American constitution was the first to begin with a preamble. Many counties, including India, followed this practice. A preamble is an introductory and expressionary statement in a document that explains the document’s purpose and underlying philosophy.


Some statements by eminent personalities regarding the preamble of the Indian constitution

  1. ‘Identity card of the constitution’- NA Palkhivala
  2. ‘The preamble to our constitution expresses what we had thought or dreamt so long’- Sir Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer
  3. ‘The horoscope of our constitution’- Dr KM Munshi
  4. ‘It is the soul of the constitution. It is a key to the constitution. It is a jewel set in the constitution. It is a proper yardstick with which one can measure the worth of the constitution’- Pandit Thakur Das Bhargava
  5. ‘Key-note of the constitution’- Sir Ernest Baker

‘Preamble is the soul of our constitution, which lays down the pattern of our political society. It contains a solemn resolve, which nothing but a revolution can alter’- Former Chief Justice of India, M Hidayatullah


Text of the preamble

Text of the preamble


Four important aspects can be ascertained from the above text of the preamble

  1. Source of authority of the constitution: It derives its authority from the people of India
  2. Nature of Indian state: It declares India to be a sovereign, socialistic, secular democratic and republican polity
  3. Objectives of the constitution: It specifies justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as the objectives
  4. Date of adoption: Nov 26th, 1949


Key terms in the preamble


  • It implies India is neither a dependency nor a dominion of any other nation but an independent state
  • Membership of the commonwealth for India or UN membership does not diminish its sovereignty


  • The term was added through 42nd amendment act, 1976
  • However, various provisions in the constitution existed that indicated the socialistic nature of our constitution. Ex: Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)
  • The congress party adopted a resolution supporting socialism way back in 1955
  • Indian style of socialism is a democratic socialism (both public and private enterprises is encouraged) as opposed to communist socialism (state decides everything under the sun concerning the distribution and usage of resources)
  • Indian socialism is a blend of Marxist and Gandhian socialism, with heavy leanings towards the latter.


  • The term was added through 42nd amendment act, 1976
  • However, the Supreme Court said in 1974, although the ‘secular state’ was not expressly mentioned in the constitution, there can be no doubt that constitution-makers wanted to establish a secular state.
  • This is evident when one considers the secular Fundamental provisions of our constitution. Ex: Right against discrimination based on religion, race, caste etc


  • Our constitution establishes a democracy based on popular sovereignty
  • Our democracy is an indirect democracy where elected representatives take decision concerning the country. (The opposite of this happens to be direct democracy where citizens take decisions using tools such as- referendum, plebiscite, initiate and recall)
  • Our democracy is based on representative parliamentary democracy under which the executive is responsible to the legislature
  • The term democratic is used in the preamble in the broader sense embracing not only political democracy but also social and economic democracy

Quote to remember

“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 recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life.”- Dr BR Ambedkar

“The constitution envisions to establish an egalitarian social rendering to every citizen social, economic and political justice in a social and economic democracy of the Bharat republic- Supreme Court observation in a case in 1997


    • India is democratic republic, meaning, its offices are open to every citizen of India unlike the UK where the highest office in the country is reserved for the monarchy


  • It was borrowed from USSR constitution
  • The ideal of justice in this case embraces three distinct forms- social, economical and political
  • Social justice denotes the equal treatment of all citizens without any social discrimination
  • Economic justice denotes the non-discrimination between people on the basis of economic factors
  • A combination of social justice and economic justice denotes what is known as ‘distributive justice’
  • Political justice means all citizens should have equal political rights, equal access to all political offices and equal voice in the government


  • It means the absence of restraints on the activities of individuals and the same time, providing opportunities for the development of individuals
  • The preamble assures to all citizens- liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship through various provisions
  • This ideal was borrowed from French revolution


  • It means the absence of special privileges to any section of the society and provision of adequate opportunities for all individuals without any discrimination
  • The equality mentioned in the preamble embraces- civic, political and economic quality
  • This ideal was borrowed from French revolution
  • Various provisions of our constitution give effect to this principle


  • This ideal was borrowed from French revolution
  • Fraternity means a sense of brotherhood
  • 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 was added through 42nd constitutional amendment act, 1976
  • The constitution tries to promote a sense of fraternity through the system of single citizenship and provisions included in Fundamental duties
  • Dr KM Munshi opined that ‘dignity of the individual’ signifies that constitution not only ensures material betterment and maintain a democratic set-up, but it also recognizes that the personality of every individual is sacred

Preamble- the philosophical key to the constitution

  • It will be seen that the ideal embodied in the Objectives Resolution in 194 is faithfully reflected in the preamble to the Constitution, which as amended in 1976 summarizes the aims and objects of the Constitution.
  • The importance and utility of the preamble has been pointed out in several decisions of our Supreme Court. Though by itself, it is not enforceable in a court of law, the preamble to a written Constitution states the objects which the constitution seeks to establish and promote and also aids the legal interpretation of the constitution where the language is found to be ambiguous.
  • For a proper appreciation of the aims and aspirations embodied in Indian constitution, therefore India must turn to the various expressions contained in the preamble

Preamble as part of the constitution

  • In the Berubari Union Case (1960), the Supreme Court opined that the Preamble was not part of the constitution
  • The above opinion was reversed in Keshavananda Bharati case in 1973; the SC held that Preamble is part of the constitution. This opinion was further clarified by the SC in LIC of India case (1995)

Note: Though preamble is part of the constitution

  1. It is a neither a source of power to legislature nor a prohibition upon the powers of legislature
  2. It is a non-justiciable, that is , its provisions are not enforceable in any courts of law

Preamble and its amendability

In Keshavananda Bharati case, the court held that the basic elements or the fundamental features of the constitution as contained in the preamble cannot be altered by an amendment under article 368.

The preamble has been amended only once. That is- 42nd constitutional amendment act, 1976 when three new terms were added- Socialist, secular and integrity


Practice questions

Preamble contains the aims and aspirations of the constitution. Explain what those aims are? Discuss whether the ideal of secularism has undergone a change since independence? (250 words)

The Preamble is widely accepted as the epitome or soul and spirit of the Indian constitution. Discuss. (250 words)