Vox Populi: Interpreting the Preamble

Photo credit: Sajith Kumar

In the American manner, the Preamble of the Indian Constitution accentuates in no uncertain terms that it is “the people of India” who have adopted, enacted and given to themselves “this constitution”. The Objective Resolution emphasised that the Constituent Assembly– which was convened to craft Indian-made Constitution for the Indians– had derived from “the people… all the power and authority”. Thus on face of it, the people must be categorised the source of authority of the Constitution.

Many critics, though, consider the aforesaid statement as factually inaccurate arguing that the Constituent Assembly of India was not sufficiently representative. The members of the Constituent Assembly were not directly elected by the people, instead they were elected by Provincial Assemblies. The Provincial Assemblies themselves had been elected on the basis of restricted franchise, which left countless people out of the roll through the smokescreen of tax, property & educational qualification. As of 1946, only 28.5% adults were allowed to vote in the Assembly elections. On top of that, the Constituent Assembly was an one-party body in an one-party country.
It is, however, submitted that aforesaid criticisms are superfluous. According to Granville Austin, though largely in hands of the Indian National Congress, the Constituent Assembly was sufficiently representative inasmuch those candidates led the national struggle across the country with a common object of ousting the Britishers. They were, indeed, very dear to the people. Moreover, Assembly’s internal decisions were made democratically, on the basis of consensus rather than roller majority representing and accommodating all shades of viewpoints, be it that of voters or non voters. Members of the Constituent Assembly manifested a very broad ideological spectrum.
Thus, in substance the people are the source of authority of the Constitution, notwithstanding aforesaid criticisms.


Juxtaposed to this, the decisions by the government– since our independence– are made on the basis of roller majority rather than consensus. It was pointed by H.N. Kunzru that modern day governance could not be done by consensus. Moreover, it would have been difficult to define the same. That could, probably, be the reason why it was not drafted into the Constitution. It is, however, recognized that there are certain political conflicts, involving human sensitivities, which must be resolved by consensus rather than majority for sake of the unity and integrity of the nation. In a liberal democracy, the government must evince a clear intention to accomodate the conflicting views and interests to the maximum extent possible. In such issues, if the majority opinion is made override the minority opinion– with no accommodation to minority views whatsoever– then it might deprecate and disturb the unity, integrity and the democratic ethos of the Constitution.
An essential attribute of a democracy is that the majority accomodates the interests & sensitivities of the minority to the utmost degree possible and the latter does not obstruct governance by the former. If the Government continues to make arbitrary decisions which undermine the interests of the minority and the nation, without consensus or an attempt to accomodate the conflicting views, then it might indeed be democracy’s death knell.
It is, further, noteworthy that the Indian polity was deviced with an intention to serve the Indian identity. Hence, if the need so arises, the decisions must be made by consensus, instead of roller majority, to ensure that everyone has a voice in governance of the nation, to ensure that the Government’s decision manifests the Indian mandate, to ensure that the unity and integrity of the nation remains intact, to ensure that the Government, in substance, is of, by & for the people.


Reference : Granville Austin, Indian Constitution- Cornerstone of a Nation

8 thoughts on “Vox Populi: Interpreting the Preamble

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  1. Couldn’t get what voice of the people (vox populi) has to do with interpreting the preamble. Are you trying to convey something else? P.S. In the 2nd part’s starting line, the word ‘Juxtapose’ shouldn’t be in capital imo. Overall a informative article though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It’s the people with whose consent, power of governance is exercised by the government. So voice of the people, the Indian Identity, matters the most. Something which is very well evidential from our Preamble. So, the title šŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

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