Marking the occasion of India’s 75th republic Day, MyGovIndia, the citizen engagement platform of Government of India, shared an image of the ‘original preamble’ which does not include the words ‘Secular’ and ‘Socialist’ on social media. It also posed a question on how well does New India resonate with these foundational principles and tried to link the Constitution’s ideals of Sovereignty, Democracy, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity with various initiatives of the Narendra Modi-led Union government.
This preamble, along with the Indian Constitution, was adopted on November 26, 1949 and came into force from January 26, 1950, which is celebrated as the Republic Day. The preamble was later amended in 1976, which was the only amendment done to the preamble.
What was the amendment
The 42nd amendment or The Constitution (Forty-second amendment) Act, 1976, was enacted in the year 1976 during the Emergency period. This amendment act amended the Preamble, along with several Articles and the Seventh schedule (which specifies the allocation of powers and functions between the Union and the State legislatures).
Section 2 (Amendment of the Preamble) of the Act, put forth two changes: the words “sovereign democratic republic” was substituted with “sovereign socialist secular democratic republic”; and the phrase “unity of the Nation” was substituted with "unity and integrity of the Nation".
Original Preamble and Amended Preamble
Indian government’s official social media handles, on January 25, posted the image of the original Preamble along with the caption, “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.” The post went on to talk about the achievements of the government, including the several schemes implemented by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government.
The continuing Preamble controversy
This is not the first time the original Preamble is being shared by the ruling party. In September 2023, Congress Lok Sabha MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that the copies of the Constitution distributed to Members of Parliament during the first sitting in the new Parliament building, did not have the words “Socialist” and “Secular” in its Preamble. The MP also claimed that the action was “deliberate.”
However, this accusation was dismissed by the Minister of State Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal, who said that they printed the original Constitution and so the words were missing. “When the Constitution was drafted, it was like this. An amendment was made later. This is the original copy,” he said.
In June 2023, Telangana State Council for Educational Research and Training (SCERT) came under the scanner for printing the original Preamble of the Constitution on the front cover of Class 10 Social Studies textbooks.
On the Republic Day of 2015, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had issued a half page advertisement in the Times of India wishing people on Republic Day with the Prime Minister’s message, along with an image of the original Preamble. Several activists condemned this, following which the then Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore said, “The controversy surrounding the ad is uncalled for. Photo of original Preamble was a way of honouring founding fathers of the Constitution”.