Dear readers, this article & others (Part-A & C to F) on “Freedom of Speech (Art. 19)” & related 17 Supreme Court judgments are informative with facts and will educate general public, students, teachers, and help competitive aspirants in preparation of IAS, PCS, CLAT, AIBE, UGC/NET, and other exams.
“Freedom of speech and expression is a natural and legal right of an individual to express one’s opinions, ideas & information freely and receive the same from others, without interference, through any means, media, and mode”. __ Dr. Md. Usmangani Ansari
“The Constitution is not an instrument for the Government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the Government”.1 –Patrick Henry (1736-1799)
Constitution of India: Part III (Fundamental Rights) - Art.19
Art.19: Freedom of Speech, Assembly, Associations, Movement, Reside, Profession.
Art. 19 clause (1) All citizens shall have the right—
(a) to freedom of speech and expression;
(b) to assemble peacefully and without arms;
(c) to form associations or unions;
(d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;
(e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India6; and
(f) to guarantee to the Indian citizens a right to acquire, hold and dispose of property (omitted)7;
(g) to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or, business.
Art. 19 clause (2)8: Nothing in sub-clauses (a)9, (b)9, (c)9, (d)10, (e)10, & (g)11 of Art. 19 clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clauses in the interests of … i.e. Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Indian constitution imposes certain restrictions on free speech under following heads or interests of:
(i) security of the State,
(ii) friendly relations with foreign States,
(iii) public order,
(iv) decency and morality,
(v) contempt of court,
(vii) incitement to an offense, and
(viii) sovereignty and integrity of India.
Read related articles:
Elements of Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression
- This right is available only to a citizen of India and not to foreign nationals.
- The freedom of speech under Article 19 Clause (1) (a) includes the right to express one’s views and opinions at any issue through any medium, e.g. by word of mouth, writing, printing, picture, film, movie,
- This right is, however, not absolute and Article 19 Clause (2) allows the Government to frame laws to impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency and morality, and contempt of court, defamation, and incitement to an offense.
- This restriction on the freedom of speech of any citizen may be imposed 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 the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression would also constitute a violation of Article 19(1)(a).
Aims & Objectives of Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression
- Right to Freedom of Speech supports the citizen to have the right to know i.e. right to information.
- It helps the citizen to attain self-fulfilment.
- It assists in the discovery of truth.
- It strengthens the capacity of an individual in participating in administration and decision-making.
- It provides a mechanism by which it would be possible to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change.
- It helps all members of society to form their own beliefs and communicate them freely to others.
- It makes the government more cautious in levying taxes on unnecessary matters or subjects.
- It helps democracy to make its institutions functional, transparent, and accountable.
- Thus, right to freedom of speech and expression works as a pillar of democracy.
Scope of Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression
The Supreme Court of India has in many cases deduced certain fundamental features that are not specifically mentioned in the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(l) (a) on the principle that certain un-articulated rights are implicit in the enumerated guarantee. And so the Hon’ble Supreme Court widened the scope of the freedom of speech and expression by including in it certain multifarious aspects such as:
- Freedom of the press,
- Freedom of circulation of one’s views,
- Freedom to air one’s view
- Freedom to use the media to answer the criticism
- Freedom to advance the public interest by informing the public for active functioning of a democracy,
- Freedom in the volume of news,
- No pre-censorship on press,
- Right of the press to conduct interviews and the like,
- Right to receive information,
- Right to reply,
- Compelled speech,
- Right of the convict to express himself,
- Right not to speak,
- Right of access to the source of information,
- Commercial speech,
- Right to fly the national flag,
- Right to broadcast,
- Right to criticize,
- Right to expression beyond national boundaries,
Therefore, in a democratic setup like ours, broadcasting of news and views for popular consumption to mold public opinion in a positive way on vitals issues of national importance is a must and any attempt to deny the same must be disapproved unless it falls within the mischief of Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
Why Protect Freedom of Speech & Expression?
Freedom of speech offers human beings to express his/her feelings to others and vice versa, and so there are many reasons why to protect the freedom of speech and expression. For examples,
- For the discovery of truth by open discussion: Because, if it is restricted, it will prevent the ascertainment and publication of accurate facts and valuable opinions to discover the truth.
- It helps in self-fulfilment and development: Because, if it is restricted, it will hamper our personality and its growth.
- For expressing belief and political attitudes: Because, if it is restricted, it will prevent to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change for the welfare of the society and state.
- For active participation in democracy: Because, if it is restricted, it will prevent to protect the right of all citizens to understand political issues so that they can participate in the smooth working of democracy. It means freedom of speech strengthens the capacity of an individual’s participation in decision-making process of government.
Why Restrict Freedom of Speech & Expression?
Humans as rational being desires to do many things, but in civil society, especially the democratic, his desires have to be controlled, regulated, and reconciled with the exercise of similar desires by other individuals. The guarantee of each of the above right is, therefore, restricted by the Constitution in the larger interest of the community. The right to freedom of speech and expression is subject to limitations imposed under Article 19(2).
Public order as a ground of imposing restrictions was added by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. Public order is something more than ordinary maintenance of law and order. Public order in the present context is synonymous with public peace, safety, and tranquility.
Copyright © Writer (Dr. Md. Usmangani Ansari)
Read other parts of articles on Freedom of Speech:
- Inserted by the Constitution (Forty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1978, s. 2 (w.e.f. 20-6-1979).
- ibid. (w.e.f. 20-6-1979).
- Substituted by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, s. 3, for cl. (2) (with retrospective effect).
- Ins. by the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963, s. 2.
- Subs. by the Constitution (Forty-fourth Amendment) Act, 1978, s. 2, for “sub-clauses (d), (e) and (f)” (w.e.f. 20-6-1979).
- Subs. by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951, s. 3, for certain words.