SALIENT FEATURES OF THE INDIAN CONSTITUTION: PREAMBLE

Unlike the Constitutions of Australia, Canada or the U.S.A., the Constitution
of India has an elaborate Preamble. The purpose of the Preamble is to clarify who
has made the Constitution, what is its source, what is the ultimate sanction behind
it; what is the nature of the polity which is sought to be established by the
Constitution and what are its goals and objectives?


The Preamble does not grant any power but it gives a direction and purpose to
the Constitution. It outlines the objectives of the whole Constitution. The Preamble
contains the fundamentals of the Constitution. It serves several important
purposes, as for example:


(1) It contains the enacting clause which brings the Constitution into
force.
(2) It declares the great rights and freedoms which the people of India
intended to secure to all its citizens.
(3) It declares the basic type of government and polity which is sought to
be established in the country.
(4) It throws light on the source of the Constitution, viz. the People of India.


The words in the Preamble, “We the people of India…in our Constituent Assembly…
do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution”, propound
the theory that the ‘sovereignty’ lies in the people, that the Constitution,
emanates from them; that the ultimate source for the validity of, and the sanction
behind the Constitution is the will of the people; that the Constitution has not
been imposed on them by any external authority, but is the handiwork of the Indians
themselves.


Thus, the source of the Constitution are the people themselves from whom the
Constitution derives its ultimate sanction. This assertion affirms the republican
and democratic character of the Indian polity and the sovereignty of the people.
The People of India thus constitute the sovereign political body who hold the ultimate
power and who conduct the government of the country through their
elected representatives.
The claim that the People of India have given to themselves the Constitution
is in line with similar claims made in several other democratic Constitutions,
such as those of the U.S.A., Ireland, etc.

As regards the nature of the Indian Polity, the Preamble to the Constitution declares
India to be a ‘Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic’. The term
‘Sovereign’ denotes that India is subject to no external authority and that the state
has power to legislate on any subject in conformity with constitutional limitations.
The term ‘democratic’ signifies that India has a responsible and parliamentary form
of government which is accountable to an elected legislature. The Supreme Court has
declared ‘democracy’ as the basic feature of the Constitution. The term ‘Republic’
denotes that the head of the state is not a hereditary monarch, but an elected functionary.
As to the grand objectives and socio-economic goals to achieve which the Indian
Polity has been established, these are stated in the Preamble. These are: to
secure to all its citizens social, economic and political justice; liberty of thought,
expression, belief, faith and worship; equality of status and opportunity, and to
promote among them fraternity so as to secure the dignity of the individual and
the unity and integrity of the Nation.
Emphasizing upon the significance of the three concepts of liberty, equality
and fraternity used in the Preamble, Dr. Ambedkar observed in his closing speech
in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949 : “The principles of liberty,
equality and fraternity are not to be treated as separate items in a trinity. They
form a union of trinity in the sense that to divorce one from the other is to defeat
the very purpose of democracy. Liberty cannot be divorced from equality, equality
cannot be divorced from liberty. Nor can liberty and equality be divorced
from fraternity. Without equality liberty would produce the supremacy of the few
over the many. Equality without liberty, would kill individual initiative”.
The Supreme Court has emphasized that the words “fraternity assuring the
dignity of the individual” have “a special relevance in the Indian context” because
of the social backwardness of certain sections of the community who had
in the past been looked down upon.
To give a concrete shape to these aspirations, the Constitution has a Chapter
on Fundamental Rights which guarantee certain rights to the people, such as,
freedom of the person, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, etc.
According to the Supreme Court, “The Constitution envisions to establish an
egalitarian social order rendering to every citizen, social, economic and political
justice in a social and economic democracy of the Bharat Republic.” The Constitution
thus ensures economic democracy along with political democracy.
The goals and objectives of the Indian Polity as stated in the Preamble are
sought to be further clarified, strengthened and concretized through the Directive
Principles of State Policy.

The Preamble lays emphasis on the principle of equality which is basic to the
Indian Constitution. The principle of equality is a basic feature or structure of the
Constitution which means that even a constitutional amendment offending the
basic structure of the Constitution is ultra vires. A legislature cannot transgress
this basic feature of the Constitution while making a law.