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Philosophy of the Indian Constitution

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  • Last Updated : 17 Jul, 2022

Indian constitution is a written and rigid constitution in nature. It was adopted by the constituent assembly on 26th November 1949 and was enacted on 26th January 1950. At that time it contained 395 articles, 8 schedules, and 22 parts. Later 4 schedules were added by amendment and at present time it has 12 schedules. There were 105 amendments made to the constitution till October 2021.

Philosophy of the Constitution:

The Constitution provides a framework of governance. It lays down the basic governing set of principles or essential rules of governance to establish the basic organs and structure, functions, composition, and powers of government.

The philosophical thought behind it was that for being a strong and independent country there must be a constitution that helps to frame the interrelationship between various organs and regulate their relations with people. In the form of certain rights, the relationship between the government and the people was generally given on the basis of fundamental political, economic, and religious views of the nation.

Philosophy of Constitution through Preamble:

The preamble is a brief introduction to the Constitution and it gives summarised knowledge of the legislative intent and policy. A preamble is a brief form of ideas and beliefs which the constitution wants to achieve. It states the marginal contents of the constitution that are in our constitution. 

The preamble of the constitution is the core of the constitution which contains words that the constitution-makers want to achieve like ‘we the people of India‘ means ‘by the people, for the people, and to the people.

1. Sovereign:

Sovereignty is one of the essential requirements of statehood. It is indicative of the fact that India is not subject to any foreign power from an internal or external perspective and the state is free to legislate on any subject in conformity with the constitution.

The Preamble uses the words ‘we the people of India’; the idea behind this is that a constitution is a creation of all the people and not a group of individuals or some older law. The Preamble emanated from the constituent assembly which represented the Indian people though it was not an elected mass. So we can say that sovereignty lies with the people of India and not the Parliament. Nor even is the constitution sovereign; it is the main expression of the people’s Sovereignty.

2. Socialist:

Socialist word was not there when the constitution was made but later by the 42nd amendment, it was added to our constitution and the basic meaning of socialist is socialism which the constitution provides to safe and secure the Indian citizens from social endangerment.

The supreme court in the Delhi science forum vs Union of India held that the Constitution does not lay down any economic policies and Indian socialism is different from Marxist socialism. Socialism will continue to have a different meaning until a necessity arises to delete it. Most significantly the validity of socialism in the Preamble has not been challenged yet.

3. Secularism:

Being secular means the state is neutral in any matters related to religion and it means the constitution does not promote or deprive any religion. It was also added in the 42nd amendment. Unlike the West, Indian secularism is not the result of a conflict between church and state; very often in our common language, the term secularism is used simply as the opposite of communitarianism.

Secular is a vague term to be defined. The dictionary defines it as ‘not concerned with religion‘ and it implies religious freedom and tolerance and respect for ideas of nationalism, materialism, Humanism, etc. 

The definition of secularism has two aspects one is negative expect which is a state not to interfere in any religion and the other is a positive aspect which is the state to take necessary steps for ensuring equality of religions thus, helping minority religions would not be unconstitutional.

4. Democratic:

It indicates that the source of the power of the government is in its people. It is the Government of the people for the people and by the people. In Indira Nehru Gandhi VS Raj Narain, it was held that democracy is a basic feature of the Indian Constitution and free and fair elections are also impliedly a basic feature. Democracy is the People’s power and State’s power vest in the people which means democracy makes the people supreme.

5. Republic:

It means that the head of the nation is an elected representative. Republic is a government that derives its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people and is administered by people who hold office for pleasure, for a limited time, or for good conduct. Even India’s membership of the Commonwealth of nations does not detract it from its Republican character; that is an external arrangement and the queen has not been recognized as the head of the country.

The Constitution also includes the Rights of the People in the Preamble:

1. Justice:

Justice means the harmonization of interests between individuals and society. Justice has been given precedence over other concepts of Liberty, equality, and fraternity in the Preamble. Justice has three facets- (a)Social justice (b) Economic justice (c ) Political justice.

  • Social justice has been given precedence over economic and political justice whereas economical justice precedes political justice in the Preamble. Social justice implies equal treatment of citizens regardless of their social status. Articles 14, 15, and 38 express this aim in particular.
  • Economic justice is the binding gap between the rich and poor. Article 39 of DPSP is the charter of economic justice; in fact, all the provisions of DPSP (article 36-51) carry forward the goals of economic and Social Justice.
  • Political justice implies the equal participation of all in the political process. Articles 325 and 326 provide for equal rights to all citizens(adults) to participate in elections and to vote in elections.

2. Liberty:

In the western concept, liberty was largely a negative concept. It meant an absence of interference in individual action by the government. But in the Indian Constitution Liberty is a positive concept. These have been drafted as fundamental rights. Liberty would mean freedom to do what one likes but it also means Liberty has to be regulated in the larger interest of the society; so the constitution by giving fundamental rights also contains regulatory provisions for them.

Liberty of thought, expression, belief, worship in the preamble is given under Articles 14 to 35 as fundamental rights.

3. Equality:

The preamble talks of equality of status and opportunity. It has got legal, social, political, and economic dimensions. The concept is drafted in articles 14 to 18.

4. Fraternity:

It means a feeling of brotherhood. The goal of the constitution is to subdued the division forces in India by fostering a feeling of brotherhood among the Indian despite their diversity. For assuring the fraternity the provisions are made like equality of treatment and other fundamental rights, single citizenship, Directive Principles of State Policy, Fundamental duties (duty to Foster fraternity).

The concept of fraternity goes beyond the concept of secularism which gives unity and solidarity to social life. An ancient Indian word “Vasudeva Kutumbakam” means the whole world is one family and Article 51 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) elaborates on this principle.

As to ‘dignity of individual‘ the prime objective of the concept of fraternity is to preserve and promote the dignity of the individual. Article 17 abolishes untouchability which is an affront to individual dignity. In case of infringement of fundamental rights, one can directly approach the supreme court and high court under article 32 or 226.

As to the unity and integrity of the nation, article 51-A makes it the duty of every citizen to hold and protect the sovereignty, unity, and integrity of the nation.

The Preamble represents the philosophy, ideals, or the soul of the entire constitution. Other parts of the constitution are the mere elaborations of the concepts envisaged in the Preamble. The constitution provides rights for the growth of the country and its citizens and it keeps the country united and secures the citizens of the country. It gives the spirit of brotherhood that everyone should understand that they are the children of the same motherland and they should stay with each other with a sense of compassion for others and cooperation. To maintain the rights and equality of citizens, the constitution provides fundamental rights and directive principles of state policy which set the regulations for the government.

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