Importance of Preamble

Preamble is a sort of introduction to the statute and it helps in understanding the legislative intent and policy. It lays down the main objectives which the legislation intends to achieve. Preamble of the Constitution contains ideals which the Constitution seeks to achieve. It does not grant any power but it gives direction and purpose to the Constitution. It outlines the objectives of the whole Constitution. It also enshrines the grand objectives and socio-economic goals which are to achieved through constitutional processes. The words ‘We the People of India….’ indicate that the sovereignty lies in the people and the Constitution emanates from them. Ultimate source of the Constitution is the will of the people.

In Re Berubari Union case (1960) the Supreme Court held that the Preamble is not the part of the Constitution. Later in Keshavanand Bharti v. State of Kerala (1973) the Supreme Court held that the Preamble is the part of the Constitution. The court held that the Preamble of the Constitution is of extreme importance and the Constitution should be read and interpreted in the light of the Preamble. The court further held that the Preamble can be amended without altering the basic structure of the Constitution. In Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan (1965) Supreme Court held that Preamble is the sum and substance of the features of the Constitution. 

In S.R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994 ) Supreme Court reiterated the view held in Keshavananda Bharti case and held that Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution. In K.K. Bhaskaran v. State (2011) Supreme Court held that the Constitution should be interpreted in such manner so as to secure the goal of social, economic and political justice. In Nandini Sundar v. State of Chhattisgarh (2011) Supreme Court said that promise to provide social, economic and political justice given in the Preamble cannot be forgotten or neglected.

Objective of Preamble

Following are the objectives of Preamble:-

  1. Source of Constitution
  2. Type of Government and polity to be established
  3. Rights of the people

(1) Source of the Constitution : Preamble indicated the source of the Constitution. It says “We the people of India…”, “adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution”. Thus, it clarifies that the source of the Constitution is people of India. In other words it means that that the Constitution has been prepared by the House of Representatives elected by the people.

(2) Type of government and polity which is to be established : Preamble clarifies the type of government and polity. The people of India have mandated to provide India a Sovereign, Democratic, Secular, Socialist Republic.

(i)    Sovereign : The word ‘sovereign’ is indicative of the fact that India is not subject to any foreign power from internal or external perspective and the State is free to legislate on any subject in conformity with constitutional limitations [Charan Lal Sahu v. Union of India, AIR 1990 SC 1480]. The sovereignty lies in the people of India.

(ii)   Democratic: The term ‘Democratic’ indicates that the source of power of the government vests in its people. The democratic government is government of the people, for the people and by the people. The elected representatives rule the country and they are responsible to the people. Supreme Court has held that ‘democracy’ is the basic structure of the Constitution. [Indian Medical Association v. Union of India, AIR 2011 SC 2365]

(iii) Secular :  The word ‘secular’ has been added by 42nd Constitutional Amendment. This concept was already contained in the expression ‘liberty of thought, expression belief, faith and worship’ and has been clarified by the above amendment. The term ‘secular’ means that State does not recognize any religion and is neutral in the matters of religion. It treats all religions equally.

                 Supreme Court in S.R. Bommai v. Union of India (1994) held that the secularism is the basic structure of the Constitution. In Aruna Roy v. Union of India (2003) the Supreme Court held that the secularism has a positive meaning and it means to develop understanding and respect towards different religion.

(iv)   Socialist : This word has also been added by 42nd Constitutional Amendment. The word ‘Economic Justice’ used in the Preamble imbibes the concept of socialism. The Directive Principles importantly Articles 39 (b) and (c) are flag bearers of social and economic justice. Constitution does not give any definite definition of word ‘socialist’, ‘socialism’ or ‘economic justice’. The definition and import of socialism varies. It is not susceptible to any precise definition. 

                 The Supreme Court in Excel Wear v. Union of India (1979) held that the courts would give more weightage to the nationalization and State ownership but the principles of socialism should not be interpreted and implemented to the extent it totally ignores the interest of private ownership. Further, in D.S. Nakara v. Union of India (1983) the Supreme Court held that the basic purpose of socialism is to provide decent standard of life and social security to people.

                 The purpose of establishing a ‘welfare state’ in India was always in the mind of Constitution makers. However, there is no mention of this term in the Preamble of the Constitution but it is reflected in the inherent spirit of the Constitution.

(v)    Republic: The word ‘republic’ means that the head of the nation is an elected representative. The tradition of the hereditary rule came to an end by incorporation of this concept. The post of President of India is not hereditary. President is elected for a period of 5 years.

(3) Rights of the people: Preamble lays down rights which people of India are entitled to. These are given in form of objectives and not specifically in the form which has been mentioned in Part III of the Constitution.

(i)     Justice : Social, Economic and Political

(ii)    Liberty : of thought, expression, belief faith and worship.

(iii)   Equality : of status and of opportunity

(iv)   Fraternity : assuring the dignity of an individual and unity and integrity of the nation.

The Constitution provides rights for the development of people on one hand and on the other hand the goal is to keep the unity of the country intact. The upliftment of a person may not become obstacle in the development of the nation; hence more emphasis is given on the spirit of brotherhood. Everyone should understand that they are the child of the same motherland and they should stay with each other with a sense of compassion for others and co-operation.

Dr. Ambdekar in the Constituent Assembly observed that the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat the very purpose of the democracy. To give concrete shape to these aspirations, the Constitution has a separate chapter dedicated to Fundamental Rights which guarantee certain rights to the people. 

Supreme Court in Indra Swahney v. Union of India, AIR 1993 SC 477 held that the words ‘fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual’ have a special relevance in the Indian context because of the social backwardness of certain sections of the community who had in the past been looked down upon.

The goals and objectives enshrined in the Preamble are sought to be further clarified, strengthened and concretized through Directive Principles of State Policy. Therefore, it is essential that the Preamble should be read along with the Directive Principles of State Policy which lay down the goals for the government to achieve. 

Author & Former Judge

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