Centre shares ‘original’ Preamble without words ‘secular, socialist’, sparks row

It was published on MygovIndia's (Union government's citizen engagement platform) social media handles on January 25, one day before the country's 75th Republic Day.

The Union government’s move to publish the ‘original’ Preamble of the constitution online without the words ‘secular’ and ‘socialist’ in it sparked a controversy on the occasion of India’s 75th Republic Day.

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The Preamble to the Constitution of India was adopted on November 26, 1949, by the Constituent Assembly of India and came into effect on the same day. It serves as a brief introductory statement of the Constitution, setting out the guiding purpose, principles, and philosophy of the Indian Constitution.

It was amended once in 1976, during the emergency period imposed by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

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“As we celebrate 75 years of the Republic of India, let’s revisit the original Preamble of our Constitution. How well does New India resonate with these foundational principles? Take a look to embark on a journey through time, exploring how India has evolved while staying true to its roots. #75thRepublicDay #NewIndia #RepublicDay2024,” the post on X reads and expands to detail the country’s achievements in terms of sovereignty, democracy, republic, justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity.

42nd Amendment Act, 1976

India’s Preamble was amended once, during the emergency by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The amendment was made by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act, of 1976, which added three new words: “socialist,” “secular,” and “integrity”.

The 42nd Amendment replaced the words “sovereign democratic republic” with “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic” and changed “unity of the nation” to “unity and integrity of the nation.

During a speech in the Lok Sabha on October 27, 1976, Indira Gandhi claimed that the amendment to the Preamble “is responsive to the aspirations of the people, and reflects the realities of the present time and the future.”

BJP’s historical opposition

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has historically opposed the inclusion of “socialist” and “secular” in the Preamble to the Indian Constitution.

The party has criticized the addition of these words, arguing that they were inserted for political reasons and do not reflect the true spirit of the Constitution.

Some members of the BJP have sought to remove “socialism” from the Preamble, stating that it should not bind future generations to a specific ideology.

Not the first time

Additionally, the party has been involved in controversies related to the use of the Preamble without the words “socialist” and “secular.” However, the opposition to these terms has been met with criticism and debate from other political parties and scholars, who defend their inclusion as reinforcing the foundational principles of the Indian Constitution.

In September 2023, there was a controversy regarding the absence of the words “socialist” and “secular” in the copies of the Constitution given to MPs.

The Congress Party objected, stating that these words were missing from the Preamble in the copies they received. 

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury expressed his concerns, stating that the words were added later through a Constitutional amendment and their absence in the copies was a serious matter. 

Union law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal clarified that the copies given to the MPs carried the original version of the Preamble, and the words were added later through constitutional amendments. 

The BJP justified the exclusion of these words by stating that they merely retained the original Preamble.

“The constitution existed like this when it was framed. The change came into place after the 42nd Amendment. Genuine copies of the Constitution exist,” BJP leader and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Prahlad Joshi had said.

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