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The Preamble to the Constitution of India records the aims and aspirations of the people of India which have been translated into the various provisions of the Constitution. A Preamble means the introduction to the statute. The objectives before the Constituent Assembly were to Constitute India into a “sovereign democratic republic” and to secure its citizens “justice liberty, equality, and fraternity”. The ultimate aim of the makers of the Constitution was to have a welfare state and an egalitarian society projecting the aims and aspirations of the people of India who sacrificed everything for the attainment of country’s freedom.

It is worthwhile to note that the preamble was adopted by the Constituent Assembly after the Draft Constitution had been approved. The basic idea behind it was the preamble should be in conformity with the provisions of the constitution and express in a few words the philosophy of the constitution. It may be recalled that after the transfer of power, the Constituent Assembly became sovereign, which is reflected in the use of words “give to ourselves this constitution” in the preamble. It also implied that the preamble emanated from the people of India and sovereignty lies with them.

Chief Justice Subba Rao in Golak Nath v. State of Punjab[i] had held that “The preamble to an Act sets out the main objectives which the legislation is intended to achieve”.

Unlike the Constitution 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.

History Of Preamble


The Preamble to the Indian constitution is based on “Objective Resolution” of Nehru. Jawaharlal Nehru introduced an objective resolution on December 13, 1947, and it was adopted by Constituent assembly on 22 January 1947. The drafting committee of the assembly in formulating the Preamble in the light of “Objective Resolution” felt that the Preamble should be restricted to defining the essential features of the new state and its basic socio-political objectives and that the other matters dealt with Resolution could be more appropriately provided for in the substantive parts of the Constitution.

The committee adopted the expression ‘Sovereign Democratic Republic’ in place of ‘Sovereign Independent Republic’ as used in the “Objective Resolution,” for it thought the independence was implied in the word Sovereign. The committee added the word Fraternity which was not present in the Objective Resolution. “The committee felt that the need for fraternal concord and goodwill in India was never greater than now and that this particular aim of the new Constitution should be emphasized by special mention in the Preamble.” In other respect the committee tried to embody in the Preamble “the spirit and, as far as possible, the language of “Objective Resolution.”


Meaning and Concept


The term ‘Preamble’ means the introduction to a statute. It is the introductory part of the constitution. A preamble may also be used to introduce a particular section or group of sections. According to Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary, a preamble means preface, introduction, especially that of an act of Parliament, giving its reasons and purpose – a prelude.

 Black’s Law Dictionary states that the preamble means a clause at the beginning or a statute explanatory of the reasons for its enactment and the objectives sought to be accomplished. Generally, a Preamble is a declaration made by the legislature of the reasons for the passage of the statute and is helpful in the interpretation of any ambiguities within the statute to which it is prefixed. 

The Constitution opens with a Preamble. Initially, the Preamble was drafted by Sh. B. N. Rau in his memorandum of May 30, 1947, and was later reproduced in the Draft of October 7, 1947. In the context of the deliberations by the Constituent Assembly, the Preamble was reformulated.

The Committee claimed that they had tried to embody in it the spirit, and as far as possible, the language of the Objectives Resolution. [vi] Constitutions all over the world generally have a preamble. The form, content, and length of the preamble differ from constitution to constitution. Irrespective of these differences the preamble generally sets the ideas and goals which the makers of the constitution intended to achieve through that constitution.

Object, Purpose and Scope

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. The preamble to an Act sets out the main objectives which the legislation is intended to achieve.

The proper function of the preamble is to explain and recite certain facts which are necessary to be explained and recited before the enactment contained in an act of Parliament could be understood. A preamble may be used for other reasons, such as, to limit the scope of certain expressions or to explain facts or introduce definitions. It usually states or professes to state, the general object and meaning of the legislature in passing the measure.

Hence it may be legitimately consulted for the purpose of solving an ambiguity or fixing the connotation of words which may possibly have more meaning, or determining of the Act, whenever the enacting part in any of this respect is prone to doubt. In a nutshell, a court may look into the object and policy of the Act as recited in the Preamble when a doubt arises in its mind as to whether the narrower or the more liberal interpretation ought to be placed on the language which is capable of bearing both meanings.

In A.K Gopalan v. State of Madras[vii], it was contended that the preamble to our constitution which seeks to give India a ‘democratic’ constitution should be the guiding start in its interpretation and hence any law made under Article 21 should be held as void if it offends the principles of natural justice, for otherwise the so-called “fundamental” rights to life and personal liberty would have no protection. The majority on the bench of the Supreme Court rejected this contention holding that ‘law’ in Article 21 refers to positive or state made law and not natural justice and that this meaning of the language of Article 21 could not be modified with reference to the preamble.

In Berubari Union case[viii]the Supreme Court held that the preamble had never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the government or on any of its departments. The court further explained that “what is true about the powers is equally true about the prohibitions and limitations”. It, therefore, observed that the preamble had limited application. The court laid down that the preamble would not be resorted to if the language of the enactment contained in the constitution was clear.


However, “if the terms used in any of the articles in the constitution are ambiguous or capable of two meanings, in interpreting them some assistance may be sought in the objectives enshrined in the Preamble.” In State of Rajasthan v. Basant Nahata [ix]it was held that a preamble with an ordinary Statute is to be resorted only when the language is itself capable of more than one meaning and not when something is not capable of being given a precise meaning as in case of public policy.

In Kesavananda Bharati[x]case the Supreme Court attached much importance to the preamble. In this case, the main question before the Supreme Court related to the scope of amending power of the Union Parliament under Article 368 of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court traced the history of the drafting and ultimate adoption of the Preamble. Chief Justice Sikri observed,

No authority has been referred before us to establish the propositions that what is true about the powers is equally true about the prohibitions and limitations. Even from the Preamble limitations have been derived in some cases. It seems to me that the preamble of our Constitution 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.”

A majority of the full bench held that the objectives specified in the preamble contain the basic structure of our constitution, which cannot be amended in exercise of the power under Article 368 of the constitution. It was further held that being a part of the constitution, the preamble was not outside the reach of the amending power of the Parliament under Article 368. It was in the exercise of this amending power that the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act 1976 amended the preamble inserting therein, the terms socialist, secular and integrity.

In the 1995 case of Union Government v. LIC of India also the Supreme Court has once again held that the Preamble is an integral part of the Constitution.

The Preamble serves the following purposes:

a)      It indicates the source from which the Constitution comes, viz., the people of India.

b)      It contains the enacting clause which brings into force, the Constitution which makes it an act of the people, for the people and by the people.

c)      It declares the rights and freedoms which the people of India intended to provide to all citizens and the basic type of government and polity which was to be established.


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