The significance of the Preamble lies in its components. It embodies the source of the Constitution i.e., the people of India.
- The terms sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic in the Preamble suggests the nature of the state.
- The ideals of justice, liberty, equality, fraternity reflects the objectives of the Constitution.
- It also contains November 26, 1949 as the date of adoption of the Indian Constitution.
The philosophy of the Indian Constitution is reflected in the Preamble.
- The independence of India earned through struggle for independence is sought to be emphasized by the use of the word ‘Sovereign’ in the Preamble.
- The Gandhian ideal is aimed to be secured by the incorporation of the word ‘Socialist’ in the Preamble by the 42nd Amendment. The same amendment inserted the word ‘Secular’ to reflect the secular nature of Indian society.
The word ‘Republic’ in the Preamble indicates that India has an elected head, though indirectly elected, the Indian President is the choice of the people of India.
Fundamental values are further strengthened by the word ‘Democratic’ in the Preamble. To emphasize these values the Constitution framers have resorted to the use of the concepts like justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.
Liberty is guaranteed to the individuals through the provision of Fundamental Rights, which are enforceable in the court of law. The Preamble secures to all citizens equality of States and opportunity in civic, political.
The unity and integrity of the nation is sought to be secured by the use of the word ‘Fraternity’ in the Preamble and by the provisions of fundamental duties and single citizenship in the Constitution.
An analysis of the preamble reveals that the source of the constitution is “We, the people.”
- But the constitutions were neither framed by the people nor were the members of the Constituent Assembly directly elected representatives of people.
- They were elected under the Cabinet Mission Plan during the British rule on the basis of restrictive franchise.
- Yet the claim that the constitution is derived from the people is justified because of its broad-based popular acceptance ever since it came into force.
Preamble as part of the Indian Constitution
Unlike the Constitutions of the USA, Canada or even Australia, the Indian Constitution starts with an elaborate Preamble. The Preamble does not grant any power, but it gives a direction and a purpose to the Constitution.
Ordinarily, the Preamble is not regarded as the part of the statute and earlier was not considered as forming the part of Indian Constitution. (Refer to In re Berubari Union and Exchange of Enclaves, AIR 1960 SC 845) But this view is no longer in existence.
The Preamble is seen as an integral part of the Constitution and the Honorable Supreme Court has referred to it several times while interpreting the provisions of the Constitution. In the 1973 landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati v. Union of India(AIR 1973 SC 1461), the majority of the judges of the Bench laid down that the Preamble does form a part of the Constitution.
Amendment of The Indian Preamble
Any part of the Constitution may be amended as long as the basic structure of the Constitution is not violated.
In the landmark judgment of the Kesavananda Bharati case, the SC propounded the Basic Structure Doctrine. As per this doctrine, the Parliament had the power to amend any part of the Constitution and there were no fetters on its power.
Technically, no part is un-amendable. But the rider is that the amendment shouldn’t violate the Basic structure.
The Preamble of the Constitution can be amended under Article 368 of the Constitution.
However, the amendment is subject to the condition that it should not alter the “basic structure” of the Constitution. The doctrine of “basic structure” was devised by the Supreme Court in the Kesavananda Bharati case to prevent any misuse of the amending power granted to the Parliament. The Supreme Court stopped short of defining or clarifying what all constitutes the basic structure of the Constitution. In its various judgments, the Supreme Court has come to include some principles as the part of the basic structure. The ones relevant to the Preamble are:
- Supremacy of the Constitution
- Sovereign, democratic, republican nature of the Indian polity
- Secular character of the Constitution
- Unity and integrity of the nation
- Welfare state
- Rule of law
- Independent judiciary
- Principle of equality
- Effective access to justice
- Freedom and dignity of the individual
The Preamble has only once been amended till date (i.e. 2017): in 1976, by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act. The Act added three new words: “socialist”, “secular” and “integrity” to the Preamble.
Amendment under Article 368 means that to be passed, it requires a special majority (i.e., more than half of the membership and more than two-thirds of the members present and voting) in both the Houses of Parliament (i.e., Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha).