Minority Issues – SC, ST, Dalits, OBC, Reservations, etc.

Evolution of “Socialist” and “Secular” in Indian Constitution’s Preamble


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Preamble of Indian Constitution

Mains level: Not Much


Central Idea

  • The inclusion of the terms “socialist” and “secular” in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution has recently sparked debate.
  • Leader of the a party in Lok Sabha has raised concerns about these words in the Preamble.

Significance of the Preamble

  • The Preamble encapsulates the core principles and objectives of the Indian Constitution.
  • It serves as an introduction to the Constitution, outlining its fundamental ideals.

Original Preamble

  • Content in 1950: The Preamble, when the Constitution came into effect in 1950, did not include the terms “socialist” and “secular.” It reflected the vision and objectives of the Constituent Assembly at that time.

Addition of “Socialist” and “Secular”

  • The 42nd Amendment: During the Emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1976, the terms “socialist” and “secular” were added to the Preamble through The Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976.
  • Indira Gandhi’s Agenda: Indira Gandhi’s government aimed to emphasize a socialist and pro-poor image, aligning with slogans such as “garibi hatao” (Eradicate poverty). The addition of “socialist” highlighted socialism as a fundamental goal of the Indian state.
  • Distinctive Indian Socialism: The Indian version of socialism did not endorse complete nationalization but emphasized selective nationalization of essential sectors.

Understanding “Secular”

  • Religious Diversity: India is home to diverse religious beliefs and practices. The term “secular” was added to the Preamble to promote unity and fraternity among people of various faiths.
  • State Neutrality: Secularism in the Indian context implies that the state maintains neutrality and impartiality towards all religions. It does not favor any particular religion as a “state religion.”
  • Secularism as Law: Articles 25-28 of the Constitution secure the secular nature of the Indian state.
  • Inherent in the Constitution: The philosophy of secularism was inherent in the Constitution even before the 42nd Amendment.

Debates Surrounding “Socialist” and “Secular”

  • Consensus on Secularism: The concept of secularism was already part of the Constitution’s philosophy. The insertion of the word “secular” in the Preamble simply made explicit what was implicit in various provisions.
  • Constituent Assembly Discussions: The Constituent Assembly debated including these words in the Preamble but decided against it.
  • Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s Perspective: Dr. B. R. Ambedkar argued that issues related to the state’s policy, organization, and economic aspects should be determined by the people, not dictated by the Constitution itself.
  • Ongoing Debates: Over the years, there have been petitions and discussions regarding the removal of “socialist” and “secular” from the Preamble. Some argue that these terms were added arbitrarily during the Emergency.


  • The presence of “socialist” and “secular” in the Preamble remains a topic of discussion and legal challenges, with differing views on their inclusion and significance in shaping India’s constitutional identity.

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