Republic Nation: Interpreting the preamble

Chandra Sekher Mishra

In the context of the Indian Constitution, the term “republic” description would perhaps record a lot less space than the other preambular dictates, which are indeed very indefinite and open-ended value concepts. It is a centuries-old term that has hand-in-glove with the Roman regime. The word republic finds its inception in the Latin phrase res publica, which means things about the public and is used by the Romans to describe their government. The said word has, however, undergone semantical evolution over time. During the 2nd century BCE, it was used by philosophers like Polybius to describe the system of the Roman government, which was marked by the balance of Autocracy, Aristocracy, and Democracy. Polybius deemed this balance the first reason behind the long-lived dominance of the Roman empire. In the modern era, it has a slightly different meaning. Black’s Law Dictionary defines a republic as “a system of government in which the people hold sovereign power and elect representatives who exercise that power.” It contrasts the aforesaid word with the autocratic, aristocratic, and purely democratic systems of governments.

republic,n. a system of government in which the people hold sovereign power and elect representatives who exercise that power.Black’s Law Dictionary, P. 4068

As per Robert A. Dahl:

 “a republic is a government which

 (a.) derives all of its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people, and,

 (b.) is administered by persons holding their office during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behavior.”

The definition in Black’s dictionary is similar to that provided by Dahl. And no matter how many different dictionaries one refers to, the notion would primarily be the same.

In the preamble of the Indian Constitution, Republic is mentioned alongside democracy, which suggests its construction is similar to the one presented in the Black’s Law Dictionary. It implies that the great body of people is sovereign in this country. It also signifies that the Head of the Indian State— de facto or de jure— is elected and not a hereditary monarch, as in Britain. For instance, the President of India— the de jure head of State— is indirectly elected under article 55 r/w article 54 of the Indian Constitution; similarly, the Prime Minister of India— the de facto head of State— is directly elected by the people of India. Further, subject to the eligibility conditions, anyone amongst the citizens of India can be selected as the head of the State, notwithstanding any bias based on religion, race, caste, sex, language, etc. One of the reasons why a Tamil Muslim boy who sold a newspaper in Rameshwaram— and not some fortunate son (in John Fogerty’s words)— became the 11th and most beloved President of India is indeed the democratic republic nature of this distinctive polity.

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