RS debates use of private bills to amend Preamble to Constitution

Prelims level : Polity - Institutional Reforms Mains level : GS-II Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, Amendments, Significant Provisions and Basic Structure.
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Why in News?

  • Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh recently said that there have been number of instances in the past when private member bills to amend the Preamble to the Constitution have been introduced in both the Houses of Parliament and its legislative competence is decided by Council and not the Chair.

About the News:

  • Manoj Kumar Jha had previously opposed the motion moved by K.J. Alphons to introduce his private members bill -the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021 (Amendment of Preamble)“.
  • Jha had argued that Preamble is part of the basic structure of the Constitution and the Bill may not be allowed for introduction.
  • Giving a ruling on this issue, Mr. Harivansh has recently said that, “on a request made by the Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and after taking the sense of the House, the introduction of the Bill was deferred.

What is the Issue?

  • Preamble is part of the Constitution and as per Article 368 of the Constitution, Parliament may, in exercise of its constituent power, amend by way of addition, variation or repeal any provision of the Constitution and a Bill for the purpose can be introduced in either House of the Parliament.
  • If the introduction of a Bill is opposed on the ground of legislative competence of the Council, the Council decides the same and not the Chair.
  • There are a number of rulings given by the Chair in this House on this issue taking the same stand in the past.

About the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2021:

  • It was introduced by BJP Member from Kerala K J Alphons.
  • The Bill seeks to change the words in the Preamble “EQUALITY of status and of opportunity” to “EQUALITY of status and of opportunity to be born, to be fed, to be educated, to get a job and to be treated with dignity”.
  • It also seeks to replace the word “socialist” with “equitable”.
  • The Bill also proposes adding “access to information technology” and “happiness” as objectives.

What are the Four Important Aspects can be Ascertained from the above text of the Preamble?

  • Source of authority of the constitution: It derives its authority from the people of India.
  • Nature of Indian state: It declares India to be a sovereign, socialistic, secular democratic and republican polity.
  • Objectives of the constitution: It specifies justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as the objectives.
  • Date of adoption: Nov 26th, 1949.

Is Preamble a Part of the Constitution?

  • In the Berubari Union Case (1960), the Supreme Court opined that the Preamble was not part of the constitution.
  • The above opinion was reversed in Keshavananda Bharati case in 1973; the SC held that Preamble is part of the constitution. This opinion was further clarified by the SC in LIC of India case (1995).
  • Though preamble is part of the constitution;
  • It is a neither a source of power to legislature nor a prohibition upon the powers of legislature.
  • It is a non-justiciable, that is, its provisions are not enforceable in any courts of law.

Preamble and its Amendability:

  • In Keshavananda Bharati case, the court held that the basic elements or the fundamental features of the constitution as contained in the preamble cannot be altered by an amendment under article 368.
  • The preamble has been amended only once. That is- 42nd constitutional amendment act, 1976 when three new terms were added- Socialist, secular and integrity.

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