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Preamble to a constitution is the window to what is there inside the constitution. The Constitution of India has also got a preamble. It is mentioned in the beginning of the Constitution, before the main part, i.e., the part I. If you read the Preamble, it gives you a glimpse about the philosophy and goals of Indian Constitution. It is a resolution which people of India have passed themselves for their overall development. It is not given to them by any other source than the people themselves.

It is interesting to note that Preamble to Indian Constitution was written towards the end of the session of Constituent Assembly debate – i.e. in October 1949. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly took place on 6 December 1946 and ended on 26 November 1949 with the adoption of the Constitution of India which commenced on 26 January 1950.

BACKGROUND

Objectives Resolution

The text of aims and objectives which were to be discussed in the Constituent Assembly first were prepared by Jawaharlal Nehru in the form of Objectives Resolution. In the Constituent Assembly, it was presented by Jawaharlal Nehru and seconded by Purushottam Das Tandon.

After the discussion in the Constituent Assembly, most of provisions of Objectives Resolution were accepted as Preamble.

The purpose of the Objectives Resolution was to give some indications to the Constituent Assembly as to what its members were supposed to do, what they sought to achieve, and where they were going. Objectives Resolution meant to lay certain ground on which structure of the Constitution could be built after the debates and deliberations in the Constituent Assembly.

Objective Resolutions were “in the nature of pledge” which the people of India through Constituent Assembly took for their fulfilment in future. The Resolution laid down certain “Fundamentals” for future constitution of India. And the most important was that Indians would have “Sovereign Indian Republic”.

Indeed, it was the first time that as a “Fundamental” for Indian political structure the concept “republic” was used in the Constituent Assembly in Objectives Resolution. When Objectives Resolution was laid in the Constituent Assembly, the representatives of the States were not present, and those of the Muslim League had boycotted it. But Nehru emphasized that despite their absence, the “republic” shall include all of India.

Significance of Objectives Resolution

In Jawaharlal Nehru’s words the purpose of the Resolution was to “send out a message to show what we have resolved to attempt to do”.

And after deliberations for around three years the Constituent Assembly succeeded in forming a Constitution, which commenced on January 26, 1950. After having designed the Constitution, the Constituent Assembly drafted Preamble.

Objectives Resolution did not mention the word “democratic”. About this, Jawaharlal Nehru opined that the word “republic” mentioned in Objectives Resolution implies democracy. He also clarified that the Objectives Resolution had not only “content of democracy” but also “content of economic democracy”.

Nehru also felt that there may be objection that the Resolution did not mention attainment of “a Socialist State” among the objectives of the Resolution. To this, he responded that India would move towards “Socialist State”, and what form of Socialism would develop would depend on the nature of deliberations.

The Objectives Resolution was going to be the part of the Constitution that the Assembly was expected to make. This was not binding on the members of the Constituent Assembly. They had “perfect freedom” to draw up the Constitution. The Resolution only laid down “certain fundamentals”.

PREAMBLE: THE TEXT

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;

EQUALITYof 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 26th day of November ,1949, do

HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.

The members who prominently participated in the debate on Preamble were: Maulana Hasrat Mohani, K.M. Munshi, H.V. Kamath, Purnima Banerj, Rohini Kumar Chaudhuri and Prof. Shibban Lal Saksena. The Constituent Assembly discussed various aspect of the Preamble.

Maulana Hasrat Mohani wanted the words “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” with “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign federal republic” or  “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign independent republic” or  “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Union of Indian Socialist Republic (U.I.S.R)”.

H.V. Kamath wanted “having solemnly resoled” to be replaced with “in the name of God”, while Rohini Kumar Chaudhury wanted these words to be replaced with “in the name of Goddess”. These amendments/suggestions were rejected in the Constituent Assembly.The preamble was added to the Constitution after discussion on its various aspects. Towards the end of the debate with “the Preamble question” of President Rajendra Prasad “That the Preamble stand Part of the Constitution” placed Preamble for vote.

The question was often raised if the Preamble is part of the Constitution or not. Two cases gave contradictory reply to this question:

One, Berubari case (1966), it ruled that the Preamble to Constitution is not part of the Constitution.

Two, Kesavananda Bharati case (1973), reversing the verdict of the Berubari case, the Kesavananda Bharati case ruled that the Preamble is Part of the Constitution. The Kesavananda Bharati case (1973) held that Preamble is part of the Constitution. It reversed the decision of Berubari case (1966).

It also suggested that Parliament can amend any part of the Constitution provided it did not violate the basic structure of the Constitution.

According to Article 368, the Parliament amended the Constitution (42nd Constitutional Amendment) and inserted “Secular”, “Socialist “, and “and Integrity” in the Preamble of the Constitution.

The Supreme Court in Bommai case (1994) which was specifically about the President’s power to dismiss government and dissolve legislature (according to Article 356) also dealt with secularism. It held that inter alia Preamble along with the Articles about religious freedom (25-30) are part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

The verdict mentioned: “We do not know how the Constitution can be amended so as to remove secularism from the basic structure of the Constitution. Nor do we know that the Constitution does not provide such a course – that it does not provide for its own demise

In the debate on Objectives Resolution, the original source of Preamble, Nehru had said that it was not going to be part of Constitution. But, as mentioned earlier, before placing the draft Preamble for voting in the Constituent Assembly, President of the constituent Assembly, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, raised question “That the Preamble stand Part of the Constitution”. The Kesavananda Bharati settled this question, and since then the Preamble is part of the Constitution.

In 1995, in the LIC of India case also the Supreme Court confirmed that Preamble is part of the Constitution.

“Socialism”, “Secularism” and “and Integrity”in Preamble

Initial version of the Preamble did not have “Secularism”,”Socialism” and “and Integrity”. The constitution makers did not feel the need to include “Secularism” and “Socialism” in the Constitution because various provisions of the Constitution imply that Indian Constitution was secular document and can attain socialism. These concepts were inserted in the Constitution in accordance with the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976.

CONCLUSION

Preamble of Indian Constitution provides a glimpse into the philosophy and goals of the Constitution. It is a resolution of Indian people to establish a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic. In this republic, people will have justice – social, economic and political; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; and equality of status and opportunity; this will promote fraternity among them and assure the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.

The preamble was written after the Constituent Assembly had written the whole constitution. It emerged from the Objectives Resolution which was introduced by Jawaharlal Nehru on the fifth day of the inaugural session of the Constituent Assembly debates.

It was seconded by Purushottam Das Tandon. The Objectives Resolution was a pledge of the people which they had taken through their representatives in the Constituent Assembly to give themselves a Constitution. And they had fulfilled the pledge by having written the Constitution of India.

The Objectives Resolution was not part of the Constitution, but the Preamble is. It became part of the Constitution after the Kesavanand Bharati judgement of 1973. Before that Berubari judgement in 1966 stated that Preamble was not part of the Constitution.

The Kesavanand Bharati judgement reversed the Berubari judgement and established that the Preamble is part of the Constitution. The original Preamble did not mention “Secularism”, “Socialism”, and “and Integrity”. They were inserted in it through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment. The Bommai case (1994) ruled that secularism in the Preamble was part of basic structure of the Constitution.


 

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