Debates show why Preamble’s original text left out the two words

The I & B Ministry's print advertisement on Republic Day which omitted the words "socialist, secular" in the image of the Preamble to the Constitution, has created a storm. Photo: C.V. Subrahmanyam  

Even as the omission of the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ from the Preamble text in a government advertisement has stoked a controversy, the Constituent Assembly debates clearly show why the words were omitted in the original text. The debates saw Dr. B.R. Ambedkar reason that there was no need to include the term ‘secular’ as the entire Constitution embodied the concept of secular state, which meant non-discrimination on grounds of religion and equal rights and status to all citizens.

On the inclusion of the term ‘socialist,’ he said it is against the very grain of democracy to decide in the Constitution what kind of society the people of India should live in.

“It is perfectly possible today, for the majority people to hold that the socialist organisation of society is better than the capitalist organisation of society. But it would be perfectly possible for thinking people to devise some other form of social organisation which might be better than the socialist organisation of today or of tomorrow. I do not see therefore why the Constitution should tie down the people to live in a particular form and not leave it to the people themselves to decide it for themselves,” he had said. His words had influenced the final decision to omit the two words.

However, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi re-introduced the two words for political reasons in the 42nd Constitution Amendment of 1976. Constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap said: “The word ‘socialist’ was added to send a message politically that she stood for the poor. The word ‘secular’ was obviously meant for the minorities in the context of the birth control programmes of the emergency period. It was not as if the Constitution was not secular or socialist before the words were added. India has been secular before the 42nd Amendment and continues to be secular after it.” “It was merely playing politics,” Mr. Kashyap said.

He said the present controversy over the government advertisement was “innocuous.” “The advertisement only shows the Preamble originally signed by the Constituent Assembly members with the calligraphy of the famous artist, Nandalal Bose.”

It shows the Preamble as on January 26, 1950 when the country became a republic, he said.

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Printable version | Mar 2, 2021 3:21:19 PM |

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