Certain key words—Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic, Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity—are explained as follows:
Though in 1949, India declared the continuation of her full membership of the Commonwealth of Nations and accepted the British Crown as the head of the Commonwealth, this extra-constitutional declaration does not affect India’s sovereignty in any manner. Further, India’s membership of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) also in no way constitutes a limitation on her sovereigntyBeing a sovereign state, India can either acquire a foreign territory or cede a part of its territory in favour of a foreign state.
Even before the term was added by the 42nd Amendment in 1976, the Constitution had a socialist content in the form of certain Directive Principles of State Policy. In other words, what was hitherto implicit in the Constitution has now been made explicit. Moreover, the Congress party itself adopted a resolution to establish a ‘socialistic pattern of society’ in its Avadi session as early as in 1955 and took measures accordingly.
Notably, the Indian brand of socialism is a ‘democratic socialism’ and not a ‘communistic socialism’ (also known as ‘state socialism’) which involves the nationalisation of all means of production and distribution and the abolition of private property. Democratic socialism, on the other hand, holds faith in a ‘mixed economy’ where both public and private sectors co-exist side by side. As the Supreme Court says, ‘Democratic socialism aims to end poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality of opportunity. Indian socialism is a blend of Marxism and Gandhism, leaning heavily towards Gandhian socialism’.
The new economic policy (1991) of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation has, however, diluted the socialist credentials of the Indian State.
3. Secular The term ‘secular’ too was added by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1976. However, as the Supreme Court said in 1974, although the words ‘secular state’ were not expressedly mentioned in the Constitution, there can be no doubt that Constitution-makers wanted to establish such a state and accordingly Articles 25 to 28 (guaranteeing the fundamental right to freedom of religion) have been included in the constitution.
The Indian Constitution embodies the positive concept of secularism ie, all religions in our country (irrespective of their strength) have the same status and support from the state.
A democratic polity, as stipulated in the Preamble, is based on the doctrine of popular sovereignty, that is, possession of supreme power by the people.Democracy is of two types—direct and indirect. In direct democracy, the people exercise their supreme power directly as is the case in Switzerland. There are four devices of direct democracy, namely, Referendum, Initiative, Recall and Plebiscite. In indirect democracy, on the other hand, the representatives elected by the people exercise the supreme power and thus carry on the government and make the laws. This type of democracy, also known as representative democracy, is of two kinds—parliamentary and presidential.
The Indian Constitution provides for representative parliamentary democracy under which the executive is responsible to the legislature for all its policies and actions. Universal adult franchise, periodic elections, rule of law, independence of judiciary, and absence of discrimination on certain grounds are the manifestations of the democratic character of the Indian polity.
The term ‘democratic’ is used in the Preamble in the broader sense embracing not only political democracy but also social and economic democracy.
This dimension was stressed by Dr. Ambedkar in his concluding speech in the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949, in the following way:
“Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy. What does social democracy mean ? It means a way of life which recognises liberty, equality and fraternity. 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”.
In the same context, the Supreme Court observed in 1997 that: “TheConstitution 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”.
A democratic polity can be classified into two categories—monarchy and republic. In a monarchy, the head of the state (usually king or queen) enjoys a hereditary position, that is, he comes into office through succession, eg, Britain. In a republic, on the other hand, the head of the state is always elected directly or indirectly for a fixed period, eg, USA.
Therefore, the term ‘republic’ in our Preamble indicates that India has an elected head called the president. He is elected indirectly for a fixed period of five years.
A republic also means two more things: one, vesting of political sovereignty in the people and not in a single individual like a king; second, the absence of any privileged class and hence all public offices being opened to every citizen without any discrimination.
The term ‘justice’ in the Preamble embraces three distinct forms—social, economic and political, secured through various provisions of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles.
Social justice denotes the equal treatment of all citizens without any social distinction based on caste, colour, race, religion, sex and so on. It means absence of privileges being extended to any particular section of the society, and improvement in the conditions of backward classes (SCs, STs and OBCs) and women.
Economic justice denotes the non-discrimination between people on the basis of economic factors. It involves the elimination of glaring inequalities in wealth, income and property. A combination of social justice and economic justice denotes what is known as ‘distributive justice’.
Political justice implies that all citizens should have equal political rights, equal access to all political offices and equal voice in the government.The ideal of justice—social, economic and political—has been taken from the Russian Revolution (1917).
The term ‘liberty’ means the absence of restraints on the activities of individuals, and at the same time, providing opportunities for the development of individual personalities.
The Preamble secures to all citizens of India liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, through their Fundamental Rights, enforceable in court of law, in case of violation.
Liberty as elaborated in the Preamble is very essential for the successful functioning of the Indian democratic system. However, liberty does not mean ‘license’ to do what one likes, and has to be enjoyed within the limitations mentioned in the Constitution itself. In brief, the liberty conceived by the Preamble or fundamental rights is not absolute but qualified.
The ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity in our Preamble have been taken from the French Revolution (1789-1799).
The term ‘equality’ means the absence of special privileges to any section of the society, and the provision of adequate opportunities for all individuals without any discrimination.
The Preamble secures to all citizens of India equality of status and opportunity. This provision embraces three dimensions of equality—civic, political and economic.
The following provisions of the chapter on Fundamental Rights ensure civic equality:
(a) Equality before the law (Article 14).
(b) Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth (Article 15).
(c) Equality of opportunity in matters of public employment (Article 16).
(d) Abolition of untouchability (Article 17).
(e) Abolition of titles (Article 18).
There are two provisions in the Constitution that seek to achieve political equality. One, no person is to be declared ineligible for inclusion in electoral rolls on grounds of religion, race, caste or sex (Article 325). Two, elections to the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies to be on the basis of adult suffrage (Article 326).
The Directive Principles of State Policy (Article 39) secures to men and women equal right to an adequate means of livelihood and equal pay for equal work.
Fraternity means a sense of brotherhood. The Constitution promotes this feeling of fraternity by the system of single citizenship. Also, the Fundamental Duties (Article 51-A) say that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic, regional or sectional diversities.
The Preamble declares that fraternity has to assure two things—the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation. The word ‘integrity’ has been added to the preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment (1976).
According to K M Munshi, a member of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly, the phrase ‘dignity of the individual’ signifies that the Constitution not only ensures material betterment and maintain a democratic set-up, but that it also recognises that the personality of every individual is sacred. This is highlighted through some of the provisions of the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy, which ensure the dignity of individuals. Further, the Fundamental Duties (Article 51A) also protect the dignity of women by stating that it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women, and also makes it the duty of every citizen of India to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India.
The phrase ‘unity and integrity of the nation’ embraces both the psychological and territorial dimensions of national integration. Article 1 of the Constitution describes India as a ‘Union of States’ to make it clear thatthe states have no right to secede from the Union, implying the indestructible nature of the Indian Union. It aims at overcoming hindrances to national integration like communalism, regionalism, casteism, linguism, secessionism and so on.