Why were the ideals of socialism and secularism explicitly added to the constitution? What do these ideals mean and how have these been reflected in the Constitution?

Why were the ideals of socialism and secularism explicitly added to the constitution? What do these ideals mean and how have these been reflected in the Constitution?


In 1948, during the Constituent Assembly debates the words ‘Secular, Federalist, Socialist’ were recommended to be introduced in the Constitution by Prof. K T Shah. The words secular and socialist were introduced in the ‘Preamble’ of the Indian Constitution during the Emergency by Indira Gandhi’s government through the 42nd Amendment Act 1942. They were made an explicit part of the Constitution and eventually came to be regarded as the basic features of the constitution.

  1. Socialism lays emphasis on the welfare of the people, it seeks to give equality to the people and tries to remove exploitation of one class by the others and ensures economic and political equality to all.
  2. Indian brand of socialism is a ‘democratic socialism’ and not a ‘communistic socialism’ which involves the nationalization of all means of production and distribution and the abolition of private property.
  3. Democratic socialism holds faith in a ‘mixed economy’ where both public and private sectors co-exist side by side.
  4. As per the SC, ‘Democratic socialism aims to end poverty, ignorance, disease and inequality of opportunity. Indian socialism is a blend of Marxism and Gandhism, leaning heavily towards Gandhian socialism.’

1. Indian secularism includes three basic notions:

  • Freedom of religion
  • Equal citizenship to each citizen regardless of his or her religion.
  • State neutrality in the matter of religion. Equal conservation of all religions and equal religious rights to all the citizens.

2. All religions in our country (irrespective of their strength) have the same status and support from the state.

  1. Indira Gandhi believed that these two words were an integral part of the Constitution and were ‘due’ but somehow were not mentioned by the Constitution makers. She only made them more explicit.
  2. Moreover, the Congress party itself adopted a resolution to establish a ‘socialistic pattern of society’ in its Avadi session as early as in 1955 and took measures accordingly.
  3. In 1973 Kesavananda Bharati Case, the SC devised the basic structure doctrine which was made immune to any amendment by any government. The government wanted to reflect socialism and secularism in the basic structure due to which they were added to the constitution.
  4. During the Indira years the civil and political rights of people were severely curtailed. She also abolished the privy purses of princes nationalized banks during 1960s. Therefore, the government was keen to demonstrate its commitment to social and economic rights by enshrining the idea of a socialistic pattern of society and giving it a scope larger than the times of Nehru.
  5. The SC in 1974 laid that the Constitution-makers wanted to establish a secular state and accordingly Articles 25 to 28 have been included in the constitution. Although the government also believed in socialistic and secular basis of the Constitution but it wanted to assert parliamentary supremacy over the judiciary by inserting them into the Preamble.

The ideals of Socialism and Secularism can be found to have their reflection in many of its provisions.

  1. Articles 14 to 18: Under article 14 to 18 of Indian constitution right to equality is defined, in which all citizen are equal before law, discrimination of all kinds is prohibited, untouchability has been made illegal and equality has been established by abolition of titles.
  2. Article 21 A: This is another social reform through which education was made free and compulsory up to the age of 14 to all.
  3. Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP): The DPSP explicitly lay down the framework for the establishment of a socialistic pattern of the society. Articles 38 (securing a social order), 39 (equal pay, distribution of resources etc), Article 41 (public assistance during old age, sickness etc), Article 43 (social opportunities for all), Article 47 (improvement of public health etc) make a call for the establishment of socialistic pattern.
  • Article 14 and 15: They grant equal rights to all citizens of India and prevent discrimination on the basis of religion.
  • Article 25: Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion
  • Article 26: Freedom to manage religious affairs to all religious dominations.
  • Article 27: Its grants freedom from paying any tax for promotion of religion. Also the state can spend taxes for promotion of all religions, not any one religion specifically.
  • Article 28: It allows freedom from attending religious instruction at an educational institute.

Socialism and secularism are inalienable features of the Indian Constitution and Indian society which found a late mention in the Constitution but they have been acting as guides to constitution makers and guarantors.

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