– The Preamble of the Indian Constitution

By Sahaya Philomin Raj, SJ

There were hundreds of debates held at the Constituent Assembly before this nation, the people of India, came to a consensus to accept and adopt our Constitution. The debates are still going on in this country at socio-political and cultural realms. The Judiciary, the guardian of the Constitution, are called to interpret it whenever a need arises.

Old India Vs New India:

The Constitution is a vision document to establish a new India in keeping with the dreams and aspirations of the people of India. They wanted to be freed from the old India which was bound by castes and different types of slavery. People were illiterate and did not have an adequate knowledge of India and its intricacies. Moreover, they were not aware of the avenues available for the independent nation to restore social justice, equality, freedom, fraternity and development for all its citizens. Though they had a lot of experiences and wisdom acquired through these experiences, they were unable to articulate all their aspirations. It was Dr Ambedkar, the “Mook Nayak” (The leader of the voiceless), who shouldered the responsibility of giving shape to the aspirations and dreams of the people of India. 

It was Dr Ambedkar, the “Mook Nayak” (The leader of the voiceless), who shouldered the responsibility of giving shape to the aspirations and dreams of the people of India.

The responsibility was given to the Constituent Assembly, which, in turn, constituted a drafting committee under the leadership of Dr Ambedkar who had a deep understanding of India with all its complexity. He, along with others, made this Constitution a remarkable document. It took almost two years of serious deliberations, debates and inputs before it was adopted by the Constituent Assembly.  

The priorities were:

To alleviate poverty and to feed the people

To build a new India where in all people would enjoy freedom, liberty, equality, justice, opportunity, fundamental rights 

To educate and to provide employment to ensure a decent life for all

To remove the disparity between the rich and the poor

To bring the people at the periphery to the mainstream

To protect and secure the nation from the external threats

To streamline the administration at all levels

Jawaharlal Nehru, articulated the very same aspirations and dreams in these words:

“The future beckons to us. Whither do we go and what shall be our endeavour? To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India; to fight and end poverty and ignorance and disease; to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman…. All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.”

The vitality:

The speciality of our Constitution is that it has been adopted in the name of the people and not in the name of God or any sacred text or in the name of some national leaders or some ideology. Hence, the Constitution is not of the government nor for the government, nor by the government. but of the people, by the people and for the people.

The great minds who drafted the Constitution have, at the outset, put it in a nutshell the vision in the form of the Preamble. The preamble spells out succinctly, how the people of India wanted to shape this country and what they wanted to achieve.

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC 

These basic principles or doctrines are very crucial for each and every citizen to understand and to help realise the dreams. 

Sovereign: Sovereign means the sovereignty of the people. It means the People, the nation is independent, autonomous, free, self-determining and self-governing. People are not under pressure by any external or internal forces. It is finally the people of India who will decide and run the affairs of the government.

But the government cannot exploit or manipulate the concept of sovereignty to control and to enslave its own people using its agencies and power just because it has got a majority in the parliament. This is why the present efforts to silence the dissenting voices are against the very spirit of the Constitution.

Socialist: This means the collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods. This will be a system in which the resources and income are subject to social control. The wealth of the nation belongs to the people and not to the individuals or corporates. The people consciously decided to have India as a Socialist country, meaning that the government would always be careful in implementing the principle of distributive justice in all fields. A former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Mr. Annadurai’s famous dictum, “Tax the rich and enrich the poor” vividly indicates the principle of socialism. This is why the phenomenon of about 100 individuals owning half the wealth of the nation is against our Constitution. 

Secular: This means that the State has no religion; no mixing up of government affairs with religion. In other words, the government has no business in religious affairs except to protect and treat all the religions equally. The State’s role is to protect and to create space for everybody to exercise their respective religious rights. Thus, the State is envisioned to play the role of an organizer, facilitator and protector as far as religious activities are concerned. Citizens can profess, practice and propagate their faith. Religion and faith are personal and private affairs of each individual. Hence, voluntary conversion from one religion to another is a fundamental right of all citizens enshrined in the Constitution.

Conversion is not an issue affecting the minorities alone but it is taking away everyone’s right to religion. Preventing conversion is a violation of fundamental human rights. Therefore the Anti-Conversion laws, enacted by several northern States, are unconstitutional. By restricting conversions, they are taking away a fundamental right of the citizens.

Democratic: “Enjoy your freedom and exercise your rights and allow others to enjoy their freedom and to exercise their rights”. Also help one another to exercise their freedom and rights. Unity in Diversity is our richness. But uniformity (one Nation, one culture, one language, one religion, one election) is against humanity and against nature. Democracy is the most-celebrated principle in any civilized human society. Accepting, recognizing, appreciating, respecting and acknowledging the culture, religion, ethnicity, language, literature of one another are the highest human values in a democracy. Democracy thrives when pluralism is  encouraged and appreciated. It promotes devolution of power instead of accumulation.

Republic denotes an Independent Nation; a Sovereign state; a government headed not by a Monarch nor by a Dictator nor by an Authoritarian nor by the military chief but by a President who is elected through a democratic process according to the Constitution.

The preamble further visualizes:

to secure to all its citizens:

JUSTICE – social, economic and political;

Among these, Political Justice alone is said to have been realised, to some extent, in the form of ‘one vote, one value’. But where is Social Justice? All the citizens are entitled to be treated equally, with dignity and with due respect. No one should feel being excluded. Human rights of each and every one has to be secured and it should be the top priority of the government. But in reality, we have utterly failed to restore social justice to all our citizens.

Similarly, Economic Justice too remains a far cry. We have not made any progress in it. Rather the wealth of the nation is getting accumulated in the hands of a few. Employment, a secured job, basic needs, food, drinking water, sanitation, health facilities are still not available for two thirds of the population in India.

The preamble continues to visualise: 

LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;

EQUALITY of status and of opportunity;

and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation;


Dr. B.R. Ambedkar commented on the usefulness of the Constitution, when he said, “I feel, however good a constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad if those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good, if those who are called to work on it, happen to be a good lot.” So, “the working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution but on the people and the political parties they set up to carry out their wishes and their politics”. It is for all of us to protect the Constitution and to implement it in letter and spirit.

Sahaya Philomin Raj, SJ, (MDU), a Jesuit priest for 22 years, has been practicing law, taking up the cases of those who feel their rights have been violated. The executive director of IDEAS, he is the safeguarding officer of the Jesuit Madurai Province for the protection of children and vulnerable adults. He has a Ph.D. in Criminology and Criminal Justice. His services to the survivors of the tsunami were recognized by the ‘National Legal Services Authority’ – a body functioning under the Supreme Court. He founded the Madurai Legal Awareness Coordination Committee.