The meaning of word preamble according to oxford is “A preliminary or preparatory statement; an introduction”, but in relevance to the Indian constitution is this the only role that it plays? Or is there more to it than what the name suggests…
The preamble of the Indian constitution is a product of the objectives resolution, 1946 which was proposed by pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the very first session of the Constitution Assembly, the purpose was to put together aspirations of the people and leaders who were credited for the making of constitution. One of the earliest drafts of the preamble said “we the people of India in light of promoting common good hereby give ourselves this constitution” which later evolved and in the end draft was published with many more goals and ideals in mind which included justice, liberty, equality, fraternity. It is correctly observed by J. Sikri in the Kesavananda Bharati case:-
”not only the constitution was framed in the light of the preamble but the preamble was ultimately settled in the light of the constitution.”Justice Sikri
With clarity in the objectives behind drafting of the preamble the ambiguity in the purpose and role played by the preamble itself becomes a lot clear, it can be said that preamble serves as a base on which the constitution has been laid upon but does the amendability of preamble shake the base for constitution? This was the question raised in the landmark case of Kesavananda bharati regarding the preamble.
In the aforesaid case previous judgements of golaknath v. State of punjab were overruled and preamble was declared to be a part of the constitution which also meant that preamble was amendable. Keeping the necessity for flexibility to change and adapt with time, the preamble was allowed to be amended, but keeping in mind to preserve the aspirations of forefathers doctrine of basic structure was adopted. Doctrine of basic structure states that the constitution of the sovereign state has certain characteristics that cannot be erased by its legislature. The objectives and aspirations of forefathers serve as those characteristics in the constitution. So it can be said that the preamble is amendable but only to a certain extent, it is both rigid and flexible. Furthermore there have been other observations as well by the other members of the bench in the landmark case of Kesavananda Bharati.
It was observed by justice Shelat and Grover,” It is not without significance that the preamble was passed only after draft articles of the constitution had been adopted with such modifications as were approved by the constituent assembly. The preamble was therefore meant to embody in a very few and well defined words, the key to understanding of the constitution”. Furthermore the purpose of constitution has been clearly defined and concluded in para 520 by J shelat and grover,
“The preamble serves several important purposes. Firstly, it indicates the source from which the Constitution comes, viz., The people of India, Next it contains the enacting clause which brings into In the third place, it declares the great rights and freedoms which the people of India intended to secure to all citizens and the basic type of government and polity which was to be established. From all these, if any provision in the Constitution had to be interpreted and if the expressions used therein were ambiguous, the preamble would certainly furnish valuable guidance in the matter”.
From the above it can be concluded as It has been rightly stated that the preamble serves as a key to the Indian constitution.
Granville Austin, a famous supreme court advocate and a jurist whose magnus opus was about study of Indian constitution, was once asked in an interview “for how long will a democratic nation last..” to which he replied,
”as long as our leaders live upto and cherish the ideals of its founding forefathers..”Granville Austin
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