Equality Important Provisions
Social Equality
  • No discrimination among citizens of the country on the grounds of only sex, caste, race, religion or gender(Article 14). 
  • Removal of titles and untouchability (Article 17 and 18)
Economic Equality

  • Article 39 (DPSP) provides equal pay for equal work. 
  • Equality of opportunities in public Employment and admission to Educational institutions (Article 15 and 16).

Political Equality
  • Article 325 provides every citizen (more than 18 years of age) equal rights to vote. 
  • Article 326 ensure adult suffrage.

9. Fraternity 

The term fraternity envisions the sense of brotherhood among the people of India. The Constitution also tries to establish brotherhood when it provides single citizenship. Besides above, Article 51-A, put a duty upon the People of India to promote harmony and brotherhood among themselves transcending religious, regional, linguistic and sectional diversity.

Fraternity had two dimensions:-

  1. Dignity  
  2. Unity & Integrity


To protect the dignity of every citizen the constitution provides a Fundamental Right to life and dignity under Article 21.

K.M. Munshi (Member of the Drafting Committee) said that:-

"Dignity of the Individual signifies that the Constitution not only ensures material betterment and maintain a democratic setup, but that it also recognises that the personality of every individual is sacred".

Article 51-A also puts a duty upon the citizens to respect the dignity of woman and to renounce the practices derogatory to the dignity of a woman.

Unity and Integrity

To protect Unity and Integrity of the Nation Article 1 itself declares India as a Union of States, which means states have no right to secede from India. It is done deliberately by the makers of the Constitution to protect the nation from problems such as regionalism, communalism, casteism, and separatism.

Is Preamble a Part of the Constitution?

Whether Preamble is a part of the constitution or not was discussed many times in various cases.

  1. Berubari Union Case (1960) - In this case Supreme Court said that it was not the part of the Constitution. 
  2. Keshvanand Bharati Case (1973) - In the judgement of this case Supreme Court changed it's earlier stand and declared Preamble as an integral part of the constitution as it presents the vision of the makers of the Constitution for which they drafted it. 
  3. LIC of India Case (1995) - In this case Supreme Court again held that the Preamble is a part of of the Constitution.

Amendability of the Preamble

The amendability of the Constitution also remained a hot topic for judiciary which was interpreted by the Supreme Court many times.

  1. Berubari Union Case (1960) - In this case Supreme Court ordered that since the Preamble was not a part of the Constitution hence it can not be amended. 
  2. Keshvanand Bharati Case (1973) - In this case, Supreme Court declared that since it is a part of the Constitution hence it can be amended, subject to the Basic Structures of the Constitution.

Significance of the Preamble

The Preamble embodies the basic philosophy and fundamental values upon which the Constitution was made. It contains the grand noble vision of the fathers of the Constitution of India. According to Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer :-

"Preamble of our Constitution expresses what we thought and dreamt so long".

The Preamble also serves as guiding lines to the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.

Important Notes

  1. The Preamble of the Constitution is neither the source of power to the Legislature nor puts any restriction upon the powers of the the Legislature. 
  2. Preamble is non-justiciable that means one can not got a court to enforce any terms or provision mentioned in the Preamble.