Preamble to the Constitution

Preamble is the Identity Card of the Constitution

N.A Pakhivala (Eminent Jurist and Constitutional Expert)

The American Constitution was the first country to begin with the practice of writing Preamble. Thereafter many countries, including India has followed this practice. The term “Preamble” is used to refer the introduction or preface of the Constitution.  It is based on ‘Objective Resolution’ that was drafted by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and adopted by the Constituent Assembly. Preamble was amended in the year 1976, by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, and three new words – Socialist, Secular and Integrity were added to it. The Court held in the case of Golak Nath v. State of Punjab[1] that Preamble to an Act sets out the main objectives which the legislation is intended to achieve.

The Preamble of the Constitution reads as –

“We, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into 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 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 the November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT, ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION”.

The components of the Preamble reveal that the Constitution derives its authority from the people of India. It declares that India to be a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and republican polity. It specifies justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as the objectives. It also stipulates the date of adoption of the Constitution, i.e. 26th November, 1949.

Key words used in the Preamble

Sovereign –

Socialist –

It implies that India is neither a dependency nor a dominion of any other nation, but it is an independent State. It is free to conduct both its internal and external affairs and there is no authority above it.

Though India has declared its membership to organizations such as Commonwealth of Nations, United Nations Organisations etc that would not constitute limitation on the sovereignty of India. Being a sovereign State, India can either acquire a foreign territory or cede a part of its territory in favour of a foreign state.

The socialist content was implicit in the Constitution in the form of certain Directive Principles of State Policy but it was made explicit by the adding the Socialist term in the Preamble by 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act.

Indian socialism is not a “communist socialism” but a “democratic socialism”. Communist socialism involves the nationalization of all means of production and distribution and abolition of private property. Whereas Democratic Socialism holds the faith in a “mixed economy” where both public and private sectors co-exist side by side.

In G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology v. State of Uttar Pradesh the Supreme Court said that “Democratic Socialism aims to end poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality of opportunity. Indian socialism is a blend of Marxism and Ghandism, leaning heavily towards the Gandhian Socialism.

Secular –

Before 1976, though the word “Secular” was not added in the Constitution but still there can be no doubt that Constitution makers wanted to establish such a State and accordingly Articles 25 to 28(guaranteeing the fundamental right to freedom of religion) have been included in the Constitution.

In Aruna Roy v. Union of India[2] the Supreme Court said that secularism has a positive meaning that is developing, understanding and respect towards different religions.

The Indian Constitution does not adopt the Western form of Secularism, where there is divorce between State and religion but embodies the positive concept of secularism i.e. all religions in the country irrespective of their strength have the same status and support from the State. 


A democratic polity is based on the doctrine of popular sovereignty that is based on the doctrine of popular sovereignty that is possession of supreme power of people. In India indirectly democracy is followed and not the direct democracy (people exercise their supreme power directly) as in the case of Switzerland. The Indian Constitution provides for representative parliamentary democracy under which the executive is responsible to the legislature for all its policies and actions.


A democratic polity can be classified into monarchy and republic. In a monarchy, the head of the State enjoys a hereditary position; on the other hand in republic the head of the state is either directly or indirectly elected for a fixed period of five years.


The term Justice in the preamble embraces three forms – Social, economic and political secured through various provisions of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy. The idea of social, economic and political justice was taken from the Russian Revolution (1917).

Social Justice denotes the equal treatment of all citizens without any social distinction based on caste, colour, race, religion, sex and so on. Economic Justice denotes the non- discrimination between the people on the basis of economic factors. Political Justice implies that all citizens should have equal political rights, equal access to all political offices and equal voice in the government.


The Preamble secures to all citizens of India liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, through their fundamental rights, enforceable in Court of law in case of violation. Liberty is essential for the successful working of the Indian democratic system. Liberty conceived by the Preamble or Fundamental rights is qualified and not an absolute ones.


The Preamble secures to all citizens equality of status and opportunity. This provision embraces three dimensions of Equality – civic, political and economic.

Provisions of the chapter on fundamental right ensure civic equality – equality before law (Article 14), Prohibition of discrimination on ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 15), Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment (Article 16), Abolition of untouchability (Article 17), Abolition of titles (Article 18).

The provisions of the Constitution that seek to achieve political equality are Article 325 (no person is to be declared ineligible for inclusion in electoral rolls on ground of religion, race, caste or sex), Article 326 (Elections to the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies be based on adult suffrage).

Fraternity –

Fraternity means a sense of brotherhood. Article 51- A says that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities.

The phrase ‘unity and integrity of the nation’ embraces both the psychological and territorial dimensions of national integration. It aims at overcoming hindrances such as communalism, regionalism, casteism, linguism and secessionism that are detrimental to national integration of the country.

Conclusion –

Preamble contains the grand and noble vision of the Constituent Assembly and reflects the dreams and aspirations of the founding fathers of the constitution.

In Berubari[3] case the Supreme Court said that the preamble shows that the general purposes behind the several provisions of the Constitution and thus a key to minds of the makers of the Constitution. Despite this recognition of the significance of the Preamble, the Supreme Court specifically opined that Preamble is not a part of the Constitution.

In the Keshavananda Bharti v. Union of India[4] the Supreme Court rejected the earlier opinion and held that Preamble is a part of the Constitution. The Court also held that the basic elements or the fundamental features of the Constitution as contained in the Preamble cannot be amended under Article 368.

Preamble is neither a source of power to legislature nor a prohibition upon the powers of the legislature. It is non-justiciable and the provisions are not enforceable in the Court of Law. 


Dr. J.N. Pandey, “Constitutional Law of India” (Central Law Agency 57th Edition 2020) 35

M. Laxmikanth, Indian Polity (Mc Graw Hill Education (India) Private Limted 6th Edition) 120

[1] AIR 1967 SC 1643

[2] AIR 2002 SC 3176

[3] AIR 1960 SC 845

[4] AIR 1973 SC 1461

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