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.

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens

JUSTICE, social, economic and political;

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;


Note- The words SOCIALIST, SECULAR and integrity were added by the Constitutional (Fourty sec- ond) Amendment Act, 1976.

The Preamble reveals four ingredients or components:

  1. Source of authority of the Constitution: The Preamble states that the Constitution derives its authority from the people of India.
  2. Nature of Indian State: It declares India to be of a sovereign, socialist, secular democratic and republican polity.
  3. Objectives of the Constitution: It specifies justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as the objectives.
  4. Date of adoption of the Constitution: It stipulates November 26, 1949 as the date.

The preamble to the Constitution of India is a brief introductory statement that sets out guidelines, which guides the people of the nation, and presents the principles of the Constitution. The hopes and aspirations of the people are described in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. The preamble can be referred to as the preface which highlights the entire Constitution.

The preamble is based on the Objectives Resolution which was drafted and moved in the Constituent Assembly by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru on 13 December 1946. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar described the preamble in the following words:-

“It was, indeed, a way of life, which recognizes liberty, equality, and fraternity as the principles of life and which cannot be divorced from each other: 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. Without fraternity, liberty and equality could not become a natural course of things.”

The American Constitution was the first to begin with a Preamble. Many countries, including India, followed this practice. The term ‘preamble’ refers to the introduction or preface to the Constitution. It contains the summary or essence of the Constitution. N. A. Palkhivala, an eminent jurist and constitutional expert, called the Preamble as the ‘identity card of the Constitution.’


The Preamble to the Indian constitution is based on “Objective Resolution”. 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 sociopolitical 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.”


The Preamble does not grant any power but it gives a direction and purpose to the Constitution. It out- lines 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 these 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, 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 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 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 State of Rajasthan v. Basant Nahata 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 Keshavananda Bharati 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. 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 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.


It has been highly a matter of arguments and discussions in the past that whether Preamble should be treated as a part of the constitution or not. The vexed question whether it is a part of the Constitution or not was dealt with in two leading cases on the subject:

Berubari Case

Berubari case was the Presidential Reference “under Article 143(1) of the Constitution of India on the implementation of the Indo-Pakistan Agreement Relating to Berubari Union and Exchange of Enclaves which came up for consideration by a bench consisting of eight judges headed by the Chief Justice B.P. Singh. Justice Gajendra gadkar delivered the unanimous opinion of the Court.

The court ruled out that the Preamble to the Constitution, containing the declaration made by the people of India in exercise of their sovereign will, no doubt it is “a key to open the mind of the makers” which may show the general purposes for which they made the several provisions in the Constitution but nevertheless the Preamble is not a part of the Constitution.

Keshavananda Bharati case

Keshavananda Bharati case has created history. For the first time, a bench of 13 judges assembled and sat in its original jurisdiction hearing the writ petition. Thirteen judges placed on record 11 separate opinions. To the extent necessary for the purpose of the Preamble, it can be safely concluded that the majority in Keshavananda Bharati case leans in favor of holding,

  • That the Preamble to the Constitution of India is a part of the Constitution;
  • That the Preamble is not a source of power or a source of limitations or prohibitions;
  • The Preamble has a significant role to play in the interpretation of statutes and also in the interpretation of provisions of the Constitution.

Keshavananda Bharati case is a milestone and also a turning point in the constitutional history of India. D.G. Palekar, J. held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution and, therefore, is amendable under Article 368. It can be concluded that Preamble is an introductory part of our Constitution. The Preamble is based on the Objective Resolution of Nehru. Preamble tells about the nature of state and objects that India has to achieve. There was a controversial issue whether Preamble was part of Indian Constitution there were a number of judicial interpretation but finally Keshavananda Bharati case it was held that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution.

Hence, the current opinion held by the Supreme Court that the Preamble is a part of the Constitution, is in consonance with the opinion of the founding fathers of the Constitution. However, two things should be noted:

  • The Preamble is neither a source of power to legislature nor a prohibition upon the powers of
  • It is non justiciable, that is, its provisions are not enforceable in courts of law.