By Tanu Priya
Editor’s Note: Freedom of speech, considered the basic freedom by most philosophical thinkers, consists of several facets, including the right to express one’s opinion unhindered, unfettered by the fear of retribution. It is one of the most basic elements for a healthy, open-minded democracy. It allows people to freely participate in the social and political happenings of their country.
In India, this right is granted by Article 19(1)(a). However, this right of freedom to speech and expression is not completely unchecked. Article 19 (2) allows for reasonable restrictions to be imposed on all fundamental rights, including that of freedom to speech and expression.
In Romesh Thappar v Union of India, Justice Patanjali has rightfully held that 19(1)(g) is the very basis and essence of the constitution and our democracy. Reasonable restrictions, however, he noted, should be such that others’ rights should not be hindered or affected by the acts of one man, in the case of Menaka Gandhi v. Union of India.
The judiciary has upheld the restrictions that can be imposed and the author describes them under several subheadings, but the courts have also held that the government’s interference in this right has to also be kept in check.
Introduction: Freedom of Speech and Expression
“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties”.
The essence of free speech is the ability to think and speak freely and to obtain information from others through publications and public discourse without fear of retribution, restriction, or repression by the government. It is through free speech, people could come together to achieve political influence, to strengthen their morality, and to help others to become moral and enlightened citizens.
The freedom of speech is regarded as the first condition of liberty. It occupies a preferred and important position in the hierarchy of the liberty, it is truly said about the freedom of speech that it is the mother of all other liberties.
Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. In modern time it is widely accepted that the right to freedom of speech is the essence of free society and it must be safeguarded at all time. The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum. Liberty to express opinions and ideas without hindrance, and especially without fear of punishment plays significant role in the development of that particular society and ultimately for that state. It is one of the most important fundamental liberties guaranteed against state suppression or regulation.
Freedom of speech is guaranteed not only by the constitution or statutes of various states but also by various international conventions like Universal Declaration of Human Rights , European convention on Human Rights and fundamental freedoms, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights etc. These declarations expressly talk about protection of freedom of speech and expression.
Freedom of Speech and Expression- Meaning & Scope
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens the right to freedom of speech and expression. The law states that, “all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”. Under Article 19(2) “reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the exercise of this right for certain purposes. Any limitation on the exercise of the right under Article 19(1)(a) not falling within the four corners of Article 19(2) cannot be valid.
The freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) includes the right to express one’s views and opinions at any issue through any medium, e.g. by words of mouth, writing, printing, picture, film, movie etc. It thus includes the freedom of communication and the right to propagate or publish opinion. But this right is subject to reasonable restrictions being imposed under Article 19(2). Free expression cannot be equated or confused with a license to make unfounded and irresponsible allegations against the judiciary.[i]
It is important to note that a restriction on the freedom of speech of any citizen may be placed as much by an action of the State as by its inaction. Thus, failure on the part of the State to guarantee to all its citizens irrespective of their circumstances and the class to which they belong, the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression would constitute a violation of Article 19(1)(a).
The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression is regarded as one of the most basic elements of a healthy democracy for it allows its citizens to participate fully and effectively in the social and political process of the country. In fact, the freedom of speech and expression gives greater scope and meaning to the citizenship of a person extending the concept from the level of basic existence to giving the person a political and social life.
This right is available only to a citizen of India and not to foreign nationals. This right is, however, not absolute and it allows Government to frame laws to impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency and morality and contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence.
In the Preamble to the Constitution of India, the people of India declared their solemn resolve to secure to all its citizen liberty of thought and expression. The Constitution affirms the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to voice one’s opinion, the right to seek information and ideas, the right to receive information and the right to impart information. The Indian State is under an obligation to create conditions in which all the citizens can effectively and efficiently enjoy the aforesaid rights.
In Romesh Thappar v State of Madras (AIR 1950 SC 124), the Supreme Court of India held that the freedom of speech and expression includes freedom to propagate ideas which is ensured by freedom of circulation of a publication, as publication is of little value without circulation. Patanjali Sastri, J., rightly observed that-
‘Freedom of Speech and of Press lat at the foundation of all democratic organizations, for without free political discussion no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the process of Government, is possible’
However Article 19(2) of the Constitution provides that this right is not absolute and ‘reasonable restrictions’ may be imposed on the exercise of this right for certain purposes. The right to freedom of expression includes the right to express ones views and opinions on any issue and through any medium whether it be in writing or by word of mouth.
The phrase “speech and expression” used in Article 19(1) (a) has a broad connotation. This right includes the right to communicate, print and advertise the information. In India, freedom of the press is implied from the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a). The freedom of the press is regarded as a “species of which freedom of expression is a genus”[ii]. On the issue of whether ‘advertising’ would fall under the scope of the Article, the Supreme Court pointed out that the right of a citizen to exhibit films is a part of the fundamental right of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.[iii]
Indian law does not expressly refer to commercial and artistic speech. However, Indian Law is developing and the Supreme Court has ruled that ‘commercial speech’ cannot be denied the protection of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The Court has held that ‘commercial speech’ is a part of the ‘right of freedom of speech and expression’ as guaranteed by our Constitution.
The citizens of India have the right to receive ‘commercial speech’ and they also have the right to read and listen to the same. This protection is available to the speaker as well as the recipient.[iv] Freedom of Speech and Expression also includes artistic speech as it includes the right to paint, sign, dance, write poetry, literature and is covered by Article 19(1)(a) because the common basic characteristic of all these activities is freedom of speech and expression.[v]
Under the provisions of the Constitution of India, an individual as well as a corporation can invoke freedom of speech arguments and other fundamental rights against the State by way of a Writ Petition under Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution of India subject to the State imposing some permissible restrictions in the interests of social control.
Under the provisions of Indian law, the right to invoke the freedom of speech argumentsis not limited to individuals alone. Corporations are also entitled to invoke sucharguments. The cases of Bennet and Coleman & Co. v. Union of India (1973) 2 SCR 757 and Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) P. Ltd v. Union of India (‘86) A.SC. 515, are of great significance. In these cases, the corporations filed a writ petition challenging the constitutional validity of notifications issued by the Government. After much deliberation, the Courts held that the right to freedom of speech cannot be taken away with the object of placing restrictions on the business activities of citizens. However, the limitation on the exercise of the right under Article 19(1)(a) not falling within the four corners of 19(2) is not valid.
Importance of Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Speech is the bulwark of democratic government. This freedom is essential for the proper functioning of the democratic process. Freedom of speech and liberty is regarded as the first condition of liberty. It occupies a preferred position in the hierarchy liberties giving succor and protection to all other liberties. It is the mother of all liberties.[vi]
In a democracy, freedom of speech & expression opens up channels of free discussion of issues. Freedom of speech plays a crucial role in the formation of public opinion on social, economic & political matters. It embraces within its scope the freedom of propagation and interchange of ideas, dissemination of information which would help the formation of one’s opinion & viewpoint & debates on matters of public concern. So long as the expression is confined to nationalism, patriotism & love for the motherland, the use of National flag by the way of expression of those sentiments would be a Fundamental Right.
In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India,[vii] BHAGWATI J., has emphasized on the significance of the freedom of speech & expression in these words:
“Democracy is based essentially on free debate and open discussion, for that is the only corrective of government action in a democratic set up. If democracy means government of the people by the people, it is obvious that every citizen must be entitled to participate in the democratic process and in order to enable him to intelligently exercise his rights of making a choice, free & general discussion of public matters is absolutely essential.”
This aspect of the right to freedom of speech and expression extending the concept of citizenship to include socio-political participation of a person is critical in the process of determining the scope of right to life of a citizen under Article 21 of the Constitution. It is important to note that the scope of the “freedom of speech and expression” in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution has been expanded to include the right to receive and disseminate information. It includes the right to communicate and circulate information through any medium including print media, audio, television broadcast or electronic media.
The judiciary has time and again opined that the right to receive information is another facet of the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to communicate and receive information without interference is a crucial aspect of this right. This is because, a person cannot form an informed opinion or make an informed choice and effectively participate socially, politically or culturally without receipt of adequate information. The Supreme Court in State of Uttar Pradesh v. Raj Narain31 has held that Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees the freedom of speech and expression to all citizens in addition to protecting the rights of the citizens to know the right to receive information regarding matters of public concern.
This position was reiterated by the Court in Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India v. Cricket Association of Bengal32 wherein it was held that Article 19(1)(a) includes the right to acquire and disseminate information. The Supreme Court, while opining on the right to freedom of information, further noted in Dinesh Trivedi, M.P. and Ors v. Union of India33 that “in modern constitutional democracies, it is axiomatic that citizens have a right to know about the affairs of the government which, having been elected by them, seek to formulate sound policies of governance aimed at their welfare.”
The print medium is a powerful tool for dissemination and receipt of information for any citizen. Thus, access to printed material is crucial for satisfaction of a person’s right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to him under the Constitution. Persons with print impairment have no access to printed material in their normal format. Failure on part of the State to make legislative provision for enabling access to persons with print impairment of material in alternative accessible formats would constitute a deprivation of their right to freedom of speech and expression and such inaction on the part of the State falls foul of the Constitution. In view of the same, it is an obligation on part of the State to ensure that adequate provisions are made in the law enabling persons with print impairment to access printed material in accessible formats.
Under the Freedom of Speech and Expression, there is no separate guarantee of freedom of the press and the same is included in the freedom of expression, which is conferred on all citizens (Virender Vs. State of Punjab, A. 1958, SC. 986 and Sakal Papers Vs. Union of India A.1962 S.C. 305). It has also been by this judgment that freedom of the press under the Indian Constitution is not higher than the freedom of an ordinary citizen.
Need to Protect Freedom of Speech and Expression
Freedom of speech offers human being to express his feelings to other, but this is not the only reason; purpose to protect the freedom of speech. There could be more reasons to protect these essential liberties. There are four important justifications for freedom of speech –
- For the discovery of truth by open discussion – According to it, if restrictions on speech are tolerated, society prevents the ascertainment and publication of accurate facts and valuable opinion. That is to say, it assists in the discovery of truth.
- Free speech as an aspect of self- fulfillment and development – freedom of speech is an integral aspect of each individual’s right to self-development and self-fulfillment. Restriction on what we are allowed to say and write or to hear and read will hamper our personality and its growth. It helps an individual to attain self-fulfillment.
- For expressing belief and political attitudes – freedom of speech provides opportunity to express one’s belief and show political attitudes. It ultimately results in the welfare of the society and state. Thus, freedom of speech provides a mechanism by which it would be possible to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change.
- For active participation in democracy – democracy is most important feature of today’s world. Freedom of speech is there to protect the right of all citizens to understand political issues so that they can participate in smooth working of democracy. That is to say, freedom of speech strengthens the capacity of an individual in participating in decision-making.
Thus we find that protection of freedom of speech is very much essential. Protection of freedom of speech is important for the discovery of truth by open discussion, for self- fulfillment and development, for expressing belief and political attitudes, and for active participation in democracy.
In India under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, “all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”. In the Preamble to the Constitution of India the people of India declared their solemn resolve to secure to all its citizens liberty of thought and expression. The Supreme Court of India held that the freedom of speech and expression includes freedom to propagate ideas which is ensured by freedom of circulation of a publication, as publication is of little value without circulation.
Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India provides that this right is not absolute and ‘reasonable restrictions’ may be imposed on the exercise of this right for certain purposes. The right to freedom of speech would include both artistic and commercial speech which is required to be protected. Freedom of speech and expression would include artistic speech as it includes the right to paint, sign, dance, write poetry, literature and is covered by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution because the common basic characteristic of all these activities is freedom of speech and expression.
Under the Constitution of India an individual as well as corporation can invoke freedom of speech and their fundamental rights. Freedom of Speech is not only protected from unwarranted governmental interference but also when a private party calls upon a Court to enforce rules of law whose effect would be to restrict or penalize expression. Much would depend on the issue as to whether the reference to the trademark involved has been used in the trademark sense, for example, as envisaged in Section 2(2) (a), (b) and (c) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999. There is dearth of case law of how free speech interests are involved in trademark litigation. In a given case a party could challenge an act or omission on the part of the Registrar of Trade Marks on the ground that it infringes the fundamental right of a citizen.
For example: Freedom of speech and expression; or Registrar has acted in a manner which is against all norms of natural justice. A party could also in a given case challenge the vires of a provision in the Trade Marks Act, 1999 or the Rules framed thereunder – if it would violate the right to freedom of speech and expression.
Under the Trade Marks Act, 1999 there is no specific reference in crystal clear terms to criticism of another’s mark. However reference is invited to Section 29 (8) & (9) of the Trade Marks Act, 1999 as follows:–
“Section 29(8) A registered trade mark is infringed by any advertising of that trade mark if such advertising
takes unfair advantage of and is contrary to honest practices in industrial or commercial matters; or
is detrimental to its distinctive character; or
is against the reputation of the trade mark.”
Infringement by oral use is provided for in subsection 9 of Section 29:
“(9) Where the distinctive elements of a registered trade mark consist of or include words, the trade mark may be infringed by the spoken use of those words as well as by their visual representation and reference in this section to the use of a mark shall be construed accordingly.”
The position of law is that a tradesman is entitled to declare that his goods are the best in the world even if the statement is untrue, but he may not in any circumstances say that his competitor’s goods are bad or criticize his competitors goods. If he makes such a statement, it would amount to slander.
There is no ‘fair use’ clause or an ‘open end’ clause in Indian Trade Mark law. In India, there is dearth of cases on trademark infringement where the defendant has invoked freedom of speech as a defense. Joke articles in India are treated like any other and the author has not entitled to any additional immunity for the reason that the article is a humorous one.
Freedom of speech enjoys special position as far India is concerned. The importance of freedom of expression and speech can be easily understand by the fact that preamble of constitution itself ensures to all citizens inter alia, liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship. The constitutional significance of the freedom of speech consists in the Preamble of Constitution and is transformed as fundamental and human right in Article 19(1)(a) as “freedom of speech and expression”.
Explaining the scope of freedom of speech and expression Supreme Court has said that the words “freedom of speech and expression” must be broadly constructed to include the freedom to circulate one’s views by words of mouth or in writing or through audiovisual instrumentalities. Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. It thus includes the expression of one’s idea through any communicable medium or visible representation.
Moreover, it is important to note that liberty of one must not offend the liberty of others. Patanjali Shastri, J. in A.K. Gopalan case, observed, “man as a rational being desires to do many things, but in a civil society his desires will have to be controlled with the exercise of similar desires by other individuals”.
It therefore includes the right to propagate one’s views through the print media or through any other communication channel e.g. the radio and the television. Every citizen of this country therefore has the right to air his or their views through the printing and or the electronic media subject of course to permissible restrictions imposed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. In sum, the fundamental principle involved here is the people’s right to know. Freedom of speech and expression should, therefore, receive generous support from all those who believe in the participation of people in the administration.
We can see the guarantee of freedom of speech under the following heads:
Freedom of Press
Although Article 19 does not express provision for freedom of press but the fundamental right of the freedom of press implicit in the right the freedom of speech and expression. In the famous case Express Newspapers (Bombay) (P) Ltd. v. Union of India court observed the importance of press very aptly. Court held in this case that “In today’s free world freedom of press is the heart of social and political intercourse. The press has now assumed the role of the public educator making formal and non-formal education possible in a large scale particularly in the developing world, where television and other kinds of modern communication are not still available for all sections of society. The purpose of the press is to advance the public interest by publishing facts and opinions without which a democratic electorate [Government] cannot make responsible judgments. Newspapers being purveyors of news and views having a bearing on public administration very often carry material which would not be palatable to Governments and other authorities.”
The above statement of the Supreme Court illustrates that the freedom of the press is essential for the proper functioning of the democratic process. Democracy means Government of the people, by the people and for the people; it is obvious that every citizen must be entitled to participate in the democratic process and in order to enable him to intelligently exercise his right of making a choice, free and general discussion of public matters is absolutely essential. This explains the constitutional viewpoint of the freedom of press in India.
Freedom of speech, though guaranteed, is not absolute in India. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the text of India’s Constitution clearly sets out restrictions on free speech. The freedom of speech guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) can be subject to reasonable state restriction in the interest of decency or morality. Obscenity in India is defined as “offensive to modesty or decency; lewd, filthy and repulsive.” It stated that the test of obscenity is whether the publication, read as a whole, has a tendency to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences, and therefore each work must be examined by itself .
With respect to art and obscenity, the Court held that “the art must be so preponderating as to throw obscenity into a shadow or the obscenity so trivial and insignificant that it can have no effect and may be overlooked .” The Court concluded that the test to adopt in India, emphasizing community mores, is that obscenity without a preponderating social purpose or profit cannot have the constitutional protection of free speech.
Right to Information
Right to know, to information is other facet of freedom of speech. The right to know, to receive and to impart information has been recognized within the right to freedom of speech and expression. A citizen has a fundamental right to use the best means of imparting and receiving information and as such to have an access to telecasting for the purpose. The right to know has, however, not yet extended to the extent of invalidating Section 5 of the Official Secrets Act, 1923 which prohibits disclosure of certain official documents. Even, Right to Information Act 2005, which specially talks about peoples’ right to ask information from Government official, prohibits discloser of certain documents under u/s 8 of the Act. These exceptions are generally the grounds of reasonable restrictions over freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) of Constitution of India. One can conclude that ‘right to information is nothing but one small limb of right of speech and expression.
Voters Have Right to Know About their Candidates
In a landmark judgment in Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms4, a three-judge bench held that the amended Electoral Reforms Law passed by Parliament is unconstitutional as being volatile of citizen’s right to know under Art. 19(1)(g).
The’ Freedom of Speech and Expression’ Is Indeed A Very High One
In recent judgment of the Supreme Court in Khushboo v. Kannaiammal6 upholds the right to freedom of speech and expression. Khushboo’s right to freedom of speech was violated by the institution of multiple criminal cases against her in various courts across the country and consequent harassment that she suffered.
Grounds of Restrictions
It is necessary to maintain and preserve freedom of speech and expression in a democracy, so also it is necessary to place some restrictions on this freedom for the maintenance of social order because no freedom can be absolute or completely unrestricted. Accordingly, under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India, the State may make a law imposing “reasonable restrictions” on the exercise of the right to freedom of speech and expression “in the interest of” the public on the following grounds: Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Indian constitution contains the grounds on which restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression can be imposed:-
1) Security of State: Security of state is of vital importance and a government must have the power to impose a restriction on the activity affecting it. Under Article 19(2) reasonable restrictions can be imposed on freedom of speech and expression in the interest of the security of State. However, the term “security” is a very crucial one. The term “security of the state” refers only to serious and aggravated forms of public order e.g. rebellion, waging war against the State, insurrection and not ordinary breaches of public order and public safety, e.g. unlawful assembly, riot, affray. Thus speeches or expression on the part of an individual, which incite to or encourage the commission of violent crimes, such as, murder are matters, which would undermine the security of State.
2) Friendly relations with foreign states: In the present global world, a country has to maintain a good and friendly relationship with other countries. Something which has the potential to affect such relationship should be checked by the government. Keeping this thing in mind, this ground was added by the constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. The object behind the provision is to prohibit unrestrained malicious propaganda against a foreign friendly state, which may jeopardize the maintenance of good relations between India and that state.
3) No similar provision is present in any other Constitution of the world: In India, the Foreign Relations Act, (XII of 1932) provides punishment for libel by Indian citizens against foreign dignitaries. Interest of friendly relations with foreign States, would not justify the suppression of fair criticism of foreign policy of the Government. However, it is interesting to note that member of the commonwealth including Pakistan is not a “foreign state” for the purposes of this Constitution. The result is that freedom of speech and expression cannot be restricted on the ground that the matter is adverse to Pakistan.
4) Public Order: Next restriction prescribed by constitution is to maintain public order: This ground was added by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act. ‘Public order’ is an expression of wide connotation and signifies “that state of tranquility which prevails among the members of political society as a result of internal regulations enforced by the Government which they have established.”
Here it is pertinent to look into meaning of the word “Public order. Public order is something more than ordinary maintenance of law and order. ‘Public order’ is synonymous with public peace, safety and tranquility. Anything that disturbs public tranquility or public peace disturbs public order. Thus communal disturbances and strikes promoted with the sole object of accusing unrest among workmen are offences against public order. Public order thus implies absence of violence and an orderly state of affairs in which citizens can peacefully pursue their normal avocation of life. Public order also includes public safety. Thus creating internal disorder or rebellion would affect public order and public safety. But mere criticism of government does not necessarily disturb public order.
The words ‘in the interest of public order’ includes not only such utterances as are directly intended to lead to disorder but also those that have the tendency to lead to disorder. Thus a law punishing utterances made with the deliberate intention to hurt the religious feelings of any class of persons is valid because it imposes a restriction on the right of free speech in the interest of public order since such speech or writing has the tendency to create public disorder even if in some case those activities may not actually lead to a breach of peace. But there must be reasonable and proper nexus or relationship between the restrictions and the achievements of public order.
5) Decency or morality: The way to express something or to say something should be a decent one. It should not affect the morality of society adversely. Our constitution has taken care of this view and inserted decency and morality as a ground. The words ‘morality or decency’ are words of wide meaning. Sections 292 to 294 of the Indian Penal Code provide instances of restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression in the interest of decency or morality. These sections prohibit the sale or distribution or exhibition of obscene words, etc. in public places. No fix standard is laid down till now as to what is moral and indecent. The standard of morality varies from time to time and from place to place.
6) Contempt of Court: In a democratic country Judiciary plays a very important role. In such situation, it becomes essential to respect such an institution and its order. Thus, restriction on the freedom of speech and expression can be imposed if it exceeds the reasonable and fair limit and amounts to contempt of court. According to Section 2 ‘Contempt of court’ may be either ‘civil contempt’ or ‘criminal contempt.’ But now, Indian contempt law was amended in 2006 to make “truth” a defense.
However, even after such amendment, a person can be punished for the statement unless they were made in public interest. Again in Indirect Tax Practitioners Assn. vs R.K.Jain, it was held by court that, “Truth based on the facts should be allowed as a valid defense if courts are asked to decide contempt proceedings relating to contempt proceeding relating to a speech or an editorial or article”. The qualification is that such defense should not cover-up to escape from the consequences of a deliberate effort to scandalize the court.
7) Defamation: Ones’ freedom, be it of any type, must not affect the reputation or status of another person. A person is known by his reputation more than his wealth or anything else. Constitution considers it as ground to put restriction on freedom of speech. Basically, a statement, which injures a man’s reputation, amounts to defamation. Defamation consists in exposing a man to hatred, ridicule, or contempt. The civil law relating to defamation is still uncodified in India and subject to certain exceptions.
8) Incitement to an offense: This ground was also added by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. Obviously, freedom of speech and expression cannot confer a right to incite people to commit offense. The word ‘offense’ is defined as any act or omission made punishable by law for the time being in force.
9) Sovereignty and integrity of India: To maintain the sovereignty and integrity of a state is the prime duty of government. Taking into it into account, freedom of speech and expression can be restricted so as not to permit anyone to challenge sovereignty or to permit anyone to preach something which will result in threat to integrity of the country.
From above analysis, it is evident that Grounds contained in Article 19(2) show that they are all concerned with the national interest or in the interest of the society. The first set of grounds i.e. the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States and public order are all grounds referable to national interest, whereas, the second set of grounds i.e. decency, morality, contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence are all concerned with the interest of the society.
Expression through speech is one of the basic guarantees provided by civil society. However in modern world Right to freedom of speech and expression is not limited to express ones’ view through words but it also includes circulating one’s views in writing or through audiovisual instrumentalities, through advertisements and through any other communication channel. It also comprises of right to information, freedom of press etc. It is a right to express and self realization.
Two big democracies of world i.e. America and India have remarkably protected this right. As far as India is concerned, this important right is mentioned in Article 19(1) (a), which falls in fundamental right category. Indian courts have always placed a broad interpretation on the value and content of Article 19(1) (a), making it subjective only to the restrictions permissible under Article 19(2).
The words ‘in the interest of public order’, as used in the Article 19 include not only utterances as are directly intended to lead to disorder but also those that have the tendency to lead to disorder. There should be reasonable and proper nexus or relationship between the restriction and achievement of public order.
Freedom of speech and expression is the bulwark of democratic government. This freedom is essential for the proper functioning of democratic process and is regarded as the first condition of liberty. It occupies a preferred position in the hierarchy of liberties giving protection to all other liberties. It has been truly said that it is the mother of all other liberties. That liberty include the right to acquire information and disseminate the same. It includes the right to communicate it through available media without interference to as large a population of the country, as well as abroad, as is possible to reach. Right to know is the basis right of the citizens of a free country and Art. 19(1)(a) protects that right. Right to receive information springs from Art 19(1)(a).
Formatted on March 14th, 2019.
[i] Radha Mohan Lal v. Rajasthan High Court,(2003) 3 SCC 427
[ii] Sakal Papers V. Union of India AIR 1962 SC 305
[iii] Odyssey Communications Pvt.Ltd. V. Lok Vidyayan Sanghatana AIR 1988 SC 1642
[iv] Tata Press v. MTNL; AIR 1995 SC 2438
[v] Maneka Gandhi V. Union of India AIR 1978 SC 597
[vi] Report of the Second Press Comm., Vol. I,34-35
[vii] AIR 1978 SC 597: (1978) 1 SCC 248