THE PREAMBLE OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION

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INTRODUCTION

The term ‘preamble’ refers to the introduction or preface to the Constitution. It contains the summary or essence of the Constitution. The Preamble is an introductory statement, stating the aims and objectives of the constitution. Accordingly, the preamble to the Indian constitution spells out the basic philosophy contained in the body of the Indian Constitution. The Preamble, in brief, explains the objectives of the Constitution in two ways: one, about the structure of the governance and the other, about the ideals to be achieved in independent India. It also promotes and aids the legal interpretation of the Constitution, where the language is found to be ambiguous. Therefore, for a proper appreciation of the aims and aspirations embodied in our Constitution, we need to turn to the various expressions contained in the Preamble.

WHETHER PREAMBLE IS A PART OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION?

It has been highly a matter of arguments and discussions in the past that whether Preamble should be treated as a part of the constitution or not. The vexed question whether the Preamble is a part of the Constitution or not was dealt with in two leading cases on the subject:

  1. Re: Berubari Union Case, 1960- The Supreme Court said that the Preamble shows the general purposes behind the several provisions in the Constitution, and is thus a key to the minds of the makers of the Constitution. Further, where the terms used in any article are ambiguous or capable of more than one meaning, some assistance at interpretation may be taken from the objectives enshrined in the Preamble. Despite this recognition of the significance of the Preamble, the Supreme Court held that the “Preamble is not a part of the Constitution.” It is also not the source to prohibit the power, which is given explicitly in the Constitution. Further, the Preamble is not enforceable in a Court of Law.

  2. Keshvananda Bharti Case, 1973- In the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973), the Supreme Court rejected the earlier opinion (in the Berubari Case) and held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution. It observed that the Preamble 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. The explanation provided by the Supreme Court: 

 

  1. The Preamble may not be an essential part of the ordinary statute, but it is an essential part of Constitutional Law.  

  2. Supreme Court admitted that a few facts regarding the Preamble were not noticed in the Berubari Case. These facts established Preamble as a part of the Constitution. 

 

  • It has been adopted by the Constituent Assembly in the same manner as other parts. 

  • The motion by which the Preamble was adopted said: “The question is that Preamble stands part of the Constitution”. 

  •  The Preamble was enacted after the rest of the Constitution was already enacted. The Preamble was inserted in the end to ensure that there is no inconsistency between the Preamble and other provisions of the Constitution. This was unlike the USA where the Preamble was enacted first.

 

  1. SR Bommai Case, 1994-The Supreme Court again held that the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution.

CAN THE PREAMBLE BE AMENDED?

The question regarding the amenability of the Preamble was raised in the Kesavananda Bharati Case (1973). An interesting argument advanced, in this case, has been noted by Justice Y.V. Chandrachud that the Preamble may be a part of the Constitution but is not a provision of the Constitution and therefore, we cannot amend the Constitution so as to destroy the Preamble. Discarding the submissions by Justice Chandrachud held that it was impossible to accept the contention that the Preamble is not a provision of the Constitution; it is a part of the Constitution and is not outside the reach of the Constituent Assembly leaves no scope for this contention. Kesavananda Bharati case is a milestone and also a turning point in the constitutional history of India. D.G. Palekar, J. held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution and, therefore, is amendable under Article 368.

Supreme Court’s view: Preamble is an essential and integral part of the Constitution. Hence, it can be amended; otherwise, the harmony of the Constitution may get disturbed. It held that the Preamble could be amended, subject to the condition that no amendment is done to the ‘basic features’ of the Constitution. Consequently, the Preamble was amended by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976. It added three new words: Socialist, Secular and Integrity to the Preamble.