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Debating Bharat's Preamble: Key Moments In The Constituent Assembly

This research paper delves into the Constituent Assembly's pivotal debates on Bharat's Preamble, focusing on the foundational principles of the nation. The assembly's discussions on October 17, 1949, witnessed proposals for renaming Bharat as the "Union of India Socialistic Republics," akin to the Soviet Union, and debates over the use of "God" and "Gandhi" in the Preamble.

Discussions on the term "Union of States" revealed debates over sovereignty, independence, and the distinction between "federation" and "union." These discussions included considerations of provincial autonomy, unity, and secession prevention. Furthermore, it examines the utility of the Preamble in interpreting the Constitution, as discussed in the Supreme Court, citing the Berubari Case and the Kesavananda Bharati Case, and addresses the Preamble's status in constitutional amendments under Article 368. In summary, this research paper provides a comprehensive exploration of the Constituent Assembly's deliberations on Bharat's Preamble, shedding light on its drafting and enduring significance.

Points of Debate:
  • Secular, Federal, Socialist
    The words "Secular, Federal, and Socialist" were suggested by Prof. K T Shah for inclusion in the document. He added, as quoted above, "India shall be a Secular, Federal, Socialist Union of States." He reasoned that including such phrases in the Preamble would help people understand the Constitution's guiding principles. The reason he suggested the term "federal" was his distaste for the Indian Union as a unified body. He claims that the word "federal" refers to an agreement reached on an equal basis by all of the states that make up the Federation. "States constituting part of the Federation" are required in India.

    During the discussion, the word "secular" was finally removed from the Preamble, even though everyone agreed that the Indian state follows secular principles. The term "socialist," coined by Professor Shah, suggests or represents a society in which all people are guaranteed equal justice and opportunities, where everyone is expected to contribute as much as they can through their labour, intelligence, and hard work, and where everyone is guaranteed to get everything they need and want to maintain a decent, civilised standard of living.
  • Union of States
    According to Pandit Lakshmi Kanta Mishra, the constitutional literature that uses the term "State" contains the concepts of sovereignty and total independence. He expressed confusion on the meaning of the phrases "provinces", "Pradesh", and "country" when used with the word "state." The idea was put out by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to refer to both Provinces and Pradesh as "states." The proposals to substitute the word "Pradesh" for the word "States" and to insert the word "Federal" before the word "Union" were both turned down.
According to Shri Gopi Krishna Vijayavargiya, the Chinese Constitution expressly recognizes sovereignty as a fundamental authority. It was a big change in Professor Shibban Lal Saksena's opinion as well. A fresh amendment was then put forth after that. This update was supposed to fix the following problems.

The name BHARAT was given to the Union; Bharat's characteristics include sovereignty, independence, democracy, socialism, and republicanism; the constitution must be used to establish the government; and the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government must derive their authority from the people.

While Maulana Hasrat Mohani supported the modification, Shri Prabhudayal Himat Singka, Shri M. Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, and Shri Loknath Mishra protested. The idea that sovereignty belongs to the people was held by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The Assembly approved the withdrawal of the aforementioned amendment.

Maulana Hasrat Mohani prophesied that independent states would make up the Union of India. He said that the Union of India would consist of fully independent provinces and state groupings, with each state being made up of smaller states that are united into Districts and Provinces. He thinks that India would be a federation of autonomous parts. As a result, the federation will grant each member state provincial autonomy. He disagreed with Dr. Ambedkar's strategy since he spoke of the "Union of States" rather than the "Federal Republic."

Within Federation is Provincial Autonomy. India becomes a unity empire or a unitary government by using the word "union." He had no desire to support imperialism in any kind.

According to Shri B.M. Gupte, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar used the word "Union" with the intention of eradicating the right of secession. There is a chance that the Provinces' right to secede is preserved if the word "union" is omitted. He claims that there is a clause in the original Instrument of Accession that empowers the Indian states who signed it to withdraw once they have reviewed the entire Constitution. However, they could not have the right if they joined after the Constitution was established. India is able to maintain its decentralized Union-style unitary government as a result.

The authors of the Indian Constitution intended for India to be a secular, federal, socialist country as well as an independent, democratic republic from the first. They wanted to see India become a fully fledged democratic republic that adhered to all of the essential tenets, characteristics, and features of a democratic republic. The fundamental characteristics of a democratic republic have been emphasized.

Is Preamble useful in Interpreting the Constitution?
The Supreme Court has addressed the preamble on multiple occasions as it is a part of the Constitution. You can understand it by reading the two cases that follow.
  1. Berubari Case:
    In accordance with Article 143(1) of the Constitution[1], it was cited in relation to the execution of the Indo-Pakistan Agreement concerning the Berubari Union[2] and the exchange of enclaves that were chosen for review by the eight-judge court. The Preamble is the key to opening the minds of the framers, but it cannot be regarded as a part of the Constitution, the Court declared in the Berubari case.

    As a result, it cannot be enforced in court. The same is true of the prohibitions as it is of the abilities. It only applies in certain situations and can be used when the statute is unclear. The aims stated in the Constitution may be utilised as guidance in interpreting terms that are unclear or capable of having two meanings, and the interpretation that best fits the Preamble may be adopted.
  2. Kesavananda Bharati Case[3]: In this instance, a bench of thirteen judges was gathered to consider a writ petition for the first time.

    As the Court decided:
    • The Preamble to the Constitution must henceforth be regarded as an integral element of the document.
    • The Preamble holds significant weight in interpreting Acts and clauses of the Constitution, although it is neither the ultimate authority nor the source of any restriction or prohibition. Thus, it can be said that the preamble is a component of the Constitution's introduction.
    • The Supreme Court of India once again ruled in the 1995 case of Union Government v. LIC of India[4] that although the Preamble is an essential component of the Constitution, it cannot be directly enforced in an Indian court of law.
Can Preamble be amended under Article 368?
The matter was first heard by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Kesavanada Bharati v. State of Kerala.[5] In that case, the Attorney General argued that Article 368's[6] amending power might be used to change even the Preamble. It was argued that the Preamble is amendable like any other clause as it is a part of the Constitution.

The petitioners countered that there are limitations on Article 368's amending authority. It is implied by the preamble that the right to amend is restricted. The Preamble contains a list of the essential elements or sections of our Constitution. As a result, the modifying authority cannot be applied in a way that compromises or jeopardises the essential qualities stated in the Preamble.

As a result, the modifying authority cannot be applied in a way that compromises or jeopardises the essential qualities stated in the Preamble. It was contended that the Preamble cannot be altered because it is not a part of the Constitution. But the Supreme Court decided that the Beruberi decision was wrong in this regard and that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution.

The Preamble may be amended because it is a part of the Constitution, according to the majority's stance, but only insofar as the "basic feature" of the Preamble remains unaltered. The Court said: "The Preamble's essential elements serve as the cornerstone of our Constitution.

If any of these are taken away, the structure will collapse; it will no longer be the same Constitution and will lose its identity. As a result, it is maintained that the court's viewpoint is correct. No amendment to the Constitution may change the nation's status as a "Sovereign Democratic Republic." It can only be accomplished by destroying the Constitution.

  1. INDIA CONST. art. 143, � 1.
  2. Re, Berubari Union (I), AIR 1960 SC 845.
  3. Kesavananda Bharati v State of Kerela, (1973) 4 SCC 225.
  4. Union Government v. LIC of India, (2003) 179 CTR Raj 432, 2003 260 ITR 41 Raj.
  5. Supra 3.
  6. INDIA CONST. art. 368.

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