Value of 'Socialist' and 'Secular' in the Preamble and Implications for the Nation

Value of 'Socialist' and 'Secular' in the Preamble and Implications for the Nation

Q. 'Is the omission of the words 'socialist' and 'secular' from the Preamble of the Constitution a mere storm in a teacup?” Discuss the importance of these two words in the Preamble and the implications for the nation.

A. Importance of 'Socialist' and 'Secular' in The Preamble

i. Origin of the Controversy

• Central government's use of “watermark of the original Preamble” used in ad for print media on occassion of Republic Day

• Watermark did not include the words socialist and secular

• Debate on “socialist” and “secular” called for by media

• Debate on constitutional amendment during period of Emergency

• The two key words should be dropped from amended Preamble: Shiv Sena

ii. History Behind Socialist and Secular

• Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act 1976 added the words socialist and secular
• “Sovereign Democratic Republic” was substituted with “Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic”

iii. For

1. High ideals of socialism and secularism emphasised along with integrity of the nation

2. DPSP more comprehensive through this Act; Socio-economic reforms for implementing the directive principles

3. Preamble embodies the basic philosophy and fundamental values to which the Constitution is linked

4. “Socialist” and “secular” an explication of ideology underlying modern India: Upendra Baxi

5. Roots of Directive Principles traced to 1931 Karachi Congress resolution: Granville Austin

6. Morarji Desai led Janata Party did not delist these words either when the 44th AA was
enacted to nullify the recommendations of 42nd AA.

7. Secularism an integral part of the basic structure of the Constitution: S. R. Bommai Case

8. Dropping the concepts disconcerting to minorities

9. Amit Shah: BJP respects the constitution and words secular and socialist will not be dropped from Constitution

10. 42nd AA was with retrospective effect

11. Dropping the concepts communicates lack of understanding on secularism and socialism

iv. Against

1. Aim to make Indian ethos inherently secular is not needed; it is already secular

2. Preamble redundant as Constitution already includes provisions for socialism and secularism

3. Same picture (original watermark) had been used for official ads earlier on as well

4. Founding fathers of Constitution had not used the words socialist or secular in original Preamble either

5. No need to include the term secular as the entire Constitution embodies the notion of secular state: B. R. Ambedkar

6. Espousing socialist against the grain of democracy, as Constitution should not dictate the kind of society people should live in: B. R. Ambedkar

7. Preamble an introduction to the Constitution; No substantiative rights flow from it

8. SC recognised Preamble not to be part of the Constitution: SC in case of Berubari Union and exchange of enclaves, a 1959 presidential reference

9. Indians moved away from socialism long time back; no need to add this to the Preamble therefore

10. Representation of People Act of 1951: Why should parties profess allegiance to socialism when they believe in free markets?

11. More important rights such as Right to Property have been diluted to mere legal rights

12. Civic illiteracy to say removal of words will make India theocratic state

B. Implications

1. Present controvery innocuous: Preamble orignally signed by Constituent Assembly members with calligraphy by Nandalal Bose

2. The Preamble on January 26th 1950 merely reproduced

3. Might of Constitution and assertive judicial pronouncements makes debate redundant, unnecessary

4. Former CJI V. N. Khare said the entire Constitution is based on idea of equality regardless of religion, caste etc.

• Since Article 25 already there, Preamble not needed

5. Secular nature of Constitution does not require deliberation, debate: Former SC Judge Justice K. T. Thomas

6. As words have been added, they should remain regardless of the conditions under which they were added (emergency): Justice Thomas

7. Preamble a reflection of the Constitution which lays down equality in every sense of the word for all Indians: Former AG Soli Sorabjee

8. Tinkering with the Preamble “illegal”: Retd Justice Rajinder Sachar

9. Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran: Two words make explicit what is an integral part of the original Preamble

10. Diversity of India under threat if additional safeguards of secularism and socialism removed from the Preamble

11. Controversy immaterial as issue has already been resolved by Centre


The debate over exclusion of the terms “socialist” and “secular” was a mere storm in a teacup, as legal and constitutional experts as well as precedents have shown that Article 25 is a firm and inseparable part of the Constitution. The Centre has also issued a clarification with regard to this. Moreover, socialism and secularism are embedded in the Constitution.
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