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The Heart of India's Constitution: Exploring the Preamble and Its Evolution

The Constitution of India which was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November, 1949 and came into force on 26th January, 1950 contains a Preamble which outlines its fundamental framework. However, the Preamble holds no legal weight and cannot be used in court to demand action from the Indian government. It is possible to amend the Preamble, although it has only been done once through the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976. The Indian Constitution underwent a major transformation with the implementation of the 42nd Amendment Act in 1976.

This significant change was brought about by the erstwhile ruling party, the Indian National Congress, under the leadership of Indira Gandhi. Often referred to as the "Mini-Constitution," this amendment brought about extensive revisions to the constitutional framework. Some notable modifications included replacing "Sovereign Democratic Republic" with "Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic" and amending "unity of the Nation" to "unity and integrity of the Nation."

Understanding the Preamble:

Preamble to the Constitution of India is the opening statement that describes the basis, goals, and hopes of the Indian Republic. It defines the basic principles and values upon which the Constitution is founded, thereby acting as a guiding framework for governance, democracy, and social justice. The deep-seated value and meaning of each phrase in the Preamble will be explored in this discussion.

In the text "WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA," the phrase reveals how the Indian citizens possess collective sovereignty and power, which are used to determine their own future. It is a representation of democracy that has been established in India because it clearly shows that power rests with the citizens who elect their representatives and confer authority upon them.

This phrase clearly outlines the main principles and characteristics that form the basis of the Indian state as being sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, and republican.

India is a "sovereign" country in the world; it means free from external controls and interference. It affirms India's self-governance and self-determination in both national and international dimensions, whereby decisions pertaining to India's governance are left to its citizenry.

India is dedicated to forming a socialist system where the principles of social justice and economic equality are a priority; and this regime exists to get rid of poverty and, at the same time, ensure the just distribution of wealth and resources. It also signifies the government's role in addressing socio-economic imbalances and uplifting marginalized sections of society through welfare schemes and policies.

Secular India is an officially religiously neutral state and does not favour any particular religion as a result. It protects the freedom of religion and guarantees equal rights and security to all religious communities, thereby promoting communal harmony and tolerance in its multicultural society.

India is a republic, which means the power to govern comes from the people and they have consented. The right to vote is ensured, as well as freedom of speech and observance of law, so that citizens are allowed to control any government institution that serves them. In a republican country, the head of state is elected by the people or their representatives and is not based on inheritance in a monarchy. It signifies a symbol that they refuse hereditary privilege and create a new system based on merit and democratic principles.

In this regard, the phrase "AND TO SECURE TO ALL ITS CITIZENS" emphatically indicates that the commitment is towards ensuring the rights and welfare of each citizen, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, gender, or socioeconomic status.

Justice is one of the foundational principles of the Indian Constitution, and it pertains to social, economic, and political dimensions. It aims to eliminate all kinds of inequality before the law; ensure the equitable distribution of resources, while providing access to opportunities for every citizen, especially the marginalized and vulnerable groups.

Liberty has been regarded as one of the core values documented in the constitution, and its mandate is to ensure that no person is denied his or her freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship. It keeps in check personal independence and the right to oppose, enhancing a lively and diverse community.

The doctrine of "equality and opportunity" is one of the pillars of the Indian Republic, seeking to eliminate any kind of discrimination and ensure equal treatment and opportunities for all citizens, regardless of their status or situation in life. It aims to build a society where each person can realize their potential and become successful based on merit.

In its essence, the notion of fraternity symbolizes brotherhood and acts of unity among all inhabitants beyond their religion, caste, region, or creed. It emphasizes the significance of an atmosphere that encourages a shared sense of being, reverence, and respect for others, which, in turn, adds to the integrity and unity of the nation.

The Preamble to the Indian Constitution serves as a guiding light, reflecting the principles, visions, and general will of the Indian people. It reinforces our dedication to democracy, social justice, secularism, and equality, creating an environment where differences are acknowledged positively, and no citizen is left behind. Every individual should be given the chance to enjoy life in peace with their freedom.

Sources of the Preamble of Indian Constitution:

The Preamble of the Indian Constitution takes inspiration from a variety of sources, including the constitutions of multiple countries. These influences include the United States, where the Indian Preamble echoes the principles of the American Constitution's Preamble, emphasizing justice, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness through the idea of 'Justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity.'

The concept of 'Fraternity' or 'Brotherhood' in the Indian Preamble is inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution, as seen in the French Constitution's emphasis on liberty, equality, and fraternity.

The term 'Socialist' was influenced by the socialist principles of the USSR (Soviet Union), showcasing India's dedication to socialism as one of its guiding principles.

Drawing from Ireland, which established the Republic of Ireland, the Indian Preamble adopts the concept of 'Republic.' Furthermore, the phrase 'We, the people of India' mirrors the opening words of the Australian Constitution, 'We, the people of the Commonwealth of Australia.' While the Indian Preamble is not an exact replication of any particular preamble, it reflects a fusion of these influences tailored to India's distinctive context and aspirations.

The principles of secularism in the Indian Constitution were not directly derived from any particular country, but rather influenced by a variety of sources, including historical events and philosophical ideas. Notably, the secular traditions of Western democracies, such as France, the United States, and the United Kingdom, played a significant role in shaping India's approach to secularism.

France, known for its strict separation of church and state since the French Revolution, served as a crucial model. The French concept of 'la�cit�' emphasizes state neutrality in religious matters and the protection of individual freedom of conscience. This idea greatly influenced the framers of the Indian Constitution in their understanding of secularism.

Similarly, the United States' First Amendment, which bars the government from establishing or favouring any particular religion and guarantees the free exercise of religion, also provided an important model for secular governance. This principle of religious freedom and the separation of church and state was influential in shaping India's secular provisions.

Furthermore, India's own experience of religious diversity and the need to accommodate multiple religious communities within a single nation-state context also played a vital role in shaping the secular principles of the Indian Constitution. This unique context highlighted the importance of maintaining a neutral stance towards religion in order to ensure equality and harmony among all citizens.

In conclusion, while the concept of secularism in the Indian Constitution was not directly taken from the constitution of any single country, it was influenced by a combination of Western secular traditions and India's own historical and cultural context.

Kesavananda Bharati Case:

The Kesavananda Bharati Case, a landmark ruling by the Supreme Court of India, had a significant impact on the interpretation of the Indian Constitution. With a record-breaking 13-judge Bench, the Court declared that the Preamble of the Constitution is an integral and inseparable part of it. Furthermore, it was established that while the power to amend the Constitution lies with the Parliament, any such amendments must not violate its "basic structure", which encompasses crucial principles like democracy, secularism, federalism, and the rule of law.

Therefore, although the Parliament has the authority to amend the Constitution, including its Preamble, it cannot do so in a way that undermines the fundamental values and structure of the Constitution as determined by the judiciary. This ruling has since played a pivotal role in preserving the integrity and stability of the Indian Constitution.

The verdict in the present matter effectively resolved the ongoing dispute between the executive and judiciary, serving as a protector of the democratic framework and establishment in the nation. This outcome was the result of a rigorous legal clash between two eminent constitutional experts and legal experts, N.A. Palkhivala (representing the Petitioners) and H.M. Seervai (representing the State of Kerala). The extensive hearings, spanning over sixty-eight days, culminated in a comprehensive 703-page judgement issued on 24th April 1973.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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