Module for Schools on Constitutions

Studying & Upholding the Preamble to the Indian Constitution in Our Schools

Dear Friends, it is imperative for all the citizens of India to be familiar with the fundamentals of our Indian Constitutions. It is mandatory in our schools to make special effort to teach and learn the values enshrined in the Constitutions. So we propose the following module for teaching in our schools with urgency.

Sunny Jacob SJ

Stage 1 :(July 2016)

  • Make students memorize the preamble.
  • Use it in the school assembly for a month so that students get familiar with the words and the content is registered in the long term memory.
  • Recitation (individual, group, class), Writing- primary classes
  • As a speech- CCE-give marks – secondary classes

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;


Stage 2: (August, 2016) The Significance of Preamble to a Constitution of India

  • Pair-Share, group discussion on the significance of the preamble
  • What are the four important aspects? – Quiz contest, weekly test, essay writing.
  • Poster Competition – Visuals & Preamble

Every written constitution of the world contains a preamble. Every preamble is the soul of that constitution. It shows the aims, objects and ideas which are tried to be achieved by the constitution.

The term ‘Preamble’ refers to the introduction of preface to the Constitution. The Preamble to the Indian Constitution is based on the ‘Objective Resolution’ drafted by Jawaharlal Nehru and adopted by the framers of the Constitution

The significance of the Preamble lies in its components. It embodies the source of the Constitution i.e., the people of India. The terms sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic, republic in the Preamble suggests the nature of the state. The ideals of justice, liberty, equality, fraternity reflects the objectives of the Constitution. It also contains November 26, 1949 as the date of adoption of the Indian Constitution.

The Preamble of the Constitution of India is a unique piece of document. It embodies the most important values and objectives of our constitution. It is the soul and spirit of the constitution. It briefly but succinctly states what our political leaders and Constitutional Fathers wanted India to be. The Preamble is the mirror of India's Constitution. It is the yardstick with which one can judge the constitution.

The Preamble reflects the philosophy as well as fundamental values of Indian Constitution. It clarifies four important aspects

1. It mentions that the Constitution derives its Authority from the people of India

2. It declares India to be Sovereign, Socialist, secular, Democratic and Republican country.

3. It clarifies the objectives of the Constitution are Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

4. It states the date of Adoption i.e., 26 November 1949

The Preamble when analyzed can be divided into three parts by reference to its qualitative characteristics.

1. The first part is declaratory, where by the people of India in their Constituent Assembly adopted, enacted and gave to themselves this Constitution. That is the Constitution of India.

2. The second part is revolutionary, whereby the people of India solemnly resolved to Constitute India into a Sovereign Democratic, Republic “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved in our constituent assembly this 26th Nov.1949” is a matter of history or the past and proposals to place on record an event which has already happened.

3. Each and Every word of the Preamble has been cautiously chosen. Even the arrangement of the words- the order, in which they have been placed-is not without significance and suggestion. The Preamble to the Constitution has played a predominant role in shaping the destiny of the country. The Preamble of the Constitution like the preamble of any statute furnish the key to open the mind of the makers of the Constitution more so because the Constituent Assembly took great pains in formulating it so that it may reflect the essential features and basic objectives of the Constitution.

Scope of Preamble:- Unlike the Constitution of Australia, Canada or the U.S.A., the Constitution of India has an elaborate Preamble. The purpose of the Preamble is to clarify who has made the Constitution , what is its source, what is ultimate sanction behind it; what is the nature of the polity which is sought to be established by the Constitution and what are its goals and objective?

The Preamble does not grant any power but it gives direction and purpose to the Constitution.It outlines the objective of the whole Constitution. The Preamble contains the fundamental of constitution. It serves several important purposes, as for example;

1. It contains the enacting clause which brings the Constitution into force.

2. It declares the basic type of government and polity which is sought to be established in the country.

3. It declares the great rights and freedom which the people of India intended to secure to its entire citizen.

4. It throws light on the source of the Constitution, viz., the People of India.

Stage 3: (September 2016) The enacting words, ‘We, the people of India

  • Celebrating unity in diversity-various examples – Skits, small dramas
  • Importance of ‘We feeling’ or ‘We Indians’ – No divisiveness but inclusivity – Talks, discussion- examples- Our school, our neighbourhood –Say ‘No’ to those who divide us because of religion, state, language- Assembly inputs by students.
  • Essay- how can we promote ‘We, the people of India’
  • Senior students giving inputs/talks for junior students.
  • Poster Competition with the theme, ‘We, the people of India’

The enacting words, "We, the people of India our constituent assembly here by adopt, enact and give to ourselves this constitution", signify the democratic principle that power is ultimately rested in the hands of the people. It also emphasizes that the constitution is made by and for the Indian people and not given to them by any outside power (such as the British Parliament). The phrase "we the people" emphasizes the concept of popular sovereignty as laid down by J. J. Rousseau: All the power emanates from the people and the political system will be accountable and responsible to the people.

"We, the People of India":

The Preamble starts with the words, "we, the people of India." These words have immense constitutional and political significance. They say that the people are the source of the constitution: it is the people of India who are the makers of the constitution. It is also implied that there is popular sovereignty in India

The words- We, the people of India adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution?, thus, declare the ultimate sovereignty of the people of India and that the constitution rests on their authority .

(But the constitutions were neither framed by the people nor were the members of the Constituent Assembly directly elected representatives of people. They were elected under the Cabinet Mission Plan during the British rule on the basis of restrictive franchise. Yet the claim that the constitution is derived from the people is justified because of its broad-based popular acceptance ever since it came into force.)

Members of the Constituent Assembly

Stage 4: (Oct-Nov. 2016)

  • Discussion on key words, Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic, Republic- Senior students.
  • Reflection sessions: How far have we realized these ideals in our country? What are roadblocks?
  • To what extent (%) have these ideals realized in our neighbourhood?

1. Sovereign

The word sovereign means supreme or independence. India is internally and externally sovereign - externally free from the control of any foreign power and internally, it has a free government which is directly elected by the people and makes laws that govern the people. She allies in peace and war. The Popular sovereignty is also one of the basic structures of constitution of India. Hence, Citizens of India also enjoy sovereign power to elect their representatives in elections held for parliament, state legislature and local bodies as well. People have supreme right to make decisions on internal as well as external matters. No external power can dictate the government of India. India’s membership of the commonwealth or of the United Nations does not impose any external limit on her sovereignty. The Commonwealth is a free association of sovereign Nations. It is no longer British Commonwealth. India does not accept the British Queen as the head of state. The sovereignty empowers India to either acquire a foreign territory or cede a part of its territory in favour of a foreign state.

The term ‘sovereign‘implies that India is internally supreme and externally free. State authority of India is supreme over all men and all associations within India’s territorial boundary. This is India’s internal sovereignty. Externally India is free from all external controls. India’s membership of the commonwealth or of the United Nations does not impose any external limit on her sovereignty. The Commonwealth is a free association of .sovereign Nations. It is no longer British Commonwealth. India does not accept the British Queen as the head of state. As Nehru pointed out, India joined the commonwealth by her “free will.” As for the U.N. it is not a super state but club of free nations. Membership of the U.N. in no way limits the authority of sovereign states. On the other hand, this membership is a mark of sovereignty of state, for only sovereign states are admitted to the membership of the United Nations.

Sovereignty means the independent authority of a state. It means that it has the power to legislate on any subject; and that is not subject to the control of any other state or external power. The Preamble declares, therefore, in unequivocal terms that the source of all authority under the Constitution is the people of India and that there is no subordination to any external authority. It means a government by the people and for the people.

The fraternity which is professed in the Preamble is not confined within the bounds of the national territory; it is ready to overflow them to reach the loftier ideal of universal brotherhood; which can hardly be better expressed than in the memorable words of Pandit Nehru:

“the only possible, real object that we, in common with other nations, can have is the object of co-operating in building up some kind of a world structure, call it one world, call it what you like.”

2. Socialist

The term socialist here means democratic socialism i.e. achievement of socialistic goals through democratic, evolutionary and non-violent means. A mixed economy in which both Public sector and Private sector run together as two wills of economic development.

The terms socialist and secular were added to the preamble by 42nd amendment in 1976. India’s honeymoon with socialism began in the early fifties at the Avadi Congress. Glaring disparity in income distribution induced the government to control the commanding heights of the economy in the interest of suffering masses. That is why the right of private property was removed from the list of fundamental rights through a constitutional amendment.

3. Secular

Secular means the relationship between the government and the people which is determined according to constitution and law. By the 42nd Amendment, the term "Secular" was also incorporated in the Preamble. Secularism is the basic structure of the Indian constitution. The Government respects all religions. It does not uplift or degrade any particular religion. There is no such thing as a state religion for India. In S.R. Bommaivs UOI (1994) The SC of India held "A state which does not recognize any religion as the state religion, it treats all religions equally". Positively, Indian secularism guarantees equal freedom to all religion. It stands for the right to freedom of religion for all citizens. Explaining the meaning of secularism as adopted by India, AlexandrOwics has written, "Secularism is a part of the basic of the Indian Constitution and it means equal freedom and respect for all religions."[3]

Again secularism is a glaring necessity in India’s socio-political context. Inhabited by people of all faiths, it is imperative that India does not accept any religion as the state-religion. India’s secularism ensures that religious minorities do not suffer from a sense of inferiority as do the minority communities in Pakistan or Bangladesh.

4. Democratic

The first part of the preamble “We, the people of India” and, its last part “give to ourselves this Constitution” clearly indicate the democratic spirit involved even in the Constitution. India is a democracy. The people of India elect their governments at all levels (Union, State and local) by a system of universal adult franchise; popularly known as "one man one vote". Every citizen of India, who is 18[4] years of age and above and not otherwise debarred by law, is entitled to vote. Every citizen enjoys this right without any discrimination on the basis of caste, creed, colour, sex, Religious intolerance or education. The word 'democratic' not only refer to political but also to social & economic democracy.

5. Republic

As opposed to a monarchy, in which the head of state is appointed on hereditary basis for a lifetime or until he abdicates from the throne, a democratic republic is an entity in which the head of state is elected, directly or indirectly, for a fixed tenure. The President of India is elected by an electoral college for a term of five years. The post of the President of India is not hereditary. Every citizen of India is eligible to become the President of the country. The leader of the state is elected by the people.

The terms ‘Democratic Republic’ in the preamble are very important. India’s aim is to build up not only a democratic political system but also a democratic social system. In the matter of political organization, India has opted for representative democracy. This implies that government power shall be vested in the popularly elected representatives of the people. In India popular elections give legitimacy to our rulers.

A system is republican where no office of the state is held on the basis of hereditary prescriptive rights. In India every office of the state from the highest to the lowest is open to every citizen. Any citizen may occupy any office on the basis of merit. Thus, headship of the state is not hereditary as in England, nor is it based on military power as in dictatorial regimes.

To build up an ideal democracy, the preamble emphasizes justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as political ideals. These ideals listed in the preamble are, according to Prof. Barker, the quintessence of western democracy.

6. Justice

The term 'justice' in the preamble refers to three varying aspects - Political, Social and Economic which are secured through different provisions of Fundamental Rights & Directive Principles of State Policy.

The ideal of justice implies a system where individuals can realize their full potentialities. In the view of our founding fathers it is not enough that there is political or legal justice. Political and legal justice is a myth unless accompanied by social and economic justice. Social justice implies that all social discriminations like caste or untouchability must be ended. Economic justice implies that economic exploitations should be ended. However, social and economic justice still remains unrealized dreams.

7. Liberty

The ideal of Liberty refers to the freedom on the activities of Indian nationals. This is found to be an important tool in ensuring democratic framework. All the citizens are secured with liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith & worship through the Fundamental Rights which are justifiable in nature. However, liberty does not mean freedom to do anything, and it must be exercised within the constitutional limits.

The ideal of liberty aims at ensuring these freedoms which make men really free. Liberty to be meaningful must mean liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. This concept of liberty is essentially political in nature. Non-mention of the economic liberty is certainly a drawback of the preamble.

Fr. Jerome D Souza SJ was a member of the Constituent Assembly representing the Christians.

8. Equality

This envisages that no section of the society enjoys special privileges and individuals are provided with adequate opportunities without any discrimination. Again, there are three dimensions of Equality - Political, Economic & Civic.

The ideal of equality is aimed at removing discriminations between citizens. This is particularly important in the Indian society, vitiated by caste system and untouchability. But here again one should remember that equality in the social arena is bound to be empty unless accompanied by economic equality.

9. Fraternity

This refers to a feeling of brotherhood & a sense of belonging with the country among its people. It embraces psychological as well as territorial dimensions of National Integration. It leaves no room for regionalism, communalism, casteism etc. which hinders the Unity of the State.

Finally, fraternity as an ideal is sought to be fostered to ensure the dignity of the individual and unity of the nation. One should however note that a fraternal feeling among Indians would grow only in proportion to the realization of the ideals of justice, liberty and equality. Thus fraternity is not an independent ideal but a resultant of the successful realization of important ideals listed earlier.

For CBCI Education & Culture

Sunny Jacob SJ

Secretary, Jesuit Educational Association of South Asia (JEA SA)


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