The Preamble states:
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 Four Components of the Preamble are:
The key words in the Preamble are explained below:
The Preamble proclaims that India is a Sovereign State. 'Sovereign' means that India has its own independent authority and it is not a dominion or dependent state of any other external power. The Legislature of India has the powers to enact laws in the country subject to certain limitations imposed by the Constitution.
The word 'Socialist' was added to the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976. Socialism means the achievement of socialist ends through democratic means. India has adopted 'Democratic Socialism'. Democratic Socialism holds faith in a mixed economy where both private and public sectors co-exist side by side. It aims to end poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality of opportunity.
The word 'Secular' was incorporated in the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976. The term secular in the Constitution of India means that all the religions in India get equal respect, protection and support from the state. Articles 25 to 28 in Part III of the Constitution guarantee Freedom of Religion as a Fundamental Right.
The term Democratic indicates that the Constitution has established a form of government which gets its authority from the will of the people expressed in an election. The Preamble resolves India to be a democratic country. That means, the supreme power lies with the people. In the Preamble, the term democracy is used for political, economic and social democracy. The responsible representative government, universal adult franchise, one vote one value, independent judiciary etc. are the features of Indian democracy.
In a Republic, the head of the state is elected by the people directly or indirectly. In India, the President is the head of the state. The President of India is elected indirectly by the people; that means, through their representatives in the Parliament and the State Assemblies. Moreover, in a republic, the political sovereignty is vested in the people rather than a monarch.
The term Justice in the Preamble embraces three distinct forms: Social, economic and political, secured through various provisions of the Fundamental and Directive Principles.
Social justice in the Preamble means that the Constitution wants to create a more equitable society based on equal social status. Economic justice means equitable distribution of wealth among the individual members of the society so that wealth is not concentrated in few hands. Political Justice means that all the citizens have equal right in political participation. Indian Constitution provides for universal adult suffrage and equal value for each vote.
Liberty implies absence of restraints or domination on the activities of an individual such as freedom from slavery, serfdom, imprisonment, despotism etc. The Preamble provides for liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.
Equality means absence of privileges or discrimination against any section of the society. The Preamble provides for equality of status and opportunity to all the people of the country. The Constitution strives to provide social, economic and political equality in the country.
Fraternity means feeling of brotherhood. The Preamble seeks to promote fraternity among the people assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.
Amendment in the Preamble
In 1976, the Preamble was amended (only once till date) by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act. Three new terms, Socialist, Secular, and Integrity were added to the Preamble. The Supreme Court held this amendment valid.
Interpretation by the Supreme Court
The Preamble was added to the Constitution after the rest of the Constitution was already enacted. The Supreme Court in the Berubari Union case (1960) held that the Preamble is not a part of the Constitution. However, it recognised that the Preamble could be used as a guiding principle if a term in any article of the Constitution is ambiguous or has more than one meaning.
In Kesavanand Bharti case (1973), the Supreme Court overturned its earlier decision and held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution and can be amended under Article 368 of the Constitution. Again, in LIC of India case, the Supreme Court held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution.
Thus the Preamble to the Constitution of free India remains a beautifully worded prologue. It contains the basic ideals, objectives, and philosophical postulates the Constitution of India stands for. They provide justifications for constitutional provisions.