Is preamble a part of a Indian Constitution? Whether it can be amended?

Pundit Thakur Das Bhargav, one of the members of the Constituent Assembly called preamble as ‘the soul of the Indian Constitution’. He described it as the key to the constitution and as a jewel set in the constitution.

Basically, preamble is the introduction to the Indian Constitution. It is the key to open the mind of the makers, and shows the general purpose for which they made several provisions in the Constitution. Preamble of Indian Constitution serves different purposes such as, indicating the source from which the constitution comes, viz, the people of India, declaring the rights and freedom which the people of India intended to secure to all citizens, showing what form of Government is India(ie, Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic), and it contains the enacting clause which brings into force the Constitution. So preamble to the Indian constitution spells out the basic philosophy contained in the body of the Indian Constitution.

Whether preamble is a part of the Indian Constitution or not was a matter of arguments and discussions in the past. It had been discussed in various cases starting the Re Berubari Union case¹ of 1960. In this case The Supreme Court held that the preamble is the key to open the minds of the framers of the Constitution. It shows the general purposes for which various provisions of Constitution were made. It contains the basic intention, thought and dreams of the makers of the Constitution. It is not a part of the Constitution.

In Golaknath v. State of Punjab², Supreme Court upheld the decision in Re Berubari case and held that, the Preamble is not a part of Indian Constitution and therefore it could never be regarded as a source of any substantive powers and is not subjected to any constitutional amendments. During the judgement Wanchoo, J. said-“On a parity of reasoning we are of the opinion that the Preamble cannot prohibit or control in any way or impose any implied prohibitions or limitations on the bar to amend the Constitution contained in Article 368”. Bachawat, J. observed- “Moreover the Preamble cannot control the unambiguous language of the articles of the Constitution”.

But in KesavanandaBharathi v. State of kerala³, which is a milestone and a turning point in the constitutional history of India, Supreme Court rejected the contention laid down in GolakNath’s case and Re Berubari case and held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution. Sikri, C.J observed that “it seems to me that the preamble of our Constitution is of extreme importance and the Constitution should be read and interpreted in the light of the grand and noble vision expressed in the Preamble”. In the same case the Doctrine of basic structure was adopted by the Supreme Court. It was also held that the Provisions in the Preamble form part of the basic structure and it can be amended without destroying the basic structure.

So preamble is one of the prime part of the Indian Constitution and since it is a part of the Constitution, it can be amended but subject to the condition that the ‘basic features’ in it can not be amended.

¹Re Berubari Union And … vs Unknown, AIR 1960 SC 845

²GolakNathv.State of Punjab, AIR1967 SC 1643

³KesavanandaBharathiv.State of kerala,(1973) 4 SCC 225

References:- Constitutional law of India, Dr. J. N. Pandey, Central Law Agency http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/2003/Is-Preamble-a-Part-of- Constitution.html

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