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Changing Contours of ‘Socialism’ In The Indian Constitution

Changing Contours of ‘Socialism’ In The Indian Constitution


Rakshanda Darak
Third Year Student,
Alliance University, Bangalore


Socialism is the cherished goal of Indian political system. It emphasizes the welfare of the people by providing equality among people and thus ensuring political equality to all. Under article 14 to 18 of the Indian Constitution, Right to Equality is defined, which states that all citizens are equal in the eyes of the law. It a very significant and imperative term for the modern democratic polity that the Indian Constitution necessitates the 42nd amendment in 1976 to get the word, ‘socialism’ inserted in the preamble of the India constitution. This basic constitutional concept has been added to the Indian constitution to give economic content to justice, equality and fraternity. Social and economic justices are considered to be the pillars of socialism. This is the reason that the makers of our constitution have prescribed these fundamental principles in the shape of Directive Principles of State Policy in the 4th part of our Indian constitution. According to the Supreme Court, the basic aim of socialism is to eliminate the inequality in income and to provide a decent standard of living to working people.

Democratic socialism aims to eliminate poverty, inequality in income and thus, the concept of socialism should be embedded in the true spirit of the constitution. Socialism emphasizes the welfare of people. It seeks to give equality to the people and tries to remove exploitation of one class by the other and ensures economic and political equality to all. It has been held that not only political but economic and social democracies are equally essential for the development of the country.

Socialist movement in India- A political remedy

Constitutional makers, as well as the political membership in India with special reference to leadership, asserted India as being a socialist nation through the 42nd amendment. But a careful analysis of the relevant facts reveals that India socialist movement has failed to cut the required problem of mass poverty, inequalities and unjust distribution of the wealth. The objectives of this model have not been achieved in India as it has failed to counter the force of growing monopoly capitalism and is unable to prevent the growth of poverty, inequality of income, urban-rural gap and the gap between manual and mental labour.

Distribution of national income

According to various estimates such as the; National Council of Applied Economic Research (1965), Monopoly enquiry commission (1964), Six five year plan all have verified that the benefits of the economic development go more to the already well off sections of the society.

Public sector’s role

A mixed economy has allowed for partial privatization which is the ground for a new economy, and it functions parallel to the national economy of the country. Despite being imposed on certain regulations, the private sector has developed prominently in the unnecessary goods and showed its dominance and contrary to that is they have earned huge profits.

Retaining the old feudal social base

The success of democratic socialism has called for the harmony of all the elements of polity and society where the feudal order in the service sector of the society has led to the failure of the implementation of land ceiling land reforms act. It can be said that Socialism was accepted in its broad term while the smaller details were left at their stance to be self-adjusted which automatically led to half-hearted attempts and half baked name ‘socialism’ to be grasped by the masses.[1]

Socialism and its interpretation by the Indian judiciary

Jawaharlal Nehru has described democratic socialism as the one which is based on political liberty, equality and tolerance. Under democratic socialism, one can maintain individual freedom and initiative with centralized social control and planning of the economy of the people. Hence, Nehru followed the middle path and evolved a system of a mixed economy as being an alternative to both the rival systems by accepting their positive points and rejecting the negative ones. He believed in the combination of free private enterprise and state-controlled economy. He also favoured a positive role for the private sector for effective state regulation and its control.

In India, there has been an emphasis on the mixed economy. The government has accepted the policy of a mixed economy where both public and private sector exist side by side. The Supreme Court, in a number of its decisions, has referred to the concept of socialism.

In Samantha V/S State of Andhra Pradesh[2], the Supreme Court stated that ‘Socialism is the establishment of the egalitarian social order through the rule of law is the basic structure of the Indian constitution’. The court also laid emphasis on social justice to attain a substantial degree of social, economic and political equality.

Judicial Approach in the interpretation of the constitution

Initially, the predominant approach of the Indian judiciary was to interpret the constitution literally and to apply it to the same restrictive cannons of the interpretation as they are applied to the ordinary statutes. But as the society is changing dynamically, the judicial approach to the constitution is no longer one of solely statutory interpretation. Here, it is a need to remember that constitution is a mechanism through which laws are made, and it is not a mere statute which declares what law is to be. The function of interpretation of the written constitution is very crucial to the governmental process, and therefore the judicial interpretation of this particular task has to be entirely different from that of interpreting a statute. The courts have cast themselves in the roles of the protector of the constitution.[3]

The honourable Supreme Court has also stated that ‘Constitution requires interpretation. It is a mechanism under which laws are to be made and not merely an act that declares what a law should be’.[4]

In S.R Chaudhari V/S State of Punjab[5], the Supreme Court has stated that,

“Constitution is not just a document it is in the solemn form, but a living framework of the government of the people exhibiting a sufficient degree of cohesion and its successfully working depends upon the democratic spirit.”

Impact of Socialism

The greatest source for the propagation of the socialist idea in India has been the Congress Socialist Party and Jawaharlal Nehru. It is believed that true socialism consists of the development of the village industries. He further also mentioned that poor sections would not rot under a system of an underdeveloped economy. He believed that the basic evil did not lie in the production but existed in the adequacy and malformation of the distribution system.

After independence, the Congress socialist party got committed to the idea of democratic socialism. It is committed towards the cultural pluralism and certain absolute concepts and criteria of ethics. Democratic socialism has always claimed to be the alternative to state capitalism as it is more heartless and cruel in its techniques of suppressing freedom than private capitalism and bureaucratic tyranny.

For being successful, democratic socialism has to make provisions for ending the dreaded evils of state socialism, which is an alternative of state capitalism. The socialists sincerely want to utilize the instrumentalists of the state for the effective build-up of the social and economic reconstruction, but they also do not want it to be vested with arbitrary powers.[6]

So far, the impact of socialism in the Indian Constitution is concerned; the zamindari system, which was a source of great exploitation and evil in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh has been abolished. The amendment of Article 31 of the Indian Constitution sought to give power to the state to take away private property for public purposes. Influenced by socialist ideology, important public sector enterprises have been set up in the field of iron and steel, electricity and hydroelectricity.

The distribution of the national resources for the enhancement is also a prime necessity. Estate duty as well as heavy and progressive income tax is being used to reduce the disparities in terms of income of the lower class and the higher class. Thus, India has made much headway in the path of achieving the true ideas of democratic socialism.[7]


Socialism is not a state of perfection but rather a movement trying to satisfy demands for equality, freedom and dignified efficiency. Socialism today is no longer an ideology of real social transformation in India; rather, its element has been pushed to the background by the ideology of modernity and progress. The ideology of state welfare, of course, is riding high, bent its faith in the institution of state for the elimination of exploitation. Socialism at the performance level is that in India the choice of socialism as both a strategy of mobilization and a set of goals to be achieved is inexorably dictated by factors such as extreme inequalities hierarchisation of society, economic deprivation and the need of the state to regulate and intervene.

Disclaimer: Kindly note that the views and opinions expressed are of the author, and not Law Colloquy.


[1] AP HC 1990
[2] Ibid
[3] SC 2001
[4] Ibid.