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;
IN OUR CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY this twenty sixth day of November, 1949, do HEREBY ADOPT,ENACT AND GIVE TO OURSELVES THIS CONSTITUTION.
The words ‘Socialist ‘Secular” and ‘Integrity were initially not there in the Preamble. These were added by the 42nd Amendment (1976) of the Constitution.
1. The Source of Authority:Popular Sovereignty: The Preamble categorically accepts the principle of Popular Sovereignty. It begins with the words: ‘We the people of India’. These words testify to the fact that the people of India are’ the ultimate source of all authority. The Government derives its power from them.
2. Nature of State:
The Preamble describes five cardinal features of the Indian state:
• India is a Sovereign State:
The Preamble proclaims that India is a sovereign state. Such a proclamation denotes the end of rule over India. It testifies to the fact that India is no longer a dependency or colony or possession of British Crown. As a sovereign independent state, India is free both internally and externally to take her own decisions and implement these for her people and territories.
• India is a Socialist State:
In 1976, the Preamble was amended to include the word ‘Socialism’. It is now regarded as a prime feature of the State. It reflects the fact that India is committed to secure social, economic and political justice for all its people. India stands for ending all forms of exploitation as well as for securing equitable distribution of income, resources and wealth. This has to be secured by peaceful, constitutional and democratic means. The term ‘India is a Socialist state’ really means, ‘India is a democratic socialist state.’
• India is a Secular State:
By the 42nd Amendment, the term ‘Secular’ was incorporated in the Preamble. Its inclusion simply made the secular nature of the Indian Constitution more explicit. As a state India gives special status to no religion. There is no such thing as a state religion of India. India guarantees equal freedom to all religions. All religions enjoy equality of status and respect.
• India is a Democratic State:
The Preamble declares India to be a Democratic State. The Constitution of India provides for a democratic system. The authority of the government rests upon the sovereignty of the people. The people enjoy equal political rights. The people freely participate in the democratic process of self-rule.They elect their government. For all its acts, the government is responsible before the people. The people can change their government through elections. The government enjoys limited powers. It always acts under the Constitution which represents the supreme will of the people.
• India is a Republic:
The Preamble declares India to be a Republic. Negatively, this means that India is not ruled by a monarch or a nominated head of state. Positively, it means that India has an elected head of state who wields power for a fixed term. President of India is the elected sovereign head of the state. He holds a tenure of 5 years. Any Indian citizen can get elected as the President of India.
3. Four Objectives of the Indian State:
The Preamble lists four cardinal objectives which are to be “secured by the state for all its citizens”.These are:
India seeks to secure social, economic and political justice for its people.
• Social Justice:
Social Justice means the absence of socially privileged classes in the society and no discrimination against any citizen on grounds of caste, creed, colour, religion, sex or place of birth. India stands for eliminating all forms of exploitations from the society.
• Economic Justice:
Economic Justice means no discrimination between man and man on the basis of income, wealth and economic status. It stands for equitable distribution of wealth, economic equality, end of monopolistic control over means of production and distribution, decentralisation of economic resources, and securing of adequate opportunities to all for earning their livelihoods.
• Political Justice:
Political Justice means equal, free and fair opportunities to the people for participation in the political process. It stands for the grant of equal political rights to all the people without any discrimination. The Constitution of India provides for a liberal democracy in which all the people have the right and freedom to participate.
The Preamble declares liberty to be the second cardinal objective to be secured. It includes liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. The grant of Fundamental Rights (Part III) including the right to freedom is designed to secure this objective. Liberty of faith and worship is designed to strengthen the spirit of secularism.
The Preamble declares Equality as the third objective of the Constitution. Equality means two basic things:
•Equality of status i.e. natural equality of all persons as equal and free citizens of India enjoying equality before law.
•Equality of opportunity i.e. adequate opportunities for all to develop. For securing the equality of status and opportunity, the Constitution of India grants and guarantees the fundamental Right to Equality.
Promotion of Fraternity among the people is the fourth objective is to promote Fraternity among all the people. Fraternity means the inculcation of a strong feeling of spiritual and psychological unity among the people. It is designed to secure dignity of the individual and unity and integrity of the nation.
The preamble is followed by 22 parts containing around 444 articles and 12 schedules.
The constitution deals with concepts of citizenship; fundamental rights; Directive principles of State Policy; fundamental duties, functioning of the parliament, the legislature, the executive and the judiciary; the formation and working of Panchayats, Municipalities; provisions for Scheduled castes and tribes; emergency provisions and such other miscellaneous provisions.
For average person, the concepts of fundamental rights and duties are the most important one.
Fundamental Rights as they sound are the very basic rights that all the citizens must have these. Rather it is ensured by the government itself that no citizen is deprived of these rights.
There are 6 major fundamental rights ensured under the Constitution viz.
1. Right to equality: under the head of Right to equality, the following rights are granted:
(a) Equality before Law – Article 14, talks about equality before law. This means that law is equal for all citizens of the nation and no one shall be discriminated in the courts of law. Article 14 reads as “The state shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of laws within the territory of India”.
(b) Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
(c) Equal opportunity for all in matters of public employment.
(d) Abolition of the Evil of Untouchability; and
(e) Abolition of Titles given by British Rule on the basis of works of different types.
2. Right to freedom : Under the head of Right to freedom, the rights like freedom of speech, protection of life and personal liberty, right to education etc. are bundled. These rights are although not absolute. E.g. Right to speech is not unbound, and has to be enjoyed within boundaries. Any person cannot speak anything he wishes without verification. Whatever one speaks must not be harming any other persons reputation. Right to life is a very dense right and under its ambit covers right to livelihood, right to clean environment and facilities like clean water and food.
3. Right against exploitation : This right prevents trafficking of human beings and forced labour. It states that immoral trafficking in Human beings and beggar and similar other forms, is an offence and is punishable under law.
4. Right to freedom of religion : India being a secular country respects all religions and ensures that anybody can embrace any religion as per wish and there shall be no discrimination on grounds of religion.
5. Cultural and educational rights : Right to follow one’s own culture and right to Education are essential features of a developing country. The constitution envisages such rights to be most important rights for development of the nation. It is ensured by law that no one shall be denied admission in any educational institution on the basis of discrimination of caste, creed, sex, religion or language. It further states that every person has a right to preserve his/her distinct language, script etc. this is the reason why despite of Hindi being the national Official Language there are 20 other constitutionally recognized languages in India, viz.
6. Rights to Constitutional remedies : Article 32 states that the Supreme court shall have the power to undertake proceedings for enforcement of rights. It has the power to issue directions or orders or writs for enforcement of fundamental rights.
A new concept of Public Interest Litigation also has been incorporated in the constitution which means that any person for the common interest of public can file a suit in the Supreme Court for seeking universal relief from any infringement of right. In present days many environmental hazards have been cropped by using this mechanism.
The Constitution of India says that It shall be the duty of every citizens of India –
a. to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem;
b. to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;
c. to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;
d. to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;
e. to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;
f. to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;
g. to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;
h. to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;
i. to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;
j. to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement.
Other than these fundamental rights and duties the constitution also deals with the provisions for formation of the government and its working mechanism.
The Fundamental Duties
The following ten Fundamental Duties were introduced by the 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 — Article 51-A: It shall be the duty of every citizen of India: To abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the National Flag and the National Anthem; to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom; to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India; to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so; to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women; to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture; to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures; to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform; to safeguard public property and to abjure violence; to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity, so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement. Subsequently, another duty was added by the 86th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2002: for a parent or guardian to provide opportunities for education of the child or ward between the age of six and fourteen.
Since then, the scope of Fundamental Rights under Part III of the Constitution has seen significant expansion through judicial pronouncements; the right to free legal services to the poor, right to speedy trial and right to live in a clean and healthy environment are just a few examples. As a result, an imbalance has been created between the current set of Fundamental Rights and Duties. Here is an attempt to examine if a few additional Fundamental Duties in the Constitution of this country could help in balancing out the rights of its citizens and further make them more responsible towards the country’s development.
Duty to vote: Article 326 of the Constitution read with Section 62 of the Representation of People’s Act, 1951 confers the right to vote. However, quite often the question arises as to whether that right also implies an obligation. The voter turnout during the last general election amounted only to about 67 per cent. This voter apathy should be taken seriously and an attempt should be made to make voting a citizenship obligation. The state can take several steps to ensure that this duty to vote is made operational and effective. One method through which this may be achieved is by developing a system of incentives for voters and conversely disadvantages for those who abstain from performing their duty to vote. A very large section of people can be motivated to vote this way. Duty to pay taxes: The tax gap (the revenue that a government is expected to receive as against the revenue it actually collects) continues to increase every year. The greatest indicator of this is the fact that the size of India’s shadow economy as a share of the GDP reached 24.3 per cent in the year 2012. Research has found that tax evasion is a direct result of lack of trust among the people, in general, and the government, in particular. Citizens must believe that their taxes are bound to be used for public good. The incorporation of the right to pay taxes as part of Fundamental Duties in the Constitution will shift the onus onto the taxpayer to pay taxes rather than the tax department to collect them. Duty to help accident victims: Every 60 minutes, 16 persons die in traffic accidents in India. According to the Law Commission of India, at least 50 per cent of fatalities can be prevented if road accident victims receive medical attention within the critical first hour after the accident. The Karnataka government’s decision to frame a ‘Good Samaritan law’ is a step in the right direction. With the increase in the number of accidents, it has become pertinent for India to recognise this duty as one owed by its citizens towards each other. Duty to keep the premises clean: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Mission has received tremendous support from people from all walks of life. The most effective mechanism to tackle uncleanliness is to sensitise people about this duty. Therefore, it is imperative that a Fundamental Duty to this effect be added to the Constitution.
For a better society
Duty to prevent civil wrongs: It is not enough that a citizen refrains from committing wrong; he has a duty to see that fellow citizens do not indulge in the commission of wrongs. Duty to raise voice against injustice: Today people seem to have stopped reacting to atrocities; they neither report crimes nor volunteer to testify in a court. The duties of a victim or a witness can be classified into two main categories, viz. duty to report a crime and duty to testify in court. The state must also on its part work to ensure that the fight to bring the offender to book does not become a Kafkaesque nightmare for the victim or witness. Duty to protect whistle-blowers: With the coming into force of the Right to Information Act, 2005, every citizen has become a “potential whistle-blower”. While the state has a great deal of responsibility in providing for their protection through appropriate legislative instruments, the responsibility to protect torchbearers of transparency vests on each one of us. Duty to support bona fide civil society movements: Citizens have a moral duty to organise themselves or support citizen groups so that the gaps in governance left by the executive can be filled and the rights guaranteed by the Constitution are made available to every citizen. Therefore, it is proposed that there must be an addition to Part IV-A of the Constitution to that effect. Reinvigorating civic responsibility: In the modern context, it has become increasingly important to instil a reinvigorated sense of civic responsibility among Indian citizens. This can be achieved by adding new duties to the existing list of Fundamental Duties while also laying emphasis on the performance of the existing ones. The significance of Fundamental Duties is not diminished by the fact that there is no punishment prescribed for not following them. Fundamental Duties constitute the conscience of our Constitution; they should be treated as constitutional values that must be propagated by all citizens. It appears our polity is not even aware of such a noble part of our Constitution. This should be included in the curriculum of high school students at least.