Increasing intervention as well as participation by the State in the economic field has been a distinguishing feature of the twentieth century. There is hardly any country today in which the State is not actively engaged in a variety of economic activities.
In varying degrees, governments everywhere are involved in economic, industrial and commercial management. This is broadly described as the influence of socialist ideas on State activity.
Even before the adoption of the new Constitution, the Government of independent India had made clear its policy to enter the economic field in a very active manner.
The Industrial Policy Resolution of 1948 gives ample evidence of this. It envisaged a greater role for the State in the economic development of the country. Certain industries such as atomic energy, manufacturing of arms and ammunition and Railways were declared to be the sole monopoly of the State.
The right of the State to nationalise any major industry and bringing it within the public sector was also clearly stated. Nevertheless the Constitution did not explicitly state anywhere that it stood for the establishment of a socialist State.
The Directive Principles of State Policy, however, unmistakably set out the socialist objective of the Constitution, although one might point out that they do not go far enough to establish a full- fledged socialist order.
But then, it is also clear that our Constitution with its emphasis on a set of guaranteed fundamental rights did not envisage a collectivist socialist State like those existed in Eastern Europe during 1945 and 1990.
On the contrary, it aims at establishing a democratic socialist State which, while moving progressively towards the socialist ideal, wants at the same time to protect and preserve basic human rights.
Nevertheless successive amendments to the Constitution clearly show that the direction is more towards the realisation of socialist than the democratic ideal. The Constitution was amended several times with a view to realising this objective.
Among those amendments, special mention may be made of the First, Fourth, Seventeenth, Twenty-fifth, Twenty-ninth, Thirty-fourth and Forty-second Amendments.
Almost every one of these gives precedence to the Directive Principles over Fundamental Rights in the implementation of certain legislative enactments. The Forty-second Amendment (1976) went a step further and amended the Preamble of the Constitution to include specifically the term “socialist” which was absent in the original form in which it was enacted.