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Socialist and Secular

Why is it in the news?

  • Recently, the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha claimed that the words “socialist” and “secular” were missing in the Preamble of the Constitution of India in copies given to MPs.
  • These two words were added to the Preamble by The Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act, 1976.

Introduction of Socialist and Secular in the Preamble

  • “Socialist” was inserted in the Preamble during the Indira Gandhi government to emphasize that socialism was a goal and philosophy of the Indian state.
  • The Indian brand of socialism did not involve the nationalization of all means of production but focused on selective nationalization where necessary.
  • “Secular” was added to ensure that the state protects all religions equally, maintains neutrality, and does not uphold any one religion as a “state religion.”
  • The secular nature of the Indian state is secured by Articles 25-28 of the Constitution.
Secularism in the Constitution
  • Secularism in the Indian Constitution is not a matter of religious sentiment but a matter of law.
    • It signifies the state’s concern with the relationship between individuals rather than between individuals and God, which is a matter of personal choice.
  • Critics have debated the term’s implications, with some claiming it supports “pseudo-secularism” and “vote-bank politics.”
  • Secularism always Implicit:
    • The philosophy of secularism was implicit in the Constitution even before the 42nd Amendment.
    • Founding documents like Articles 25, 26, and 27 were adopted with the intention of promoting secularism.
    • The 42nd Amendment made explicit what was already implicit in the Constitution’s provisions and overall philosophy.
  • Past Supreme Court Petitions:
    • Various petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court seeking the removal of “socialist” and “secular” from the Preamble.
    • Petitioners argued that these words were not originally intended and that their inclusion exceeds the amending power of Parliament under Article 368.
    • In 2008, the Supreme Court rejected a plea to remove “socialist,” stating that socialism in a broader sense means welfare measures for citizens and has a different meaning at different times.

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