‘Freedom of Speech and Expression’ as a Fundamental Right in India and the Test of Constitutional Regulations: The Constitutional Perspective
Indian Bar Review, Volume XLIII (2) 2016, pp. 87-110.
22 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2016
Jindal Global Law School | O.P. Jindal Global University, Haryana, India
Date Written: November 24, 2015
The researcher in this paper seeks to analyze the concept of the freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution of India with an emphasis on the test of the constitutional regulation. This paper has been divided into Eight parts. Part I introduces introductory outline of the work. Part II covers the importance of freedom of speech and expression. Part III covers the Constituent Assembly Debate on Article 13 (corresponding to Article 19 of the present Constitution) held on Wednesday, December 1, 1948. Part IV deals with constitutional protection of freedom of speech and expression. Part V covers the scope of freedom of speech and expression. Part VI covers the constitutional regulation of freedom of expression. Part VII deals with the test of constitutional regulations, and ends with the concluding word under Part VIII.
Keywords: Freedom of speech and expression, Article 19(1)(a), Indian Constitution, Test, Constitutional regulations, Fundamental right, Constituent Assembly Debate.
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Aqa Raza (Contact Author)
Jindal global law school | o.p. jindal global university, haryana, india ( email ).
Sonipat Narela Road, Near Jagdishpur Village Sonipat, Haryana 131001 India
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Indians generally believe that protecting religious sentiments is warranted, and that preventing incitement and subsequent public disorder is desirable.
The Constitution of India at the Geospatial World Forum 2017, Hyderabad, India.
In the course of my work on India, many individuals I talked to displayed incredulity that colonial-era British restrictions on free speech in India remain the law. These restrictions are mostly found in the Indian Penal Code of 1860 and include laws proscribing: sedition (Section 124A), promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, or residence (Section 153A), and group defamation or hate speech (Section 295A).
While I have advocated for minimal legal and societal constraints on speech, it can nonetheless be observed that governments — with a few notable exceptions — tend to reflect the mores of the societies from which they emerge; this is as true in autocracies as it is in democracies. India’s approach to free speech reflects both the needs and values of its society and its ruling classes. In today’s India, British-era laws restricting free speech are not merely a colonial-era holdover, but are the result of the persistence of precolonial values and the agency of postcolonial Indian society. As I have argued before, Indian society, while deeply democratic — and in many ways tolerant of heterogeneity in religious matters — is also illiberal in many ways, and it is therefore inevitable that the values of its people will be reflected in its governance and laws.
Contemporary Indians often get riled up about perceived insults to family, caste, and deities, among other things. Ancient India was no different. While there was a certain level of theological and philosophical freedom, personal insults or speech that was perceived as targeting the state or social hierarchy were all punished. For example, according to the Yājñavalkya Smṛti , a 3rd century CE Sanskrit text on law that was influential in classical and medieval India:
If someone insults people who lack a limb or a sense organ or are sick, whether truthfully or untruthfully, or with phony praise, he should be fined thirteen and a half pa ṇ as [ancient currency]. When a man abuses someone, saying: ‘ You are a mother-fucker or a sister-fucker! ’ the king should make him pay a fine of twenty-five.
Various premodern Indian states often had similar rules, enforced as much by custom and tradition in local communities as they were by state administration. In the 19th century, after the British consolidated their rule over the subcontinent, they enacted the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860, which was an attempt to standardize a previously heterogeneous legal landscape. The IPC was mostly a codified version of English common law, with elements of Hindu and Islamic law.
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While, unsurprisingly, the British were more concerned over public order than civil rights, the IPC reflected domestic phenomena in India to some extent. For example, the IPC was amended to include Section 295A after an anonymous Hindu published the book “Rangila Rasul” (Colorful Prophet) in 1927, a work that insulted the Prophet Muhammad and lead to riots in Punjab province. Section 295A — which reads, in part: “whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of citizens of India… insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment” — remains popular as a tool that has been used by religious communities, ethnic and linguistic groups, and castes to litigate insults against their group, however spurious the reason.
In a recent case from 2020, a citizen in the state of Madhya Pradesh filed a case against two Netflix executives under Section 295A of the penal code “for certain kissing scenes featured in the web series ‘A Suitable Boy’ which allegedly hurt religious sentiments as they were shot in a temple premise.” While such cases are often dismissed, they also demonstrate why laws such as Section 295A are popular: Because they remain an outlet by which offended citizens believe they can vent their anger at perceived insults to their communities or religious beliefs. Indians are generally not a people who are blasé about such matters. For example, many of the over 150 cases filed since 2010 against individuals for engaging in sedition online were filed by private persons on their own initiative, often complaining about objectionable social media posts by their neighbors or shopkeepers.
Therefore, many British and Indians believed that the state was indeed justified in restricting speech and expression because doing so was necessary in a country as heterogeneous and diverse as India. For example, India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, felt that “less responsible” speech did not deserve freedom of the press protections. Upon independence, India’s new constitution, which came into effect in 1950, attempted to square the provisions of the penal code — inherited unmodified from the British Raj — with the liberal principles favored by the document’s drafters. Article 19 of the Indian constitution provided for freedom of speech, albeit with some limits relating to defamation and the security of the state. Very soon, Indian courts began ruling parts of the IPC unconstitutional: in Tara Singh Gopi Chand vs The State (November 28, 1950), the Punjab High Court declared that Section 124A (sedition) “has become void as contravening the right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19 of the constitution.”
For India’s post-independence political leaders, this made India’s free expression jurisprudence too permissive, almost akin to the United States’ First Amendment jurisprudence. Consequently, the Indian government introduced the first amendment to the Indian Constitution in 1951, now found in Article 19(2), which imposes “reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right [to free expression]…in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.” Prime Minister Nehru argued that such an amendment was necessary in order to stop both the left and right from impeding progress, whether through the press or through speeches: “if all our schemes [for reform] are stopped…the country have to wait with social and economic conditions.” He further added , “I have no doubt that the Communist Party have been guilty of atrocious crimes and that we have to deal with it as such. Nevertheless, I feel that certain communal elements in India are far more dangerous to our unity and to any progress that we might hope to make…”
After the addition of the first amendment to the Indian Constitution, Indian courts have mostly upheld the provisions of the IPC penalizing sedition, incitement, defamation, and insulting religious beliefs. In Ramji Lal Modi vs State of UP (1957), a court argued that censoring a cow-protection publication run by Hindu that allegedly incited Muslims was justified under Section 295A because “the calculated tendency of this aggravated form of insult is clearly to disrupt the public order.” The law upholding hate speech was upheld and further qualified in Superintendent, Central Prison vs Ram Manohar Lohia (1960) which argued that if the “restriction [to speech] has no proximate relationship to the achievement of public order, it cannot be said that the restriction is a reasonable restriction.”
Another case, this one concerning Section 124A (sedition), Kedar Nath Singh vs State Of Bihar (1962), upheld the law’s constitutionality because restrictions on the freedom of speech were permissible when in the interests of public order and thus “lie within the ambit of permissible legislative restrictions.” While Kedar Nath stressed that the seditious conduct must rise to the level of inciting violence against the state, central and local governments from all major political parties weaponized the law — with little pushback from their supporters — for decades, frequently citing a perceived disruption to public order to harass and muzzle critics, although convictions are rare.
The logic of these cases — the desire to preserve security, public order, and communal sentiments — has carried over to the internet age, where older Indian case law has combined with newer rules relating to online use, such as the Information Technology Act, 2000, which allows the application of elements of the IPC to the virtual world.
Will the provisions of the Indian Penal Code restricting freedom of speech remain in place in the 21st century? Political parties often criticize these laws when in opposition, only to use them with relish when in power. Citizens enjoy the continued ability to sue for defamation and hurt religious sentiments. And while India’s Supreme Court recently directed the government to suspend the sedition law in May 2022 after years of misuse, it is unlikely that Parliament will rescind the law in its entirety.
One major roadblock to reform in the Indian context lies in the fact that certain provisions of the IPC such as Section 295A (protecting religious beliefs from insult) and Section 124A (sedition) are deemed by governments to have beneficial uses in a country like India: preventing communal riots that may stem from hurt “sentiments” or preserving the country’s security vis-à-vis Pakistan or China during times of hostility. Too much reform would be seen as throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Violence aside, virtually no major religious group in India would support removing Section 295A for fear of seeming supportive of allowing insults to their religions. Even activists may not favor a comprehensive overhaul of restrictions on free speech that could abolish both hate speech and sedition laws. Few Indians, therefore, believe that India’s freedom of speech regime should be as permissive as the United States’, a country in which laws against hate speech, blasphemy, insulting religions, and sedition would all be found unconstitutional.
Therefore, while restrictions to freedom of expression in India are often cast as a colonial-era hangover, or a tool by which governments can harass their opponents and the press, they are also rooted in the popular feelings of society — and the governments that emerge from that society — and are in a sense, reflective of local norms. Indians and Indian governments generally believe that protecting religious sentiments is warranted, and that preventing incitement and subsequent public disorder is desirable in a country as diverse and tense as India. Moreover, the presence of hostile neighbors and perceived hostile domestic ideologies seen as undermining India underlays continuing support for sedition laws. This is why free speech was, and remains limited in India — not to the extent it is in an authoritarian country, but certainly not allowing free speech to the extent to which it is permitted in the United States. While excessive applications of sedition or other laws may (and should) be curtailed, it is unlikely that the Indian Parliament will remove such laws in their entirety.
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Article 19: the freedom of speech and expression, here is the detailed explanation of article 19 which gives the the freedom of speech and expression..
By India Today Web Desk : The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression gives its citizens the right to express his views. Read through the better explanation of the Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 as given by the Indian Constitution to understand what rights it confers upon us.
All the fundamental rights are enshrined in Part III of the Constitution of India .
Let us better understand Article 19
The Right of freedom of Speech and Expression implies that every citizen has the rights to express his views, opinions, belief, and convictions freely by mouth, writing, printing or through any other methods.
The supreme court held the freedom of Speech and Expression includes the protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc.
All citizens shall have the right
to freedom of speech and expression;
to assemble peaceably and without arms;
to form associations or unions;
to move freely throughout the territory of India;
to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and omitted
to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business
Article 19 in the Indian constitution gives us the freedom of speech and expression with some reasonable restrictions under as follows:
It should not affect the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offense.
Nothing in sub-clause of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause, and, in particular, nothing in the said sub-clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it relates to, or prevent the State from making any law relating to it.
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Article 19: Mapping the Free Speech Debate in India
The Freedom of Speech and Expression is a fundamental right guaranteed to all citizens under the Constitution of India. However, the Constitution does not guarantee an absolute individual right to freedom of expression. Instead, it envisages reasonable restrictions that may be placed on this right by law.
Many laws that restrict free speech such as the laws punishing sedition, hate speech or defamation, derive their legitimacy from Article 19(2). Inspection of movies, books, paintings, etc, is also possible by way of this clause. Scholars note that censorship in India was, and still is, historically rooted in the discourse of protecting Indian values from outside forces and building and maintaining strong national unity post independence. Scholars conclude that any misuse of the law could be detrimental to arts and ideas.
The freedom to criticise and dissent are part of one’s broader freedom of speech, which is seen as fundamental to the functioning of a democracy. If a state’s citizenry is not free to express themselves, then their other civil and political rights are also under threat.
The freedom of expression, however, is paramount to the working of a democracy and it includes the right to offend. For a little over half a decade, questions of whether “hate speech” can be excused under the right to freedom of speech, have been raised by various quarters of society—their stance often varying from one case to the other.
The freedom of press is also crucial to the functioning of participative democracy. In the absence of a free press, citizens lose their ability to make informed decisions in a free and fair electoral process. In conclusion,
“Intolerance of dissent from the orthodoxy of the day has been the bane of Indian society for centuries. But it is precisely in the ready acceptance of the right to dissent, as distinct from its mere tolerance, that a free society distinguishes itself.” —A G Noorani, 1999
In this resource kit, we have collated over 200 articles from the EPW archive and built a repository of articles that cover these debates.
Scroll over the redacted text of Article 19 (1) (a) and Article (19) (2) below to explore more.
The nationwide protest by farmers brings to the fore issues of distress and problems in agriculture. While attempts by the state to address the problems through the three farm laws are being met with resistance , and much discussion has happened on their merits and demerits, it is important to step back and understand the crisis in agriculture and also look at some significant initiatives that could be taken to modernise the value chain , and examine where markets and private sector could come in, without necessarily compromising farmer interests. The state has been asking farmers to provide a clause-by-clause objection to the laws. But if we look at the legislations closely, it is evident that it is impossible to provide a clause-by-clause objection on an issue that has fundamental problems at the conceptual level. The farmers are correct in asking for the repeal of the three acts, as a repair is not going to address the fundamental issue at all.
All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression …
Nothing in sub clause (a) of 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 clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State , friendly relations with foreign States, public order , decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court , defamation or incitement to an offence.
Freedom of Speech and Public Order
Laws maintaining public order seek to restrict and punish the harassment of individuals, hate speech and public nuisance. Any speech or publication considered prejudicial to these interests is subject to censorship. Restrictions on freedom of speech can also be invoked to curb the spread of misinformation and disinformation since these are likely to be inimical to public order.
While there are laws that punish offensive speech that may hurt the religious or cultural sentiments of sections of society, conservative groups have, on occasion, themselves posed a threat to public order in order to create a justification for restricting speech that may be critical of specific cultural or religious norms.
Articles in this section outline several such cases—the 1989 Supreme Court ruling to insert a disclaimer before a television serial on Tipu Sultan’s life claiming it depicts his life truly; the assassination of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar in 2013; the 2014 speech by Hindu Rashtra Sena leaders in Pune, that lead to communal violence and the death of Mohsin Sheikh; and the 2014 uproar against Perumal Murugan’s book, Madhorubhagan. Some articles also describe how right-wing groups across the country feel empowered to dictate what the people should read and watch.
It must be noted that while the intent of the speeches that have led to communal disharmony and violence can and must be questioned, at the same time, the use of the politics of “hurt religious sentiments” to organise violence must also be questioned. This leads to legal ambiguity. How can a distinction be drawn between individuals giving deliberate malicious speeches aimed at outraging religious sentiments and spreading enmity on the one hand and exercising their freedom of speech on the other?
- Freedom of Speech in Universities | A G Noorani, 1991
- Blasphemy and Religious Criticism | Nasim Ansari, 1992
- Hate Speech and Free Speech | A G Noorani, 1992
- Politics of Religious Hate-Beyond the Bills | Anil Nauriya, 1993
- Police as Film Censors | A G Noorani, 1995
- Hate Propaganda in Gujarat Press and Bardoli Riots | Ghanshyam Shah, 1998
- Art in the Time of Cholera | Sumanta Banerjee, 2000
- From Coercion to Power Relations | Someswar Bhowmik, 2003
- Habib Tanvir under Attack | Sudhanva Deshpande, 2003
- Cartoon Protests: Religion and Freedom | EPW Editorial, 2006
- Ban on Films: Break the Silence | EPW Editorial, 2007
- Taslima Case: Accountability of Elected Representatives | K G Kannabiran and Kalpana Kannabiran, 2007
- Free Speech - Hate Speech: The Taslima Nasreen Case | Iqbal A Ansari, 2008
- Films and Free Speech | A G Noorani, 2008
- Free Speech and Religion | A G Noorani, 2009
- Religion, Freedom of Speech and Imaging the Prophet | Sudha Sitharaman, 2010
- Cartoons, Caste and Politics | Manjit Singh, 2012
- Ambedkar Cartoon Controversy | EPW Editorial, 2012
- Cartoons, Textbooks and Politics of Pedagogy | G Arunima, 2012
- The Constitution, Cartoons and Controversies | Kumkum Roy, 2012
- Through the Lens of a Constitutional Republic | Peter Ronald deSouza, 2012
- Symbolic Injury as a Site of Protest | Sheba Tejani, 2012
- Ashis Nandy's Critics and India's Thriving Democracy | Indrajit Roy, 2013
- The Dilemmas and Challenges faced by the Rationalist Indian | T V Venkateswaran, 2013
- The Age of Hurt Sentiments | Kannan Sundaram, 2015
- Intolerance of Dissent | Megha Bahl and Sharmila Purkayastha, 2015
- The Tyranny of 'Hurt' Feelings | Ambrose Pinto, 2015
- Unofficial Censors | EPW Editorial, 2015
- 'Hurt': Old Sentiment, New Claims | Manash Bhattacharjee, 2015
- Instigators of Murderous Mobs | Prashant Singh, 2016
- The Republic of Reasons | Alok Rai, 2016
- Hate Speech, Hurt Sentiment, and the (Im)Possibility of Free Speech | Siddharth Narrain, 2016
- Harmful Speech and the Politics of Hurt Sentiments | Philipp Sperner, 2016
- Republic of Hurt Sentiments | Vikram Raghavan and Iqra Zainul Abedin, 2017
- The Game of Hurt Sentiments | EPW Editorial, 2017
- Sexual Harassment and the Limits of Speech | Rukmini Sen, 2017
- Dangerous Speech in Real Time: Social Media, Policing, and Communal Violence | Siddharth Narrain, 2017
- Social Media Accountability | Alok Prasanna Kumar, 2018
- A Blasphemy Law is Antithetical to India's Secular Ethos | Surbhi Karwa and Shubham Kumar, 2019
- India Needs a Fresh Strategy to Tackle Online Extreme Speech | Sahana Udupa, 2019
- Muzzling Artistic Liberty and Protesting Anti-conversion Bill in Jharkhand | Sujit Kumar, 2019
- Speech as Action | Richa Shukla and Dalorina Nath, 2020
- Do Indian Courts Face A Dilemma in Interpreting Hate Speech? | Neha Gupta and Kavya Gupta, 2020
Freedom of Speech and Reasonable Restrictions
“Freedom of expression is a privilege for some and denied to others while those strangling free expression continue to unabashedly sing the mantra of freedom and democracy’’ (EPW editorial, 16 September 2017). This quote captures the manner in which this freedom can be manipulated. For the functioning of any democracy, it is of importance that its citizens are guaranteed the freedom of speech with reasonable restrictions. The state has to ensure that its citizens can exercise this fundamental right without any threat to their personal liberty.
The implementation of this right in the context of book bans, censoring films and plays has often been contested in courts and judgments have taken a progressive stance. This freedom of expression applies not only to easily agreeable ideas but also to “ideas that offend, shock or disturb” the audience. The censor board has often overstepped its role as a certification body and outrageously demanded cuts in films and sometimes even a change in the narrative. The courts have rescued many films such as the Hindi film Udta Punjab, the Tamil film Ore Oru Gramathile and many others, from the subjective ruling of the censor board. In recent times, content put out on social media and the role of fake news in spreading disruptive misinformation has also become a subject of discussion in light of the manner in which restrictions can be placed. Scholars have discussed whether social media users or the platforms themselves should be held responsible for communications that promote hateful speech and intolerance. Discussions are geared towards the likely consequences of online censorship.
Articles in this section discuss the basis of “reasonable restrictions” to the freedom of speech in India on the grounds of “public interest.” The debates regarding what constitutes a “reasonable” restriction are also covered here.
- Censorship: Scope and Limitations | EPW Legal Correspondent, 1976
- Film Censorship | A G Noorani, 1983
- TV Films and Censorship | A G Noorani, 1990
- Film Censorship and Freedom | A G Noorani, 1994
- Who Draws the Line-Feminist Reflections on Speech and Censorship | Ratna Kapur, 1996
- Politics of Film Censorship | Someswar Bhowmik, 2002
- Mutilated Liberty and the Constitution | Nirmalendu Bikash Rakshit, 2003
- Book Banning | A G Noorani, 2007
- The Constitution and Censorship of Plays | A G Noorani, 2008
- Turning the Spotlight on the Media | EPW Editorial, 2011
- Censoring the Internet: The New Intermediary Guidelines | Rishab Bailey, 2012
- Does Censorship Ever Work? | Geeta Seshu, 2012
- We Do Not 'Like' | EPW Editorial, 2012
- Two Films, Two Opinions | EPW Editorial, 2015
- Certify, Not Censor | EPW Editorial, 2016
- The Persuasions of Intolerance | Janaki Srinivasan, 2016
- First Amendment to Constitution of India | C K Mathew, 2016
- Flight of Common Sense | EPW Editorial, 2016
- Taking Free Speech Seriously | Vikram Raghavan, 2016
- A Twisted Freedom | EPW Editorial, 2017
- Censorship through the Ages | Suhrith Parthasarathy, 2018
- The Real and the Fake in Democracy | Gopal Guru, 2019
- Proscribing the ‘Inconvenient’ | Dhaval Kulkarni, 2020
- Safeguarding Fundamental Rights | Madan Bhimrao Lokur, 2020
- Predicament of the Social Media Ordinance | EPW Editorial, 2020
Freedom of Speech and Morality
When it comes to maintaining decency and morality, the fundamental right to free speech can be restricted. This controversial ground of restriction has been the subject of much discussion and debate, especially in the context of censorship of art and literature, with most of the censoring having been sought to protect the public from depictions of obscenity. However, as was the case with maintaining public order, courts have not always applied the law consistently and are rooted in what has been referred to as a “colonial hangover of the moral police.”
The arts are particularly susceptible to judgments on morality and decency—cinema even more so. Several articles in this section deal with India’s film censor board, questioning its lack of clarity, purpose, people and qualifications. The censor board has been criticised for adhering to a “Victorian legacy” and clinging to India’s colonial past. Censorship legislation was introduced in 1918 when cinema needed to serve colonial interests. Films back then were politically manipulated, withdrawn or promoted depending on their material, something that seems to have been followed to varying degrees even post-independence. In 1998, the screening of Deepa Mehta’s film, Fire, was stopped by Shiv Sainiks and referred back to the censor board. Since then, there have been several instances of the Hindu right attempting to capture India’s cultural spaces and redefine “mainstream morality” in line with its idea of Indian society. Their actions, legal and otherwise, have been a major point of debate and discussion in the papers included in this section. The articles in this section cover issues from banning plays, revising books, controlling the media, in addition to censoring films.
Courts have sought to remove the arbitrariness in the characterisation of what constitutes public morality by devising various tests of acceptable standards of public speech. But these tests have changed and evolved over time. In this context, several articles raise the pertinent question of how morality should be defined and who has the authority to do so.
- From Obscenity to Gherao | Nireekshak, 1967
- Policemen and Obscenity | A G Noorani, 1981
- Women Films and Censorship | S Sujatha, 1982
- Bogey of the Bawdy-Changing Concept of Obscenity in 19th Century Bengali Culture | Sumanta Banerjee, 1987
- Police and Porn | A G Noorani, 1995
- Set This House on Fire | Carol Upadhya, 1998
- Mirror Politics: ‘Fire’, Hindutva and Indian Culture | Mary E John and Tejaswini Niranjana, 1999
- Cultural Politics of Fire | Ratna Kapur, 1999
- Conferring 'Moral Rights' on Actors | Vinay Ganesh Sitapati, 2003
- Entangled Histories | Anjali Arondekar, 2006
- Dance Bar Girls and the Feminist's Dilemma | Nalini Rajan, 2007
- The Item Number: Cinesexuality in Bollywood and Social Life | Rita Brara, 2010
- Cheerleaders in the Indian Premier League | Ashwini Tambe and Shruti Tambe, 2010
- 'Gaylords' of Bollywood: Politics of Desire in Hindi Cinema | Rama Srinivasan, 2011
- Yours Censoriously | Ashish Rajadhyaksha, 2014
- No Offence Taken | Avishek Parui, 2014
- Banning Child Pornography | Anant Kumar, 2016
- Colonial Hangover of the Moral Police | EPW Editorial, 2016
Freedom of Speech and Contempt of Court
Codified under the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, the judiciary has the power to punish both civil and criminal contempt—civil contempt is the willful disobedience to a judgment and criminal contempt is when an act lowers the authority of the court, interferes with or obstructs the administration of justice. However, contempt of court sometimes conflicts with the fundamental right to freedom of speech. And while fair criticism of judicial pronouncements is not within the definition of contempt, the interpretation of contempt is in the hands of the courts themselves and can lead to arbitrary legal action against dissenters.
Articles in this section have discussed widening the ambit of contempt of court over the years and its failure to strike a balance between freedom of speech and the administration of justice.
The 1967 E M S Namboodiripad v T N Nambiar case, where Namboodiripad was convicted for contempt of court by the Kerala High Court; the 1999 Narmada Bachao Andolan v Union of India case where the Supreme Court contemplated contempt proceedings against Arundhati Roy; the 2001 proceedings against Delhi-based Wah India Magazine for “rating” judges; the 2016 Govindaswamy v State of Kerala case, where the Supreme Court issued a contempt notice to Justice Markandey Katju for criticising its judgment; the 2017 contempt proceedings against Justice C S Karnan, a sitting judge of the Calcutta High Court for levelling allegations of corruption against several judges without evidence, the 2020 contempt proceedings against advocate, Prashant Bhushan for two tweets about the conduct of the Chief Justice of India; against stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra and cartoonist Rachita Taneja for tweeting about the Supreme Court granting journalist Arnab Goswami interim bail—the articles in this section cover several such cases and highlight the underlying systemic issues and general institutional decline of the judiciary.
While some proceedings are perhaps warranted, scholars argue that the contempt jurisdiction was not meant to be used in this spirit. As India’s laws are based on English laws, it has also been pointed out that the contempt law is obsolete in England. Articles in this section suggest that a solution needs to be found, such that the implementation of this law protects the freedom of speech as well as permits the administration of justice in a fair manner.
- Freedom of Speech and Contempt of Court | S P Sathe, 1970
- Public Discussion and Contempt of Court | A G Noorani, 1984
- On Contempt, Contemners and Courts | Vinod Vyasulu, 1995
- NBA Contempt of Court Case | S P Sathe, 2001
- Contempt of Court and Free Speech | A G Noorani, 2001
- Judging the Judges | Sumanta Banerjee, 2002
- Accountability of the Supreme Court | S P Sathe, 2002
- Accountability of Supreme Court | P Chandrasekhar, 2002
- Ayodhya Issue and Freedom of Expression | P Radhakrishnan, 2002
- Truth on Its Way to Half a Victory | Sukumar Mukhopadhyay, 2006
- Judicial Accountability or Illusion? | Prashant Bhushan, 2006
- Judicial Pronouncements and Caste | Rakesh Shukla, 2006
- Uses and Abuses of the Potent Power of Contempt | Rahul Donde, 2007
- The Contempt of Evidence | Madhu Bhaduri, 2007
- Lawless Lawyers | A G Noorani, 2008
- Judicial Accountability: Asset Disclosures and Beyond | Prashant Bhushan, 2009
- The Insulation of India's Constitutional Judiciary | Abhinav Chandrachud, 2010
- Media Follies and Supreme Infallibility | Sukumar Muralidharan, 2012
- A Judicial Doctrine of Postponement and the Demands of Open Justice | Sukumar Muralidharan, 2012
- Supreme Court's Decision on Reporting of Proceedings | Raghav Shankar, 2012
- Defend Freedom of Expression | Kumari Jayawardena et al, 2014
- Debating Contempt of Court | Alok Prasanna Kumar, 2016
- The Curious Case of Justice Karnan | Smita Chakraburtty, 2017
- The Crisis in the Judiciary | Alok Prasanna Kumar, 2017
- Supreme No More | EPW Editorial, 2017
- A Decade of Decay | Alok Prasanna Kumar, 2020
- The Supreme Court: Then and Now | Justice A P Shah, 2020
- Contempt of Court: Does Criticism Lower the Authority of the Judiciary? | EPW Engage, 2021
Freedom of Speech and Defamation
Restrictions concerning defamation seek to protect an individual’s right to reputation and dignity against another’s right to free speech and information. Similar to other reasonable restrictions to free speech, the defamation law cuts both ways. As the individual’s right to reputation and dignity stems from the right to privacy and the right to life and liberty, it seeks to protect individuals from false and frivolous claims about their private lives that can harm their public image. On the other hand, defamation laws have been misused to harass the media and deter it from accurate reporting, and in more malicious cases such as those of sexual assault, they have been deployed against survivors forcing them to defend themselves. Articles in this section highlight the fact that defamation laws have been used to pursue SLAPPs (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) which accentuate pre-existing gendered power imbalances.
The 2021 criminal defamation case against Priya Ramani by M J Akbar is a classic example of a powerful man with greater resources, using the high cost of litigation to intimidate a sexual harassment survivor. A few other cases that have been featured are related to the press. Typically, the press is free to comment on any public figure and is not guilty of defamation unless the defendant proves otherwise. The 2008 defamation case by Justice P B Sawant against the television news channel Times Now; the 2005 defamation case against Mediaah and the 2011 case against The Hoot by the Times group itself, are a few of the cases that articles in this section comment on. While criminal defamation laws have been challenged in court, they have also been upheld as being constitutionally valid. Articles in this section have called for a debate on the defamation law, and an interrogation into the interests of “big business and big media and the state.”
- Defamation Bill: High Political Status | A Correspondent, 1988
- Retrogression and Defamation-The Cost of the Pending Bills | Anil Nauriya, 1988
- Local Bodies Cannot Sue for Libel | A G Noorani, 1992
- Law of Libel in Pakistan | A G Noorani, 2002
- Defamation and Public Advocacy | S P Sathe, 2003
- Judicial Meanderings in Patriarchal Thickets: Litigating Sex Discrimination in India | Kalpana Kannabiran, 2009
- Defamation and Its Real Dangers | EPW Editorial, 2011
- Browbeating Free Speech | Saurav Datta, 2013
- Legalising Defamation of Delinquent Borrowers | Shamba Dey, 2014
- Diminishing Values | Abir Dasgupta, 2017
- The Kejriwal Conundrum | EPW Editorial, 2018
- Centring Women’s Experience | Sneha Visakha, 2021
Freedom of Speech and National Security
Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which defines sedition, was first introduced by the British to suppress dissent and was used to punish speech that incited “disaffection” against the colonial state. Since this law has been repealed in Britain, its existence in India has been a subject of inquiry for many scholars. The existence of this law gives the state an upper hand in determining, often arbitrarily, the answer to the question of what constitutes a threat to the security of the state. Such laws have also been used to criminalise dissent and criticism against the state and have been invoked indiscriminately against activists, journalists and other public figures.
Even students have not been spared. Institutions of higher education are spaces for critical thinking and questioning the current establishment. The manner in which students from Jawaharlal Nehru University, University of Hyderabad and other institutions were dealt with for holding views different from the popular right-wing understanding, has set an undesirable precedent. Considerable restrictions were placed on the Kashmiri media after the abrogation of Article 370 in 2020, and it was argued that these restrictions were in “national interest.” Even though the rationale of these laws is to protect the sovereignty, integrity, and security of the state, these laws can restrict citizens from expressing their dissent with the ruling government. The existence and scope of sedition laws have been a subject of debate. Thus, articles in this section explore the notion of a university, nationhood, freedom of speech, targeted attack on dissent and the recent clampdown on media in Kashmir.
- Maps and Freedom of Speech | A G Noorani, 1989
- Censoring Behind the Barricade | A G Noorani, 1993
- Silencing Dissenting Voices | Harish Dhawan and Nagraj Adve, 2008
- Contempt of Justice | EPW Editorial, 2011
- 'Disaffection' and the Law: The Chilling Effect of Sedition Laws in India | Siddharth Narrain, 2011
- How Democracy 'Uses' a Colonial Law | Moushumi Basu and Deepika Tandon, 2016
- Where is this Self-Proclaimed Nationalism Coming From? | Kanhaiya Kumar, 2016
- Targeting Institutions of Higher Education | Romila Thapar, 2016
- There Are No Wholesale Answers | Adfer Rashid Shah, 2016
- Freedom of Speech in the University | Partha Chatterjee, 2016
- The University and Its Outside | Udaya Kumar, 2016
- University and the Nation | Manash Bhattacharjee, 2016
- The Court Fails the Citizen | EPW Editorials, 2016
- University as Battleground | EPW Editorial, 2017
- 'Seditious' Struggle for Rights? | Deba Ranjan, 2017
- Free Speech, Nationalism & Sedition | A P Shah, 2017
- Sedition Cross-examined | Ankita Pandey, 2019
- Silence in the Valley: Kashmiri Media After the Abrogation of Article 370 | Laxmi Murthy and Geeta Seshu, 2019
- Kashmir Media Policy: Accentuating the Curbs on the Freedom of Press | Geeta Seshu, 2020
- Sedition in India: Colonial Legacy, Misuse and Effect on Free Speech | EPW Engage, 2021
Freedom of Speech and Right to Information
Under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, information previously inaccessible such as government records and data is made available to the public. With some exceptions, the RTI Act aims to facilitate not only the dissemination of information to the public but also encourage transparency and accountability in governance. Only an informed citizenry can meaningfully exercise its rights of voting and organising. Thus, the right to free speech goes hand in hand with the right to information.
The Supreme Court has held that the right to information is an integral part of freedom of expression. This right was codified in 2005 after a hard-fought grassroots battle for nine years, but attempts have been made to dilute it. Further, RTI activists in states including Gujarat have been exposed to violence due to inadequate protection. These violent attacks not only increase the cost of information but also hinder the effective functioning of the RTI Act. In recent years, the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill of 2019 has been critiqued by various scholars for undermining the authority of the chief information commissioner and information commissioners.
The articles under this section focus on how this law came into being from the bill on freedom of information, the purview of the act, the revolutionary access to information it provided, the threat it faces from various amendments, and the challenges in implementation.
- The Press Council s Bill on Right to Information | A G Noorani, 1996
- Right to Information | Madhav Godbole, 2000
- Goa: Perils of Knowing | Frederick Noronha, 2001
- Right to Information on Candidates | Samuel Paul, 2002
- Maharashtra: Quiet Burial of Right to Information | S S Wagle, 2003
- Right to Information: Slow Progress | EPW Editorials, 2004
- Right to Information and the Road to Heaven | Oulac Niranjan, 2005
- Power to the People | EPW Editorials, 2005
- Right to Information Act: Loopholes and Road Ahead | O P Kejriwal, 2006
- Right to Information: An Amendment Too Soon | EPW Editorials, 2006
- Public Authority and the RTI | Prabodh Saxena, 2009
- Efficacy of RTI Act | Prem Singh Dahiya, 2009
- Murder of RTI Activist | Ajit Bhattacharjea et al, 2010
- Death of RTI Activist | NCPRI and UFRTI, 2010
- The Right to Know | EPW Editorials, 2009
- High Cost of Information | EPW Editorial, 2010
- WikiLeaks, the New Information Cultures and Digital Parrhesia | Pramod K Nayar, 2010
- Running Down a Positive Law | EPW Editorial, 2012
- Investigating Compliance of the RTI Act | Pankaj K P Shreyaskar, 2013
- Attempts to Erode RTI Mechanism | N Sai Vinod, 2014
- Known Unknowns of RTI | Pankaj K P Shreyaskar, 2014
- Death by Neglect | EPW Editorial, 2015
- Revisiting 11 Years of RTI | Rajvir S Dhaka, 2016
- One Decade of the RTI Act | Alok Prasanna Kumar, 2017
- Right to Privacy and RTI Act | Madabhushi Sridhar, 2017
- Contestations of the RTI Act | Pankaj K P Shreyaskar, 2017
- The Struggle of RTI Activists in Gujarat | Christophe Jaffrelot and Basim-U-Nissa, 2018
- Downgrading the Status of Chief Information Commissioner | M Sridhar Acharyulu, 2018
- Despite Free and Fair Elections, Our Idea of the Republic Is at Risk | Vidya Venkat, 2019
- Amended RTI vs Participatory Democracy | EPW Editorial, 2019
- Amendment to the RTI | Satark Nagrik Sangathan, 2019
- The True Dangers of the RTI (Amendment) Bill | Alok Prasanna Kumar, 2019
Freedom of Speech and Press Freedom
The right to freedom of speech and expression is considered indispensable for nearly every other form of freedom. There is no specific provision in the Constitution guaranteeing press freedom because freedom of the press is included under the wider purview of freedom of speech and expression, which are a part of Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. However, restrictions on this freedom are often a way for the ruling establishment to suppress dissent.
Articles also discuss the importance of freedom of speech and the need for a free press in India. The murder of Gauri Lankesh at her home in broad daylight exposed the consequences of dissent that journalists face even today. Violent physical assault, as well as the murder of journalists investigating contentious issues, a need to protect reporter’s privilege and source confidentiality under the freedom of press, the employment conditions of journalists and free speech in a digital world, are some of the themes that articles in this section explore. The precarious contractual employment of journalists inhibits them from reporting against the official stand of the management of the media house. Thus, challenges to freedom of press by non-state actors such as media conglomerates, the ownership patterns of media companies and the information that is circulated are also discussed. The issue of “paid news” and how to place regulatory checks on such news has also been discussed in the pages of EPW.
- Liberating the Press | Nireekshak, 1971
- Will the Press Be Free | Nireekshak, 1971
- Freeing the Free Press | Pran Chopra, 1971
- Towards a Free Press | Pran Chopra, 1979
- Power of Expunction and Press Censorship | A G Noorani, 1981
- Assaults on Journalists and Powers of Magistrates | A G Noorani, 1986
- Censorship through Guns | 1988
- Press Freedom and Legal Remedies | A G Noorani, 1990
- Freedom of Press as an Institution | A G Noorani, 1991
- Can a Source Sue a Journalist | A G Noorani, 1992
- Journalists Rights | A G Noorani, 1997
- Beyond the Market, Freedom Matters | K G Kumar, 2001
- Narendra Modi's Directive to the Press | A G Noorani, 2002
- Opening a Window, Just | Krishna Kumar, 2002
- The Constitution and Journalists? Sources | A G Noorani, 2006
- Manufacturing 'News' | Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, 2011
- Stung by the Sting | EPW Editorial, 2012
- Free Speech in the Digital World under Threat? | Kirsty Hughes, 2012
- Quashing Dissent: Where National Security and Commercial Media Converge | Sukumar Muralidharan, 2013
- Curbing Media Monopolies | Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, 2013
- Who Does the Media Serve in Odisha? | Sudhir Pattnaik, 2014
- What Future for the Media in India? | Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, 2014
- Killing the Messengers | EPW Editorial, 2015
- Questions on the Technologies of Fascism | Santhosh S, 2016
- Concentration of Media Ownership and the Imagination of Free Speech | Smarika Kumar, 2016
- Media and Modi | Kingshuk Nag, 2016
- ‘Malicious and Unjust’ — Powerful Media Houses vs Journalists | Samrat, 2017
- Gauri Lankesh’s murder was not the first: To make it the last, the time to turn fearless is now | Nandana Reddy, 2017
- Why Gauri Lives On | EPW Editorial, 2017
- Mapping the Power of Major Media Companies in India | Anuradha Bhattacharjee and Anushi Agrawal, 2018
- Newsgatherers’ Privilege to Source Protection | Sohini Chatterjee, 2018
- Selling the Fourth Estate: How Free is Indian Media? | EPW Engage, 2018
- Media in the Time of COVID-19 | Bhupen Singh, 2020
- TRPs or Truth? | Ahmed Raza, 2020
- Free Speech and Media Freedom in Corporate India | Arani Basu, 2020
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Do Indians Have Freedom of Speech?
The right to freedom of speech and expression in India is not absolute. Article 19 of India’s constitution guarantees the right "to freedom of speech and expression." However, the constitution also allows the government to limit freedom of expression "in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence."
There are also several sections of the penal code that criminalize certain speech. Section 153A, for example, criminalizes "promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise." Section 292 criminalizes obscenity. Section 295A criminalizes "deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class" of citizens. Section 298 criminalizes "uttering any word or making any sound" with "the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person."
The Indian government has used these laws to ban books, such as Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses , and movies, such as India’s Daughter , a 2015 documentary film made by Leslee Udwin for the BBC on the 2012 gang rape of a Delhi college student. In 2014, RSS member and self- appointed cultural vigilante Dina Nath Batra forced Penguin India to withdraw University of Chicago scholar Wendy Doniger’s book The Hindus: An Alternative History , and to agree to pulp all copies in its possession, by bringing a series of civil and criminal actions against the book on the basis that it violated Section 295a.
Charges of sedition have recently multiplied in India as a way to curb free speech and to intimidate government critics.
Then there is sedition. In an effort to quash rebellion, the British made sedition a crime in India in 1860. And so it remains. Section 124 of the Indian Penal Code states: "Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India shall be punished with imprisonment for life." India’s Supreme Court has limited sedition to speech that is "incitement to imminent lawless action." Few have been convicted of sedition, but it suffices to bring the charge against someone to unleash a legal process that can take years before the individual is, as is usually the case, acquitted.
Charges of sedition have recently multiplied in India as a way to curb free speech and to intimidate government critics. India’s Crime Records Bureau recorded 47 cases of alleged sedition in nine Indian states in 2014. A folk singer, students cheering at a cricket game, and the author Arundhati Roy are just some who have been charged with sedition. In February 2016, Kanhaiya Kumar, the leader of the student union of Jawaharlal Nehru University, was charged with sedition under politicized circumstances we will discuss in the next section. The case kicked up a media storm and attracted worldwide attention. India’s Supreme Court ordered Kumar released on bail.
Censorship also comes in the form of physical intimidation. In January 2015, celebrated Tamil author Perumal Murugan posted on his Facebook page: "Perumal Murugan, the writer, is dead." Murugan declared literary suicide after being hounded by local chapters of right-wing Hindu groups affiliated with the BJP and the RSS that found passages in his novel One Part Woman offensive. After copies of his book were burnt by an angry mob and he’d received threatening phone calls, Murugan met with local authorities and agreed to apologize and withdraw copies of his book from sale.
Powerful Indian corporations, which do not hesitate to sue authors, journalists, or activists for defamation, backed up with claims for damages no author, publishing house, newspaper, or nonprofit group can afford to pay.
In July 2016, the Madras High Court delivered a decision in defense of the author and of free speech in general. Chief Justice Sanjay Kaul wrote in the court’s decision: "One of the most cherished rights under our Constitution is to speak one’s mind and write what one thinks." He told the book’s detractors: "If you do not like the book, throw it away." It was a stinging rebuke to self-appointed censors of the Hindu right.
The charge of defamation is also used to silence free speech. Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code criminalize defamation in terms so broad anyone can claim to be aggrieved by something said or written about them. This includes powerful Indian corporations, which do not hesitate to sue authors, journalists, or activists for defamation, backed up with claims for damages no author, publishing house, newspaper, or nonprofit group can afford to pay. In addition to the threat of colossal punitive damages, filing a defamation suit against someone is a sure way to tie the person up with legal fees and court proceedings, potentially for years.
According to the Index on Censorship, in 2014, seven legal notices of defamation were served in India: five to media companies, including publishing houses; one to a marketing federation; and one to journalists Subir Ghosh,
What about freedom of the press in India?
India’s media has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of powerful, family-owned corporations. High-profile journalists whose views do not toe the new line have been pushed out or quit their jobs. Self-censorship by journalists is a growing problem. Those who do speak out regularly face harassment and threats. Reporters Without Borders ranked India in 133rd place out of 180 countries in its 2016 World Press Freedom Index.
India has become a dangerous place to be a journalist. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sounded the alarm in February 2016 after two journalists, one working for the BBC, were forced to flee the Indian state of Chhattisgarh after threats to their lives, and lawyers for imprisoned journalists were evicted from their offices. Chhattisgarh is in the grip of a violent confrontation between security forces, mafia gangs, and Maoist insurgents, and journalists trying to report on what is going on find themselves targeted on all fronts. CPJ said it had documented a pattern of police in Chhattisgarh harassing, abusing, and threatening journalists to silence their reporting, while Maoists had attacked journalists they accused of being police informants.
Reporters Without Borders documented nine journalists killed in India in 2015, five while doing their job.
And then there are the journalists who are killed for doing their job. Reporters Without Borders documented nine journalists killed in India in 2015, five while doing their job. "Their deaths confirm India’s position as Asia’s deadliest country for media personnel, ahead of both Pakistan and Afghanistan." In May 2017, two journalists were shot dead in eastern India in a single 24-hour period. Shock waves rippled through India’s press in August 2017 when senior journalist Gauri Lankesh was shot dead in front of her home in Bengaluru by a gunman who sped away on a motorcycle. Defiant in her critical reporting on the Hindu right, her death eerily recalled the murder in 2014, previously mentioned, of rationalist Malleshappa Kalburgi.
From India in the 21st Century: What Everyone Needs to Know by Mira Kamdar. Copyright © 2018 by OUP and published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.
A former Paris-based editorial board member of The New York Times , Mira Kamdar is a Pacific Council member and an award-winning author. This is her third book on India.
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Pacific Council.
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Freedom of Speech and Expression in Indian Law
Info: 3016 words (12 pages) Essay Published: 1st Sep 2021
Jurisdiction / Tag(s): Indian law
Speech is God’s gift to mankind. Through speech a human being conveys his thoughts, sentiments and feeling to others. Freedom of speech and expression is thus a natural right, which a human being acquires on birth. It is, therefore, a basic right. “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek and receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” proclaims the Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (1948). The people of India declared in the Preamble of the Constitution, which they gave unto themselves their resolve to secure to all the citizens liberty of thought and expression. This resolve is reflected in Article 19(1) (a) which is one of the Articles found in Part III of the Constitution, which enumerates the Fundamental Rights.
Man as rational being desires to do many things, but in a civil society 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.
Meaning And Scope
Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution says that all citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression. 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, such as gesture, signs, and the like. This expression connotes also publication and thus the freedom of press is included in this category. Free propagation of ideas is the necessary objective and this may be done on the platform or through the press. This propagation of ideas is secured by freedom of circulation. Liberty of circulation is essential to that freedom as the liberty of publication. Indeed, without circulation the publication would be of little value. The freedom of speech and expression includes liberty to propagate not one’s views only. It also includes the right to propagate or publish the views of other people; otherwise this freedom would not include the freedom of press.
Freedom of expression has four broad special purposes to serve:
1) It helps an individual to attain self-fulfillment.
2) It assists in the discovery of truth.
3) It strengthens the capacity of an individual in participating in decision-making.
4) It provides a mechanism by which it would be possible to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change.
5) All members of society would be able to form their own beliefs and communicate them freely to others
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. It is on account of this special interest which society has in the freedom of speech and expression that the approach of the Government should be more cautious while levying taxes on matters of concerning newspaper industry than while levying taxes on other matters.
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. 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.
Freedom to air one’s view is the lifeline of any democratic institution and any attempt to stifle, suffocate or gag this right would sound a death knell to democracy and would help usher in autocracy or dictatorship. The modern communication mediums advance public interest by informing the public of the events and development that have taken place and thereby educating the voters, a role considered significant for the vivacious functioning of a democracy. Therefore, in any setup more so in a democratic setup like ours, broadcasting of news and views for popular consumption is a must and any attempt to deny the same must be frowned upon unless it falls within the mischief of Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
The various communication channels are great spreaders of news and views and make considerable impact on the minds of readers and viewers and our known to mould public opinion on vitals issues of national importance. The freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of circulation and propagation of ideas and therefore the right extends to the citizen to use the media to answer the criticism leveled against the views propagated by him. Every free citizen has undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases. This freedom must, however, be exercised with circumspection and care must be taken not to trench on the rights of other citizens or to jeopardise public interest.
New Dimensions Of Freedom Of Speech And Expression
Government has no monopoly on electronic media: The Supreme Court widened the scope and extent of the right to freedom of speech and expression and held that the government has no monopoly on electronic media and a citizen has under Art. 19(1)(a) a right to telecast and broadcast to the viewers/listeners through electronic media television and radio any important event. The government can impose restrictions on such a right only on grounds specified in clause (2) of Art. 19 and not on any other ground. A citizen has fundamental right to use the best means of imparting and receiving communication and as such have an access to telecasting for the purpose.
Commercial Advertisements: The court held that commercial speech (advertisement) is a part of the freedom of speech and expression. The court however made it clear that the government could regulate the commercial advertisements, which are deceptive, unfair, misleading and untruthful. Examined from another angle the Court said that the public at large has a right to receive the “Commercial Speech”. Art. 19(1)(a) of the constitution not only guaranteed freedom of speech and expression, it also protects the right of an individual to listen, read, and receive the said speech.
Telephone Tapping: Invasion on right to privacy : Telephone tapping violates Art. 19(1)(a) unless it comes within grounds of restriction under Art. 19(2). Under the guidelines laid down by the Court, the Home Secretary of the center and state governments can only issue an order for telephone tapping. The order is subject to review by a higher power review committee and the period for telephone tapping cannot exceed two months unless approved by the review authority.
Freedom Of Press
The fundamental right of the freedom of press implicit in the right the freedom of speech and expression, is essential for the political liberty and proper functioning of democracy. The Indian Press Commission says that “Democracy can thrive not only under the vigilant eye of legislature, but also under the care and guidance of public opinion and the press is par excellence, the vehicle through which opinion can become articulate.” Unlike the American Constitution, Art. 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution does not expressly mention the liberty of the press but it has been held that liberty of the press is included in the freedom of speech and expression. The editor of a press for the manager is merely exercising the right of the expression, and therefore, no special mention is necessary of the freedom of the press. Freedom of press is the heart of social and political intercourse. It is the primary duty of the courts to uphold the freedom of press and invalidate all laws or administrative actions, which interfere with it contrary to the constitutional mandate.
Right to Information
The right to know, ‘receive and 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. One can conclude that ‘right to information is nothing but one small limb of right of speech and expression.
Grounds of Restrictions
Clause (2) of Article 19 contains the grounds on which restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression can be imposed-
1) Security of State: Under Article 19(2) reasonable restrictions can be imposed on freedom of speech and expression in the interest of security of State. The term “security of 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: 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 jeopardise the maintainance of good relations between India, and that state. 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.
It is to be noted 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.
3) 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.”
Public order is something more than ordinary maintenance of law and order. ‘Public order’ is synonymous with public peace, safety and tranquility. The test for determining whether an act affects law and order or public order is to see whether the act leads to the disturbances of the current of life of the community so as to amount to a disturbance of the public order or whether it affects merely an individual being the tranquility of the society undisturbed.
Anything that disturbs public tranquility or public peace disturbs public order. Thus communal disturbances and strikes promoted with the sole object of acausing 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. In its external aspect ‘public safety’ means protection of the country from foreign aggression. Under public order the State would be entitled to prevent propaganda for a state of war with India.
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.
4) Decency or morality: 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.
5) Contempt of Court: 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 the Section 2 ‘Contempt of court’ may be either ‘civil contempt’ or ‘criminal contempt.’
6) Defamation: 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 in relating to defamation is still uncodified in India and subject to certain exceptions.
7) Incitement to an offence: 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 offence. The word ‘offence’ is defined as any act or omission made punishable by law for the time being in force.
8) Sedition: As understood by English law, sedition embraces all those practices whether by words, or writing which are calculated to disturb the tranquility of the State and lead ignorant person to subvert the government. It should be noted that the sedition is not mentioned in clause (2) of Art. 19 as one of the grounds on which restrictions on freedom of speech and expression may be imposed.
From this article it can be easily concluded that right to freedom of speech and expression is one of the most important fundamental right. It includes circulating one’s views by words or 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. Thus this fundamental right has a vast scope.
From the above case law analysis it is evident that the Court has 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). Efforts by intolerant authorities to curb or suffocate this freedom have always been firmly repelled, more so when public authorities have betrayed autocratic tendencies.
It can also be comprehended that public order holds a lot of significance as a ground of restriction on this fundamental right. But there should be reasonable and proper nexus or relationship between the restriction and achievement of public order. The words ‘in the interest of public order’ include not only utterances as are directly intended to lead to disorder but also those that have the tendency to lead to disorder.
In the case of Brij Bhushan v. State of Delhi (AIR 1950 SC 129), the validity of censorship previous to the publication of an English Weekly of Delhi, the Organiser was questioned. The court struck down the Section 7 of the East Punjab Safety Act, 1949, which directed the editor and publisher of a newspaper “to submit for scrutiny, in duplicate, before the publication, till the further orders , all communal matters all the matters and news and views about Pakistan, including photographs, and cartoons”, on the ground that it was a restriction on the liberty of the press. Similarly, prohibiting newspaper from publishing its own views or views of correspondents about a topic has been held to be a serious encroachment on the freedom of speech and expression.
In India, the press has not been able to exercise its freedom to express the popular views. In Sakal Papers Ltd. v. Union of India,] the Daily Newspapers (Price and Page) Order, 1960, which fixed the number of pages and size which a newspaper could publish at a price was held to be violative of freedom of press and not a reasonable restriction under the Article 19(2). Similarly, in Bennett Coleman and Co. v. Union of India, the validity of the Newsprint Control Order, which fixed the maximum number of pages, was struck down by the Court holding it to be violative of provision of Article 19(1)(a) and not to be reasonable restriction under Article 19(2). The Court struck down the plea of the Government that it would help small newspapers to grow.
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Essay on Freedom of Speech in English Free PDF download
- Essay on Freedom of Speech in ...
Download Important English Essay on the Topic - Freedom of Speech Free PDF from Vedantu
One of the fundamental rights of the citizens of India is ‘Freedom of Speech’. This is allowed to the citizens by a lot of countries to empower the citizens to share their own thoughts and views. This freedom of speech essay is for students of class 5 and above. The language used in this essay is plain and simple for a better understanding of the students. This freedom of speech essay example will help the students write a paragraph on freedom of speech in their own words easily.
Long Essay on Freedom of Speech
The phrase “Freedom of Speech” has been misinterpreted by some individuals who either do not actually understand the meaning of the phrase completely or have a totally different agenda in mind altogether. Every democratic country gives its citizens this freedom. The same is guaranteed by the Constitution of India too. Irrespective of your gender, religion, caste, or creed, you are guaranteed that freedom as an Indian. The values of democracy in a country are defined by this guaranteed fundamental freedom. The freedom to practice any religion, the freedom to express opinions and disagreeing viewpoints without hurting the sentiments or causing violence is what India is essentially made up of.
Indians stand out for their secularism and for spreading democratic values across the world. Thus, to save and celebrate democracy, enforcing freedom of speech in India becomes a necessity. Freedom of speech is not only about the fundamental rights, it’s also a fundamental duty to be done by every citizen rightfully so as to save the essence of democracy.
In developed democracies like the US, UK, Germany or France, we see a “freedom of speech” that is different from what we see in authoritarian countries like China, Malaysia or Syria and failed democratic countries like Pakistan or Rwanda. These governance systems failed because they lacked freedom of speech. Freedom of press gives us a yardstick to gauge the freedom of speech in a country. A healthy, liberal and strong democracy is reflected by a strong media presence in a country, since they are supposed to be the voice of the common people. A democracy that has a stomach for criticisms and disagreements is taken in a positive way.
Some governments get very hostile when faced with any form of criticism and so they try to oppress any voices that might stand against them. This becomes a dangerous model of governance for any country. For example, India has more than hundred and thirty crores of population now and we can be sure that every individual will not have the same thought process and same views and opinions about one thing. A true democracy is made by the difference of opinions and the respect people have for each other in the team that is responsible for making the policies.
Before making a choice, all aspects and angles of the topic should be taken into consideration. A good democracy will involve all the people - supporters and critics alike, before formulating a policy, but a bad one will sideline its critics, and force authoritarian and unilateral policies upon all of the citizens.
Sedition law, a British-era law, was a weapon that was used in India to stifle criticism and curb freedom of speech during the pre-independence era. Through section 124A of Indian Penal Code, the law states that if a person with his words, written or spoken, brings hatred, contempt or excites tension towards a government or an individual can be fined or jailed or fined and jailed both. This law was used by the Britishers to stifle the freedom fighters. Today it is being used by the political parties to silence criticism and as a result is harming the democratic values of the nation.
Many laws in India also protect the people in rightfully exercising their freedom of expression but the implementation of these laws is proving to be a challenge. Freedom of speech cannot be absolute. In the name of freedom of speech, hatred, tensions, bigotry and violence too cannot be caused in the society. It will then become ironically wrong to allow freedom of speech in the first place. Freedom of speech and expression should not become the reason for chaos and anarchy in a nation. Freedom of speech was stifled when article 370 got revoked in Kashmir. Not that the government was trying to go against the democratic values, but they had to prevent the spread of fake news, terrorism or any type of communal tensions in those areas.
Short Essay on Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech allows the people of our country to express themselves, and share their ideas, views and opinions openly. As a result, the public and the media can comment on any political activity and also express their dissent towards anything they think is not appropriate.
Various other countries too provide freedom of speech to their citizens but they have certain limitations. Different countries have different restrictions on their freedom of speech. Some countries also do not allow this fundamental right at all and the best example being North Korea. There, the media or the public are not allowed to speak against the government. It becomes a punishable offence to criticize the government or the ministers or the political parties.
Key Highlights of the Essay - Freedom of Speech
Every democratic country gives its citizens the Freedom of Speech so as to enable the citizens to freely express their individual views, ideas and concerns. The freedom to be able to practice any religion, to be able to express individual secularism and for spreading democratic values across the world. In order to be able to save and to celebrate democracy, enforcing freedom of speech in India Is essential. Freedom of speech about fundamental rights is also a fundamental duty of citizens in order to save the essence of democracy. In a country, a healthy, liberal and strong democracy is always reflected and can be seen through a strong media presence, as the media are the voice of the common people. When faced with any form of criticism, we see some governments get very hostile, and they try to oppress and stop any kind of voices that might go against them. This is not favorable for any country.
A good democracy involves all the people - all their various supporters and critics alike, before they begin formulating any policies. India had the Sedition law, a British-era law that is used to stifle criticism and curb freedom of speech during the pre-independence era. The section 124A of Indian Penal Code, this law of sedition stated that if a person with his words, written or spoken, brings hatred, contempt or excites tension towards a government or an individual, then he can be fined or jailed or both. Using freedom of speech, people spread hatred, unnecessary tensions, bigotry and some amount of violence too in the society. Ironically in such cases, it will be wrong to allow freedom of speech. The reasons for chaos and anarchy in a nation should not be due to Freedom of speech and expression. This law was stifled when article 370 got revoked in Kashmir, in order to prevent the spread of fake news, terrorism or any type of communal tensions in those areas.
Freedom of speech gives people of our country, the freedom to express themselves, to be able to share their ideas, views and opinions openly, where the public and the media can express and comment on any political activities and can also be able to express their dissent towards anything they think is not appropriate. Different countries have different restrictions on their freedom of speech. And it is not proper to comment on that .In Fact, there are some countries which does not allow this fundamental right , for example, North Korea where neither the media nor the public have any right to speak against or even for the government and it is a punishable offense to openly criticize the government or the or anyone in particular.
While freedom of speech lets the society grow it could have certain negative outcomes. It should not be used to disrespect or instigate others. The media too should not misuse it. We, the people of this nation, should act responsibly towards utilizing its freedom of speech and expression. Lucky we are to be citizens of India. It’s a nation that respects all its citizens and gives them the rights needed for their development and growth.
A fundamental right of every citizen of India, the ‘Freedom of Speech’ allows citizens to share their individual thoughts and views.
FAQs on Essay on Freedom of Speech in English Free PDF download
1. Mention five lines for Freedom of Speech Essay?
i) A fundamental right that is guaranteed to citizens of a country to be able to express their opinions and points of view without any kind of censorship.
ii) A democracy’s health depends on the extent of freedom of expression of all its citizens.
iii) Freedom of speech is never absolute in nature.
iv) New Zealand, USA or UK rank high in terms of freedom of speech by its citizens.
v) A fundamental right in the Indian constitution is the Freedom of Speech and Expression.
2. Explain Freedom of Speech?
A fundamental right of every citizen of India, Freedom Of Speech allows every citizen the freedom and the right to express all their views, concerns, ideas and issues relating to anything about their country. Freedom of Speech is never actual in nature and has its limits too. It cannot be used for any kind of illegal purposes.The health of a democracy depends on the extent of freedom of expression of its citizens.
3. What happens when there is no Freedom of Speech?
A country will become a police and military state with no democratic and humanitarian values in it if there is no freedom of speech. Freedom of Speech is a fundamental right for all citizens, and a failure to not being able to express one’s ideas, beliefs, and thoughts will result in a non authoritarian and non democratic country. Failure to have freedom of speech in a country would mean that the rulers or the governments of those countries have no respect for its citizens.
4. Where can we get study material related to essay writing ?
It is important to practice some of the important questions in order to do well. Vedantu.com offers these important questions along with answers that have been formulated in a well structured, well researched, and easy to understand manner. Various essay writing topics, letter writing samples, comprehension passages are all available at the online portals today. Practicing and studying with the help of these enable the students to measure their level of proficiency, and also allows them to understand the difficult questions with ease.
You can avail all the well-researched and good quality chapters, sample papers, syllabus on various topics from the website of Vedantu and its mobile application available on the play store.
5. Why should students choose Vedantu for an essay on the topic 'Freedom of Speech’?
Essay writing is important for students as it helps them increase their brain and vocabulary power. Today it is important to be able to practice some important topics, samples and questions to be able to score well in the exams. Vedantu.com offers these important questions along with answers that have been formulated in a well structured, well researched, and easy to understand manner. The NCERT and other study material along with their explanations are very easily accessible from Vedantu.com and can be downloaded too. Practicing with the help of these questions along with the solutions enables the students to measure their level of proficiency, and also allows them to understand the difficult questions with ease.
6. What is Freedom of Speech?
Freedom of speech is the ability to express our opinions without any fear.
7. Which country allows the highest level of Freedom of Speech to its citizens?
The USA is at the highest with a score of 5.73.
8. Is Freedom of Speech absolute?
No, freedom of speech cannot be absolute. It has limitations.
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Freedom of Press in India Blogs Home
- 11 Jun 2022
"Pen is mightier than a sword."
Last month, World Press Freedom Day was celebrated on May 3 rd which acts as a reminder for all governments to respect the rights of media and press institutions around the world. It also substitutes as a day for all media bodies to reflect on the restrictions imposed and on the progress of accepting media freedom among different platforms.
What do you mean by freedom of the press?
Freedom of press or media refers to the rights given by the Constitution of India under the freedom and expression of speech in Article 19(1)(a). It encourages independent journalism and promotes democracy by letting the people voice their opinions for or against the government’s actions.
Article 19 was brought to light after the Romesh Thappar vs State of Madras case highlighted the importance of media being the fundamental basis of all democratic organizations. However, it recognised the ‘public safety and public order’ under Article 9 (1-A) and dismissed the case.
Venkataramiah J. of the Supreme Court of India in Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) (P) Ltd. v. Union of India has stated: “In today’s free world, freedom of the 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 on 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.”
Freedom of press and media is widely recognised in India. It does have reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2) to protect the safety of the people of the nation.
At the heart of the declaration in Article 19 it states, “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
What are the rights of the media?
Freedom of the Press is nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. It is believed to be covered under Freedom of Speech and Expression. Hence, the rights of a common citizen are the same as the rights of a media or press house.
The media has certain rights to challenge the government and showcase the issues gaining rapid attention by the people through various media sources and houses. Some rights are:
- Defamation and free press
- Freedom of speech and expression
- Right to publish and circulate
- Right to receive information
- Right to conduct interviews
- Right to report court proceedings
- Right to advertise
However, there are certain restrictions in Article 19(2) to protect the nation and its integrity. The restrictions can be imposed in case of threats against:
- Sovereignty and integrity of India
- Security of the State
- Friendly relations with foreign states
- Public order, decency or morality
- Contempt of court
- Incitement to an offence
Why is freedom of the press important in India?
- Free exchange of ideas: The press inspires people to think beyond the social norms and gives a platform to exchange ideas and thoughts that deserve to be heard by people all around the nation.
- Holding the person or body accountable for their actions: Often, people try to cover up their actions and settle a case without bringing the media into it. The press brings to light such situations and makes sure that justice is served correctly with the backing of the common people.
- Voice of the people: The press acts as a channel which writes and speaks the thoughts of the majority of people. It focuses on the issues that are suppressed and brings forward the ones that should be talked about.
- Fourth pillar of democracy: Since the media is an independent body that challenges the Government, it can be referred to as the fourth pillar of democracy alongside the judiciary, legislative and executive bodies of the Government.
What is the current state of the press?
Although there has been some progress from the time when ‘freedom of the media’ can be estimated, the situation today is not very good. There have been lots of cases of hate crimes, false accusations, trials due to wrongful portrayal, fake news, etc., in the recent years.
Let’s take a look at the following:
- Fake News: We have all fallen victim to fake news which is so widely circulated that we believe it to be the truth.
- Paid News: Due to journalism and news-reporting being a low-paying job, some professionals often publish false news in exchange of a payment.
- Biased Media: High-paying criminals and politicians often pay media companies to cover ‘good’ and charitable moments of themselves. This leaves the audience biased, especially when it comes to elections.
- Crimes against journalists
As of 2021, 6 journalists have been killed because of their work. India is among the top 4 countries with the most number of deaths on record. Whether it is on job or off the job, they have been targeted and attacked due to their work.
Over the course of the last five years (2017-2021), 138 cases of assault and attacks against journalists were recorded. In Uttar Pradesh alone, 12 were killed, 48 were attacked and 66 were booked under various charges and cases.
Several cases of crimes have surfaced over the years. Some of the most prominent cases have been listed here.
Daniel Pearl was an American Jew who was working in Mumbai, India as the South Asia Bureau Chief of The Wall Street Journal . He went to Pakistan to investigate the links between British citizen Richard Reid (i.e. shoe bomber) and Qaedat-al Jihad. He was abducted on January 23, 2002, and was found dead on February 1, 2002. His body, however, was discovered only on May 16, 2002.
A video was released by the captors called “The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl.” In this video, Pearl identified himself and later in the video, his throat was slit and his head severed. The video ends with the captors demanding that all Muslim prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay are released immediately or beheadings like these will keep happening “again and again”.
Subhash Kumar Mahto
On May 20, 2022, Subhash Kumar Mahto was returning from a family dinner in a small Bihar district when he was shot in the head by four men who fled the scene.
Saurabh Kumar, a stringer at a national channel and general secretary of Begusarai District Journalists Association, told The Wire , “In the election of a ward member, Mahto had supported a candidate and that candidate won. Apart from this, he was continuously reporting against the liquor mafia as well as the sand mafias. These can be the reasons behind his murder.”
On September 5, 2017, journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh, the editor of a weekly Kannada tabloid Gauri Lankesh Patrike , was shot dead in front of her residence in south Bengaluru. The then Congress government in Karnataka had constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to investigate the murder.
The SIT has stated in the court proceeding that Gauri Lankesh was targeted for vehemently opposing Hindutva in her writings and speeches. SIT in the charge sheet submitted by them had named 18 people as accused in the murder. Yet, the case has not yet come to a conclusion.
Journalism is a hard job and those who make it are constantly in fear of losing their lives or getting harmed. We don’t make it any easier for them with the lack of laws protecting journalists especially. The Government and other bodies are trying to curb hate crimes and protect the lives of journalists by making stricter laws and executing a penalty as and when necessary. Moreover, they are trying to reduce the spread of fake news and misinformation.
We can only hope that in times to come, necessary steps will be taken as we await a world where freedom of the press has lesser curbs and that rules for better protection of journalists are readily introduced in the country.
- Freedom of Press - Article 19(1)(a) . (n.d.). Www.legalservicesindia.com. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1847/Freedom-of-Press---Article-19(1)(a).html#:~:text=In%20India%2C%20freedom%20of%20press
- Freedom of Press - Indian Constitution . (n.d.). Www.legalserviceindia.com. Retrieved May 3, 2022, from https://www.legalserviceindia.com/article/l448-Freedom-of-Press.html
- History of Journalism . (2018, June 27). Editors Guild of India. https://editorsguild.in/history-of-journalism/
- IPI-Admin. (2021, December 7). The state of media freedom in India. International Press Institute. https://ipi.media/the-state-of-media-freedom-in-india/
- Mugundhan, B., & Renuga, C. (2018). A STUDY ON FREEDOM OF PRESS IN INDIA: WITH REFERENCE TO ARTICLE 19 INTRODUCTION. International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics, 120(5), 3957–3973. https://acadpubl.eu/hub/2018-120-5/4/329.pdf
- Romesh Thappar vs The State Of Madras. (n.d.). Global Freedom of Expression. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/cases/thappar-v-madras/#:~:text=Case%20Summary%20and%20Outcome&text=Romesh%20Thappar%20filed%20a%20petition
- What are the Rights of Press in India? (n.d.). Nyaaya. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from https://nyaaya.org/blog/what-are-the-rights-of-press-in-india/
- Freedom of Media. (n.d.). Drishti IAS. Retrieved May 4, 2022, from https://www.drishtiias.com/daily-news-analysis/freedom-of-media-1
- Bureau, N. P. (2022, February 12). Reality of “crime free” UP: 12 journalists were killed, 48 attacked, 66 booked under various cases in Yogi Raj . National Herald. https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/india/reality-of-crime-free-up-12-journalists-were-killed-48-attacked-66-booked-under-various-cases-in-yogi-raj
- Daniel Pearl: An Open Case. (n.d.). Committee to Protect Journalists. https://cpj.org/reports/2006/05/pearl-da/
- Indian journalist Subhash Kumar Mahto shot dead in Bihar state. (2022, May 23). Committee to Protect Journalists. https://cpj.org/2022/05/indian-journalist-subhash-kumar-mahto-shot-dead-in-bihar-state/
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Freedom of Speech - Article 19(1)(a)
The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression to all citizens. It is enshrined in Article 19(1)(a). This topic is frequently seen in the news and is hence, very important for the IAS Exam . In this article, you can read all about Article 19(1)(a) and its provisions.
According to Article 19(1)(a): All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.
- This implies that all citizens have the right to express their views and opinions freely.
- This includes not only words of mouth, but also a speech by way of writings, pictures, movies, banners, etc.
- The right to speech also includes the right not to speak.
- The Supreme Court of India has held that participation in sports is an expression of one’s self and hence, is a form of freedom of speech.
- In 2004, the SC held that hoisting the national flag is also a form of this freedom.
- Freedom of the press is an inferred freedom under this Article.
- This right also includes the right to access information because this right is meaningless when others are prevented from knowing/listening. It is according to this interpretation that the Right to Information (RTI) is a fundamental right.
- The SC has also ruled that freedom of speech is an inalienable right adjunct to the right to life (Article 21). These two rights are not separate but related.
- Restrictions on the freedom of speech of any citizen may be placed as much by an action of the state as by its inaction. This means that the failure of the State to guarantee this freedom to all classes of citizens will be a violation of their fundamental rights.
- The right to freedom of speech and expression also includes the right to communicate, print and advertise information.
- This right also includes commercial as well as artistic speech and expression.
You can read all about Fundamental Rights at the linked article.
Importance of Freedom of Speech and Expression
A basic element of a functional democracy is to allow all citizens to participate in the political and social processes of the country. There is ample freedom of speech, thought and expression in all forms (verbal, written, broadcast, etc.) in a healthy democracy.
Freedom of speech is guaranteed not only by the Indian Constitution but also by international statutes such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (declared on 10th December 1948) , the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, etc.
- This is important because democracy works well only if the people have the right to express their opinions about the government and criticise it if needed.
- The voice of the people must be heard and their grievances are satisfied.
- Not just in the political sphere, even in other spheres like social, cultural and economic, the people must have their voices heard in a true democracy.
- In the absence of the above freedoms, democracy is threatened. The government will become all-too-powerful and start serving the interests of a few rather than the general public.
- Heavy clampdown on the right to free speech and free press will create a fear-factor under which people would endure tyranny silently. In such a scenario, people would feel stifled and would rather suffer than express their opinions.
- Freedom of the press is also an important factor in the freedom of speech and expression.
- The second Chief Justice of India, M Patanjali Sastri has observed, “Freedom of Speech and of the Press lay 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.”
- In the Indian context, the significance of this freedom can be understood from the fact that the Preamble itself ensures to all citizens the liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship.
- Liberal democracies, especially in the West, have a very wide interpretation of the freedom of speech and expression. There is plenty of leeways for people to express dissent freely.
- However, most countries (including liberal democracies) have some sort of censorship in place, most of which are related to defamation, hate speech, etc.
- The idea behind censorship is generally to prevent law and order issues in the country.
To know more in detail about the Constitution of India , visit the linked article
The Need to Protect Freedom of Speech
There are four justifications for freedom of speech. They are:
- For the discovery of truth by open discussion.
- It is an aspect of self-fulfilment and development.
- To express beliefs and political attitudes.
- To actively participate in a democracy.
Restriction on Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech is not absolute. Article 19(2) imposes restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression. The reasons for such restrictions are in the interests of:
- Sovereignty and integrity of the country
- Friendly relations with foreign countries
- Public order
- Decency or morality
- Hate speech
- Contempt of court
The Constitution provides people with the freedom of expression without fear of reprisal, but it must be used with caution, and responsibly.
Freedom of Speech on Social Media
The High Court of Tripura has held that posting on social media was virtually the same as a fundamental right applicable to all citizens, including government employees. It also asserted that government servants are entitled to hold and express their political beliefs, subject to the restrictions laid under the Tripura Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1988.
In another significant judgment, the HC of Tripura ordered the police to refrain from prosecuting the activist who was arrested over a social media post where he criticized an online campaign in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), 2019 and warned people against it. The High Court held that these orders are in line with the very essence of the Indian Constitution.
The Supreme Court of India had asked the Law Commission to make recommendations to the Parliament to empower the Election Commission to restrict the problem of “hate speeches” irrespective of, whenever made. But the Law Commission recommended that several factors need to be taken into account before restricting a speech, such as the context of the speech, the status of the maker of the speech, the status of the victim and the potential of the speech to create discriminatory and disruptive circumstances.
Freedom of Speech in Art
In relation to art, the court has 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.”
There are restrictions in what can be shown in cinemas and this is governed by the Cinematograph Act, 1952. You can read more about this and the Censor Board in India here.
Safeguards for Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(2)
The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression to all its citizens, however, these freedom are not absolute because Article 19 (2) of the constitution provides a safeguard to this freedom under which reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the exercise of this right for certain purposes. Safeguards outlined are discussed below-
Article 19(2) of the Indian constitution allows the state to make laws that restrict freedom of speech and expression so long as they impose any restriction on the –
- The state’s Security such as rebellion, waging war against the State, insurrection and not ordinary breaches of public order and public safety.
- Interest id Integrity and Sovereignty of India – this was added by the 16 th constitutional amendment act under the tense situation prevailing in different parts of the country. Its objective is to give appropriate powers to impose restrictions against those individuals or organizations who want to make secession from India or disintegration of India as political purposes for fighting elections.
- Contempt of court: Restriction can be imposed if the speech and expression exceed the reasonable and fair limit and amounts to contempt of court.
- Friendly relations with foreign states: It was added by the First Amendment Act, 1951 to prohibit unrestrained malicious propaganda against a foreign-friendly state. This is because it may jeopardize the maintenance of good relations between India and that state.
- Defamation or incitement to an offense: A statement, which injures the reputation of a man, amounts to defamation. Defamation consists in exposing a man to hatred, ridicule, or contempt. The civil law in relating to defamation is still uncodified in India and subject to certain exceptions.
- Decency or Morality – Article 19(2) inserts decency or morality as grounds for restricting the freedom of speech and expression. Sections 292 to 294 of the Indian Penal Code gives instances of restrictions on this freedom in the interest of decency or morality. The sections do not permit the sale or distribution or exhibition of obscene words, etc. in public places. However, the words decency or morality is very subjective and there is no strict definition for them. Also, it varies with time and place.
Need of these Safeguards of Freedom of Speech & Expression
- In order to safeguard state security and its sovereignty as a speech can be used against the state as a tool to spread hatred.
- To strike a social balance. Freedom is more purposeful if it is coupled with responsibility.
- Certain prior restrictions are necessary to meet the collective interest of society.
- To protect others’ rights. Any speech can harm a large group of people and their rights, hence reasonable restrictions must be imposed so that others right is not hindered by the acts od one man.
Right to Information
As mentioned before, the right to information is a fundamental right under Article 19(1). The right to receive information has been inferred from the right to free speech. However, the RTI has not been extended to the Official Secrets Act. For more on the RTI, click here .
Freedom of Speech – Indian Polity:- Download PDF Here
UPSC Questions related to Freedom of Speech
Yes, freedom of speech is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a).
Article 19 of the Constitution guaranteed the right to freedom. Read more here .
The 7 fundamental rights are:
- Right to equality
- Right to freedom
- Right against exploitation
- Right to freedom of religion
- Cultural and educational rights
- Right to constitutional remedies
On what grounds can the State limit Freedom of Speech?
The state can limit Freedom of Speech on the following grounds
- Friendly Relations with Foreign Countries
- National Security
- Integrity and Unity of the State
You can know more about the topics asked in the exam by visiting the UPSC Syllabus page. Also, refer to the links given below for more articles.
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Argumentative essay on freedom of speech in India
India, being a democratic country provides in the Constitution freedom of speech and expression. But we must remember that every right has a corresponding responsibility and no right is absolute.
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In India an upright press is a great power, which influences public opinion. It helps a lot in bringing people together and in educating the people. It is therefore necessary that the press functions as a tool of awareness by providing correct, unbiased and impartial news. Therefore, it should not be lopsided or distorted. It acts as a link between the people and the government. The press must convey to the concerned authorities the grievances of the people. It should perform its duty in exact manner. So it must praise where it is due- and must condemn what needs to be condemned.
The press should be free and forthright because these are the characteristics of the press which provide credibility to it and should try to reflect the true public opinion.
It is often seen that people do complain that the press is partial, inimical and at time unpatriotic. They feel that the editorials are not objective and impartial, but coloured and motivated. Common man feels that no body listens to his grievances and he is ignored. Sometimes these accusations are right, but sometimes they do not have any ground. Therefore these accusations and complaints are not the true indications of the character of Indian Press.
Press in India has a very high tradition. Bal Gangadhar Tilak roused the wave of nationalism in the country during British rule through Kesari and Maratha, when writing against the English was considered treason. At the same time Gandhiji introduced Harijan, which brought about unprecedented awakening in the masses. These newspapers were fair objective and impartial and they refused to be blackmailed. But there are some people who have come down to a lower level for money and have lost their reputation.
By and large Indian Press is free to write anything. It has not hesitated to criticize or express even the highest personality. It has exposed a number of fraud and scandals connected with important persons. One can come across such dedicated persons who are in the profession of journalism and write with courage and have a national interest in their job. But at the same time some papers are controlled and managed by certain people who are interested in counting their money bags. But these papers are biased and never present before us the true news and opinion.
As-far-as the laws of the land are concerned, the press in India has full freedom in comparison to any other country. Even the policy of advertisement and newsprint quota allocation has not succeeded in twisting the arms of the press.
As we all know that authority and responsibility go hand-in-hand. If press is given some freedom it has to perform some duties also. These are in the field of national security, unity and integrity of nation, social peace and harmony, decency, individual privacy and good foreign relations. Without self-discipline and moral code of conduct the freedom of press will degenerate into license. The press has an important role to play and it should play its role without any curb on its freedom.
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Essay on Freedom of Speech | Freedom of Speech Essay for Students and Children in English
February 24, 2023 by Prasanna
Essay on Freedom of Speech: The term “freedom of speech” has been taken out of context and given various form of interpretation by people who either don’t understand the term completely or have an agenda in mind. This is a fundamental freedom that every democratic country guarantees its citizens. In this particular freedom of speech essay, we are going to articulate the term and decipher its meaning and provide a well rounded and informative essay on freedom of speech in India and what it means in other countries with different forms of the governance model.
You can read more Essay Writing about articles, events, people, sports, technology many more.
Long and Short Essays on Freedom of Speech for students and Kids in English
If you are searching for informative and well-articulated freedom of speech essay, then you have come to the right place. We have provided two different essays with a 600-word limit and another one with a 200-word limit. Both of the freedom of speech essay mentioned below covers the topic well and can be used by students of class 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 for a school project, assignment, essay writing, class test and examination.
Long Essay on Freedom of Speech 600 Words in English
The constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech to every Indian irrespective of gender, caste, creed or religion. This is a fundamental freedom guaranteed that defines the values of democracy ina country. The freedom to practice religion, the freedom to express love and affection, the freedom to express our opinions and dissenting views without hurting sentiments and causing violence is an essential part of what India is made up of.
India and Indians are known for their secular fabric and for uploading democratic values in the world. Hence, it becomes necessary to enforce freedom of speech in India to save and celebrate our democracy. Freedom of speech is not just about our fundamental rights, it is, in fact, a fundamental duty that every citizen should rightfully do in order to save the essence of our democracy.
The kind of freedom of speech you find in matured democratic countries like UK or USA or France or Germany is not seen in authoritarian governments like Malayasia or China or Syria and in failed democracies Pakisthan or Rwanda. In fact, these are failed governance systems because of the lack of freedom of speech in their countries. The freedom of speech in a country can aptly be measured by the freedom of the press. A strong media reflects a strong, liberal and a healthy democracy with an appetite to take criticisms and dissent in a positive manner.
Certain governments are very hostile towards any form of dissent of criticism coming towards them and they try to stifle the voices that might be against them. This is a dangerous precedent for a country. For example, in India, there are more than 130 crore people and we can rest assured that not every person will have the same line of thinking and the same opinion on a topic. The difference of opinions and respect we have for each other in a policy-making body is what makes a true democracy.
All sides and angles of the topic should be considered before making an informed choice. A good democracy will involve all the stakeholders before formulating policy but a bad one will blindside its critics and takes unilateral and authoritarian policies and force them down the throat of their citizens.
One of the biggest examples of curbing freedom of speech in India is the stifling of criticism by using a draconian and Britsh-era law called as sedition law. The sedition law, through section 124A of Indian Penal Code, says that if a person by words either by written or spoken brings hatred, contempt or excites tension towards a government or a person can be fined or jailed or both. This law is never used in its spirit. British used to use this law to silence the freedom fighters of India and now the ruling parties of India use this to stifle the dissenters and in turn, is harming the democratic values of the country.
Also, there are various laws that protect the people of India in rightly fully exercising their freedom of expression. But while the laws stay, its the implementation of these laws that are proving to be a big challenge for the authorities.
At the same time, freedom of speech and expression can’t be absolute. People cant cause violence, hatred, bigotry and tensions in the society in the name of freedom of speech. This will ironically harm the very reason why freedom of speech is allowed in the first place. Freedom of speech should not lead to anarchy and chaos in a country. When article 370 was abrogated in Kashmir, freedom of speech was stifled, not because the government wanted to stifle democratic values but to prevent the spread of fake news, put a curb on terrorism and any sorts of preventing communal tensions in the area.
Short Essay on Freedom of speech essay 200 Words in English
Freedom of speech is the gold standard to measure the health of democracy in any country. The standard of living and the happiness index in a country is based on the extent to which freedom of expression is practiced. Healthy democracies like the USA or France or the UK guarantees great amounts of freedom of expression to their people. Some of the worst counties to fare in terms of freedom of expression are those of authoritarian regimes, dictatorships or failed democracies like Pakistan, China, North Korea, Egypt or Syria.
But at the same time, there are many instances where freedom of speech leads in creating hatred and spread bigotry amongst communities and provoke people to resort to violence. Taking advantage of the freedom of speech has, in many cases, lead to communal riots in India such as the 2020 Delhi riots or the 2002 Godhra riots.
Governments around the world should maintain a balance between freedom of speech and maintaining law and order. To protect freedom of speech we can’t compromise on the law and order of a state and in the same way in order to maintain law and order we should not curtail the freedom of speech of the people. A central point should be found where both can co-exist.
10 lines on Freedom of Speech Essay in English
- The fundamental right guaranteed to citizens to express their opinions and dissenting point of view without censorship and fear of anyone is the essence of freedom of speech.
- The health of a democracy depends on the extent of freedom of expression of its citizens.
- Right to freedom of expression is a fundamental right in the Indian constitution.
- Countries like New Zealand, USA or UK fare high in terms of freedom of speech of its citizens.
- Authoritarian and non-democratic regimes like Syria, North Korea, China or Pakistan fare low in terms of the freedom of expression of its people.
- Countries like India have been trying to find a balance between maintaining law and order and guaranteeing freedom of speech to its people.
- No freedom of speech is absolute in nature.
- Freedom of speech has limits and can’t be used for illegal purposes like threat, violence, hatred and anarchy in the society.
- Free and fair media is the ultimate test for a country’s freedom of speech.
- Freedom of speech and law and order in the country should co-exist without curtailing each other.
FAQs on Freedom of Speech Essay
Question 1. What is freedom of speech?
Answer: The ability to voice our opinions in public without fear of backlash from anyone.
Question 2. Which country guarantees the highest amount of freedom of speech to its people?
Answer: the USA fared high on the freedom of speech score with 5,73.
Question 3. Is freedom of speech absolute?
Answer: No, freedom of speech is not absolute and has its limitation.
Question 4. What happens if there is no freedom of speech?
Answer: If there is no freedom of speech, a country will become a police and military state with no democratic and humanitarian values in it
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[In-depth] Right to Free Speech in India – Misuse and Reasonable Restrictions
From Current Affairs Notes for UPSC » Editorials & In-depths » This topic
Freedom of speech and expression and hate speech have become synonymous in India. The recent controversy that took place at the Haridwar religious assembly where few speakers advocated genocide against Muslims and the use of the Bulli Bai app to defame Muslim women are the best examples. Such incidents not only hurt those who are the targets of this hatred but also highlight how the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed in the Indian Constitution is misused in our country. The question now arises whether this right is absolute and if not, what makes it susceptible to misuse?
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- The concept of the right to free speech was established as a constitutional right in England’s Bill of Rights in 1689.
- In 1789, The Declaration of Man’s and Citizen’s Rights was adopted by the French Revolution reinforcing the idea of the right to free speech and expression by calling it the ” most precious rights of man. “
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) adopted in 1948 also recognised freedom of speech and expression as a human right and stated that everyone has the right to freely express their thoughts and opinions.
- During the freedom struggle in India, the suppression of basic rights of speech and expression by the British made the Indians seek such rights for themselves that reached a culminating point with the insertion of the right to freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right in the Indian Constitution (adopted on 26th November 1949).
Right to free speech and the Indian Constitution
- Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India states that “all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”. The philosophy behind this Article (fundamental right) lies in the Preamble of the Constitution, where it seeks to secure to all its citizens, liberty of thought and expression.
- The Article grants the citizens the right to express one’s 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, such as gesture, signs, and the like.
- Freedom of Press (grants freedom of publication, freedom of circulation and freedom against pre-censorship).
- Freedom of Commercial Speech (commercial advertisement or commercial speech).
- Right to Broadcast.
- Right to information .
- Right to criticize.
- Right to expression beyond national boundaries.
- Right not to speak or right to silence.
- India is a democratic country and thus it calls for active participation of all the citizens in the decision-making process. To allow all the citizens to participate in the process, there needs to be a guaranteed right that people can exercise to express their opinion and conviction. Thus, freedom of speech has a major role to play in the smooth functioning of the Indian democracy.
- Freedom of speech allows dialogue and debate thus helping in the detection of truth. It also allows citizens to deliberate on various issues thus assisting in reaching a common ground and avoiding confrontations.
- Freedom of speech also allows one to achieve self-fulfilment and grow in various aspects of life. It helps an individual in self-development. If one is restricted from expressing oneself, it may hamper one’s complete personality development and growth that may further hinder the growth of the nation as a whole.
Is the right absolute?
- Although the right is crucial for the wholesome development of an individual and a nation yet the Constitution of India does not make it absolute.
- The State has been authorized by the Constitution of India to impose “reasonable restrictions” for certain purposes under Article 19(2).
- Security of state refers to serious and aggravated forms of public disorder, e.g., rebellion, waging war against the state [entire state or part of the state], insurrection etc.
- The Constitution of India has the provision of reasonable restrictions that can be imposed on the freedom of speech and expression, in the interest of the security of the State.
- The Constitution of India empowers the State to impose reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression if it hampers the friendly relations of India with other State or States.
- The expression ‘public order’ stands for the public peace, safety and tranquillity.
- Anything that disturbs public peace disturbs public order and thus the State is empowered to impose reasonable restrictions to maintain public order.
- The Constitution of India limits the use of the right to freedom of speech on the grounds of decency and morality.
- The State is empowered to impose reasonable restrictions when the sale, distribution or exhibition of obscene words is carried out.
- The term contempt of court refers to civil contempt or criminal contempt under Section 2 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. In general, it refers to a legal violation committed by an individual who disobeys a judge or a judgement or otherwise disrupts the legal process in the courtroom.
- The fundamental right to freedom of speech does not allow any person or entity to carry out such acts that may be considered as contempt of court.
- The right to free speech is not absolute and thus nobody is allowed to hurt the reputation of other fellow citizens.
- Clause (2) of Article 19 prevents any person from making any statement that defames the reputation of another.
- The Constitution of India also prohibits a person from making any statement that incites people to commit an offence.
- The Constitution of India prohibits a person from making statements that challenge the integrity and sovereignty of India.
How is it misused?
- Although the right to free speech comes as a right with “reasonable restrictions” yet many citizens of India consider this right as absolute and sacrosanct.
- The concept of the right to free speech as being a non-negotiable necessity among the citizens of India results in hate speech against other fellow communities.
- Hate speech is often directed towards minorities and vulnerable sections of society.
- Such hate speeches eventually lead to clashes and hostility between different groups and communities in our country.
- Several secessionist groups and anti-state elements use this right as a free pass to spread their rebellious ideas among people and cause disruption and interference in the existing state of affairs and normal functioning of the nation.
- Fake news has no accepted definition. However, it refers to such information that may be perceived as news that has been deliberately fabricated and is disseminated to deceive others or spread falsehood.
- In recent times, fake news has become a regular affair in India. The main target of fake news creators and spreaders are minorities (spread false news implicating them in violent activities) and particular individuals (spreading false news to tarnish their credibility and reputation).
- On the contrary, fake news is spread about public personalities and their supposed heroics to increase their standing and influence political outcomes.
- Such sensational and polarising fake news contents often lead to communal and social tensions, serious harm to individuals (lynching) and mistrust among people.
- In the era of developing thoughts and new culture, it is rather difficult to identify and classify any content as obscene or indecent. However, several entities in India are using the right to free speech as an instrument to spread obscenity.
- Social media is full of such content where indecent words, language and gestures have become a trend.
- These not only spread immorality in society but also negatively influence children and youth.
Misuse of the concept of “reasonable restrictions”
Governments at various levels in India have been trying to prevent the misuse of the right to free speech to prevent social disharmony and unrest. However, in the garb of doing so, the governments tend to misuse the concept of “reasonable restrictions”. This can be noticed in the following acts:
- Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code considers it an offence to speak, write or indicate by signs or visually represent anything that attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in [India].
- Although this law was enacted in 1860, under the British Raj, to prevent any offences against the State, it was reimposed by the Government of India through the First Amendment in 1951 and also strengthened by adding two expressions – “friendly relations with foreign state” and “public order” – as grounds for imposing “reasonable restrictions” on free speech.
- The law was supposed to be used rarely. However, governments from time to time have misused it to suppress political rivals, dissent and free speech.
- As per the National Crime Records Bureau, there has been a drastic rise in the cases of sedition in India from 47 in 2014 to 93 in 2019, around 163 per cent jump.
- This shows how the law is being widely used in recent times.
- News media and social media are major tools of free speech nowadays. They are also very powerful tools for disseminating information in society. They have become important platforms for voicing public opinions as well.
- However, there has been an increasing curtailment of the people’s right to free speech on what to express online, with the curtailment being at times highly selective.
- The Government in the guise of maintaining public morality and order often tries to censor such content that tends to convey and spread dissent against it.
- Internet ban has become a new weapon to curtail the right to free speech.
- Governments in the name of maintaining public order are misusing it exclusively to counter dissent.
- India is considered to be a ‘partly free nation’ in terms of Internet access and usage.
- India has the most cases of Internet shutdowns excluding the shutdowns in Jammu and Kashmir.
- As per recent data, there have been 455 shutdowns since 2012 out of which 134 shutdowns happened in 2018, 106 in 2019, and 77 in 2020.
- The bans not only harm common people but also the educational system and administration that eventually hinder people’s accessibility to basic facilities.
There is a need for striking balance between ‘too much of freedom’ and ‘too little of freedom’. This can be done by doing away with ambiguities present in these provisions (right to free speech and “reasonable restrictions”). Judiciary can play a leading role in doing so. It will not only help India to secure to its citizens the liberty of thought and expression but also hinder the State from carrying out the arbitrary use of “reasonable restrictions”. Maintaining a perfect balance will go a long way and help India reach the much-revered goals of the Indian Constitution.
Q. Are “reasonable restrictions” on the Fundamental Rights in India justified? Comment.
- https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/contempt-court.asp#:~:text=Contempt%20of%20court%20is%20a,civil%2C%20and%20direct%20versus%20indirect .
- https://www.advocateshah.com/blog/freedom-of-speech-and-expression-need-to-protect-it/#:~:text=Freedom%20of%20speech%20is%20there,taking%20part%20in%20decision%2Dmaking .
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Revisiting the Free Speech Debates in the First Amendment to the Indian Constitution
SIDDHARTH NARRAIN takes a closer look at the historical circumstances that led to changes to Article 19(2) in the First Amendment of the Indian Constitution.
T HE Constitution (First Amendment Act), 1951 remains one of the most deeply contested changes to the Indian Constitution. The First Amendment was debated over 16 days and brought about barely 16 months after the Indian Constitution was adopted.
The amendment was unique in that it was made by the Provisional Parliament, members of who had just finished drafting the Constitution as part of the Constitutional Assembly.
As part of the transition to Indian independence, the Constituent Assembly had also functioned as the Dominion Parliament. Once the Constitution was adopted in 1950, the Constituent Assembly was dissolved, and the Dominion Parliament, with the same members, was renamed the Provisional Parliament.
The First Amendment to the Indian Constitution was made by the Interim Government dominated by Congress Party members and led by the Interim Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Since these amendments took place less than a year before the first Parliamentary elections, there were no formal Opposition parties involved in the debate.
Public order, incitement to an offence and friendly relations with a foreign State
Of the changes that were made, the most controversial were those pertaining to the limitations on the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Indian Constitution. These changes were guaranteed under Art. 19(1)(a) subject to a list of restrictions provided in Art. 19(2).
The changes to Art. 19(2) that were proposed by the Interim Government led by the acting Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru added limitations to the freedom of speech and expression based on ‘public order’, ‘incitement to an offence’ and ‘friendly relations with a foreign State’. These changes have been variously criticised for narrowing individual liberties and laying the ground for arbitrary State action restricting free speech in contemporary India, defended as being responsive to the political context of the time.
The immediate reason for the amendments were a series of Supreme Court and High Court judgments that had struck down provisions of public safety laws, press related laws and criminal provisions that were deemed to be incompatible with the constitutional right to freedom of speech.
The members who opposed the Bill were members representing various political hues – socialists, Hindu right wing, and representatives of minority groups.
Members of the Provisional Parliament from across the political spectrum were especially concerned that the amendments would reinstate the controversial s. 124A (sedition) and s. 153A (promoting enmity between groups) of the Indian Penal Code, that were used by British colonial authorities to try Indian nationalists with sedition and would revive the model of public safety laws that the British used effectively to control dissent during colonial rule.
Those opposing the amendments were also deeply concerned that introducing the public order exception to free speech would grant wide and arbitrary powers to the executive that could be used to stifle all political opposition.
Members of the interim Congress government portrayed crowds as a threat to the stability and viability of the post-independent Indian state and the instability of the political situation both in India and globally.
Nehru tied the changes that were being made, especially the one related to public order, as a response to the Partition related communal violence, and the Communist Party of India supported left wing armed peasant insurrection in Telangana.
This was not the first time that these references were made. In the Parliamentary Debate on the free speech related aspects of the First Amendment, the then Interim Prime Minister Nehru, stressed on both the armed peasant Telangana insurrection supported by the Communist Party of India, and Partition related violence as justifications for the executive to be given explicit and wider police powers to limit speech.
For those opposing the amendments, the Partition-riots and armed insurrection in Telangana were not representative of the situation in India as a whole. S. P. Mookerjee who had been affiliated to the Hindu Mahasabha and was a prominent critic of Partition argued that crowds represented a legitimate democratic impulse and that Telangana and Partition related riots in Calcutta were exceptions rather than the norm.
Mookerjee argued these situations, could have been dealt with by the government through its existing Emergency powers and powers of preventive detention and did not need a restriction of the free speech clause that was framed so broadly.
Food riots and public order
Mookerjee and others opposing the First Amendment in the Provisional Parliament repeatedly focused on the Cooch-Behar food riots and deaths by police firing in relation to a compulsory food levy Rajasthan.
They also pointed to reports of a police lathi charge on weavers demanding yarn in the Saidapet area of Madras.
In their interventions in the parliamentary debates on the First Amendment, those opposing the amendment linked these riots to being a consequence of policies of the Interim government that had led to, or were inadequate in tackling shortages in food, clothing, and housing that the country faced at the time.
In Cooch-Behar, the police had fired on a crowd that has rioted as a result of a crisis of acute food shortage. These food riots were a legacy of acute shortage of food in the 1940s post the Bengal Famine and the colonial British polices of the Second World War. The Interim government, faced stiff opposition to continuing existing policies on the rationing and control of food.
Food riots broke out on the eve of Indian independence food policy. A Committee set up to examine this issue, and which was dominated by Indian industrialists, recommended that food grain controls be removed and that the free market would solve the problem.
Gandhi supported this measure arguing that India’s food shortage problem would be solved with the removal of government controls.
The Interim Government’s decision to remove rationing and control schemes despite a poor harvest and a massive deficit of food grains led to massive labour unrest and prices soaring by 250 per cent. The government was forced to reverse its decision after what was described as one of the most disastrous and costly experiments in Independent India’s short history.
Popular unrest and the question of institutional legitimacy
This aspect of the context of the First Amendment Debates has been missing in the existing literature on the First Amendment. Understanding the socio-economic aspects and compulsions of the unrest in the country at the time of independence will add to our understanding of this particular historical moment.
While the compulsions and ideological leanings of the newly independent Indian state may have been very different, there are still important lessons to be learnt from the questions and contestations that arose around this issue at the time. The question of popular unrest expressed through protests at this time is linked to the question of institutional legitimacy that was discussed during the debate on the First Amendment.
One of the arguments that members opposing the speech-related changes in the First Amendment made was that the Interim Government should have waited until the first election before amending the Constitution.
Those opposing the First Amendment questioned the moral and legal legitimacy of an amendments by a non-elected body so soon after the Constitution was discussed and framed. Nehru responded to this arguing that the Provisional Parliament had a moral legitimacy to amend the Constitution since the membership of the Constituent Assembly and the Provisional Parliament was the same.
Nehru also argued that Parliament represented the will of the people, and that the actions that the Interim Government was taking was on behalf of future generations of Indians. While Nehru framed the argument for the speech-related changes in the First Amendment as one of trusting the Parliament as a legitimate voice of the people, members opposing these changes, reframed the question of the Interim Government not trusting the wisdom of the people to navigate existing political conditions.
Those opposing the free speech related changes to the First Amendment asked the Interim Government to reflect on their fear “of people running amuck”, and to address the reasons for popular unrest, rather than respond with coercion.
The First Amendment debates, although conducted in a very different political context, remain relevant today, as democracy in India navigates choppy waters. Death in judicial custody of Stan Swamy, and the recent revelations around the misuse of the Pegasus surveillance spyware against Opposition leaders, lawyers, and human rights defenders, highlights why institutional safeguards for freedom of speech must be protected and strengthened.
Revisiting the First Amendment debates, 74 years after independence, could be one step in this direction.
(Siddharth Narrain is a PhD Candidate, Faculty of Law and Justice, University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. Views expressed are personal.)
- The most recent work on the First Amendment is Tripurdaman Singh’s book Sixteen Stormy Days , which is a reference to the time over which the amendment was debated. Tripurdaman Singh , Sixteen Stormy Days: The Story of the First Amendment to the Constitution of India (Vintage, Penguin Random House India, 2020), (Singh, Sixteen Stormy Days ).
- The First Amendment also involved changes related to the right to property in relation to the abolition of zamindari, and affirmative action for backward classes, which I do not discuss here. Nivedita Menon has argued that these changes have to be understood together as representing the impetus towards modernisation and the nation-building project of Indian elites. “Citizenship and the Passive Revolution: Interpreting the First Amendment” (2004) 39 (18) Economic and Political Weekly 1812-19.
- Today these provisions read: Art. 19: Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech etc : (1) All citizens shall have the right (a) to freedom of speech and expression; (2) Nothing in sub clause (a) of 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 clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence
- See for example, P. K. Tripathi, ‘India’s Experiment in Freedom of Speech: The First Amendment and Thereafter’ in P.K. Tripathi, Spotlights on Constitutional Interpretation (N.M. Tripathi, 1972) 255-90, 57-8 reprinted from 18 S.C.J. 106 (1955), Singh, Sixteen Stormy Days (n 1), Pratap Bhanu Mehta, “The Crooked Lives of Free Speech” OpenTheMagazine.com, 29 January 2015, < https://openthemagazine.com/ voices/the-crooked-lives-of- free-speech/ >.
- Arudra Burra, ‘Freedom of Speech in the Early Constitution: A Study of the Constitution (First Amendment) Bill’ in Udit Bhatia (ed) The Indian Constituent Assembly: Deliberations on Democracy (Routledge, 2018), (Burra, ‘Freedom of Speech in the Early Constitution’).
- See for example, Thakurdas Bhargava, Parliamentary Debates, 16 May, column 8875
- See for example, Kameshwar Prasad, Parliamentary Debates, 16 May 1951, column 8876
- Jawaharlal Nehru, Parliamentary Debates, 16 May 1951, columns 8829-30.
- Jawaharlal Nehru, Parliamentary Debates, 29 May 1951, column 9628.
- S.P. Mookerjee, Parliamentary Debates, 16 May 1951, column 8844, Saranghdar Das, Parliamentary Debates, 18 May 1951, column 9036.
- Saranghdar Das, Parliamentary Debates, 18 May 1951, column 9036.
- H.V. Kamath, Parliamentary Debates, 17 May 1951, column 8922.
- Benjamin Robert Siegel, Hungry Nation: Food, Famine, and the Making of Modern India (Cambridge University Press, 2018).
- Ibid 127-128
- Sovani, Post War Inflation in India : A Survey , 54 in Ibid 130.
- Kameshwar Prasad, Parliamentary Debates, 16 May 1951, column 8865.
- Jawaharlal Nehru, Parliamentary Debates, 16 May 1951, column 8825.
- Jawaharlal Nehru, Parliamentary Debates, 31 May 1951, column 9800.
- Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Parliamentary Debates, 16 May, 1951, column 8838, Deshbandhu Gupta, Parliamentary Debates, 17 May 1951, column 8949. The distrust of the maturity of “the people” is also evident in Reverend D Souza’s intervention where he referred to “the vast and uneducated masses that need to be instilled with the authority of government”, Reverend D Souza, Parliamentary Debates, 30 May 1951, column 9693. Similarly, Panjabrao Shamrao Deshmukh, in his intervention, argued for more faith in the motivations of the Interim Government, Parliamentary Debates, 31 May 1951, column 9777.
- Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Parliamentary Debates, 16 May 1951, column 8844.
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- Constitutional law
Freedom of Speech and Expression
This article is written by Amanat Raza , from Faculty of law, Aligarh Muslim University and Riya Sancheti , from D.E.S’s Shri Navalmal Firodia law College, Pune. The article discusses the concept of freedom of speech and expression, its elements and grounds for restriction.
Table of Contents
We have certain basic rights as citizens of India. Fundamental rights are enshrined in the Indian constitution under Part III. These basic rights are fundamental rights that we get right from birth. No single person or state may take away the same from us.
In particular, there are six fundamental rights: the right to equality (Articles 14-18), the right to freedom (Articles 19-22), the right against exploitation (Articles 23 and 24), the right to freedom of religion (Articles 25-28), educational and cultural rights (Articles 29 and 30) and the right to constitutional remedies (Article 32).
We will just take a closer look at Article 19, which deals with six fundamental freedoms. Article 19 is the most significant and important article embodying the ‘basic freedoms’ Article 19(1) of the Constitution, subject to the power of the State to enforce restrictions on the exercise of certain rights, grants those constitutional rights. Thus, the object of the Article was to protect these rights from State interference other than in the lawful exercise of its power to regulate private rights in the public interest.
Origin of freedom of speech and expression
The idea of freedom of speech had originated a long time ago. It was first introduced by the Greeks. They used the term “Parrhesia” which means free speech or to speak frankly . This term first appeared in the fifth-century B.C. Countries such as England and France have taken a lot of time to adopt this freedom as a right. The English Bill of Rights, 1689 adopted freedom of speech as a constitutional right and it is still in effect. Similarly, at the time of the French revolution in 1789, the French had adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of Citizens.
The UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948 under Article 19 which recognised the freedom of speech and expression as one of the human rights.
Freedom of speech and expression in India
John Milton says that “give me the liberty to know, to argue freely, and to utter according to conscience, above all liberties”.
The above sentence by John Milton clearly displays the essence of freedom of speech. He argued that without human freedom there would be no progress in science, law or in any other field. According to him, human freedom means free discussion of opinion and liberty of thought and expression.
Justice Louis Brandies had made a classic statement on the freedom of speech in the context of the U.S Constitution in the case of Whitney v. California 
“ Those who won our independence believed that courage is the secret of liberty and liberty is the secret of happiness. These people believed that freedom to think, freedom to speak and freedom to assemble wilfully for discussion is futile and of no use. But the public discussion is a political duty and it should be the fundamental principle of the government of America.
The importance of this right is that it helps us in attaining self-fulfilment and in discovering the truth. ”
Meaning of freedom of speech and expression
The right to express one’s own ideas, thoughts and opinions freely through writing, printing, picture, gestures, spoken words or any other mode is the essence of freedom of speech and expression. It includes the expression of one’s ideas through visible representations such as gestures, signs and other means of the communicable medium. It also includes the right to propagate one’s views through print media or through any other communication channel.
This implies that freedom of the press is also included in this category. Free propagation of ideas is the necessary objective and this may be done through the press or any other platform. These two freedoms i.e., freedom of speech and freedom of expression have their own respective qualifications.
According to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR ), the freedom to seek, receive, and convey information and all kinds of ideas irrespective of boundaries, either orally or in the form of writing, print, art or through any other media of their choice are included in the right to freedom of speech and expression.
Article 19 (1)(a) of the Indian constitution
In India, the freedom of speech and expression is granted by Article19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, which is available only to the citizens of India and not to foreign nationals. Freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) includes the right to express one’s views through any medium, which can be by way of writing, speaking, gesture or in any other form. It also includes the rights of communication and the right to propagate or publish one’s opinion.
The right that is mentioned above, guaranteed by our constitution, is regarded as one of the most basic elements of a healthy democracy because it allows citizens to participate in the social and political process of a country very actively.
Importance of freedom of speech and expression
It was well said by Cicero, a Roman politician as well as a lawyer that “ The people’s good is the highest law” . The manner in which this can be achieved can be inferred from our constitutional provisions, which demonstrate that if a person raises his/her voice against any evil then everybody will listen to the voice and stand against that evil to scrap it out from its root.
Let us have an example of this: compare the past when women were not allowed to vote with the present day. Now women are allowed to vote. How does this happen? It happens because of the right of free speech and expression. The right to free speech and expression have that power through which it can break any type of giant brick that comes in its way.
Other rights that allow or help Indian society develop and progress are supported by freedom of speech and expression which is also a fundamental human right. Free speech and expression have always been important throughout history as it facilitates many changes, one of which is the French revolution.
Free speech and expression not only includes the right to express what one thinks but it also includes listening to others. When a person expresses his/her opinion, it only carries the intrinsic value of that opinion and being silent on that opinion is an injustice to the basic human rights.
Union of India v Naveen Jindal and Anr. ,
Facts: The respondent Naveen Jindal was not allowed to hoist the national flag at the office premise of his factory by government officials on the ground that it was not permissible under the Flag Code of India.
Judgment: In this case, the high court held that the restrictions that the Flag Code imposed on citizens on hoisting the National Flag were not permissible under clause (2) of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. The court has also stated that displaying a flag is an expression of pride as well as an expression of genuine enthusiasm and it can only be restricted in accordance with what has been prescribed in the Constitution, otherwise, the restriction would discourage the citizens or Indian nationals from identifying with the flag of the country.
Virendra v. The State of Punjab and Anr . 
Facts: Serious communal tension had arisen in the state of Punjab between the Hindus and the Akali Sikhs because of the question of partition of the state on a linguistic and communal basis. There were two petitioners and both were from different newspapers. Their newspapers’ policy was to support the ‘Save Hindi agitation’. A notification was passed by the home ministry office under the impugned Act prohibiting the publication and printing of any material relating to the ‘Save Hindi agitation’. Both the petitioners filed a complaint alleging that the Punjab Special Powers (Press) Act, 1956 passed by the state legislature was unconstitutional.
Judgment: The court held that Section 2 of the impugned Act did not merely impose restrictions but imposed a total prohibition against the exercise of the right of freedom of speech and expression, making the same a violation of the right guaranteed by the Constitutional provision.
Sakal Papers v. Union of India 
Facts: The petitioner was the owner of a private limited company, ‘Sakal’, which published daily and weekly newspapers in Marathi. This newspaper used to play a leading part in the dissemination of news and in moulding public opinion. They claimed that their net circulation of copies in Maharashtra and Karnataka on weekdays was 52,000 and on Sunday it was 56,000. However, the Central Government passed the Newspaper (Price and Page) Act, 1956, later, the Daily Newspapers (Price and Page) Order, 1960. Because of that order, the government fixed the maximum number of pages that could be published by the newspapers. So the petitioner filed a case challenging the constitutionality of that Act.
Judgment: The court held that Section 3(1) of the Act was unconstitutional and also an order made under the same would be unconstitutional.
Elements for the right to freedom of speech and expression
The main elements for the right to freedom of speech and expression are as follows:
- This right is available only to a citizen of India and not to the person of other nationalities i.e., foreign nationals.
- The freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution includes the right to express oneself through any medium, such as in words of writing, printing, gesture, etc.
- This right is not absolute, which means that the government has the right to make laws and to impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, friendly relations with foreign states, the security of the state, public order, decency, morality, defamation and contempt of court and incitement to an offence.
- Such a right ought to be implemented as much by the action of the State as by its inaction. Thus, failure on the part of the State to guarantee the freedom of right and expression to all its citizens would also constitute a violation of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution.
Freedom of press
“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost” is stated by Thomas Jefferson to define the importance of freedom of the press.
To preserve the democratic way of life it is necessary that people should have the freedom to express their feelings and to make their views known to people at large. Freedom of speech includes propagation of one’s views through print media or any other communication channels like radio and television, subject to reasonable restrictions imposed under A rticle 19(2) of the Indian constitution.
Although freedom of the press is not mentioned in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, yet it has been a part of freedom of speech and expression as considered by judges of the Supreme Court through decided cases.
In the leading case of Romesh Thapar v. The State of Madras , it has been decided by the supreme court that freedom of the press is an intrinsic part of freedom of speech and expression.
Why freedom of the press is important in the Indian context?
An American lawyer and free press advocate Trevor Timm have stated that “ An independent press is one of the important pillars of democracy ”. Freedom of the press has always been a barricade against the secret government, against tyranny and against authoritarianism. The press has a very important role in showing the real face of political parties and also any type of incident that has been disguised and cannot be seen by the common people.
It is the press who revealed the income of a kachori wala (in U.P., Aligarh) recently and also showed the face of some dhongi type babas such as Ram Raheem and many others. It is the media who have the power to provoke people against a political party by showing or revealing their truth. It is used to measure the checks and balances in a democracy.
In the case of Indian Express Newspaper v. Union of India , it was held that the press plays an important role in the democracy machinery. The courts have a duty to uphold the freedom of the press and invalidate all laws and administrative actions that would take that freedom.
An important aspect to be noted is that the freedom of the press has been specifically mentioned in the United States Constitution, while it is a mere inference made by courts in the Indian context, which explains the possible variation in the adjudication of disputes relating to this right in both jurisdictions.
What are the elements of freedom of the press?
There are three elements of freedom of the press and these are as follows:
- Freedom of access to all types of source of information
- Publication freedom, and
- Circulation freedom
What is the reason behind the degradation of freedom of the press
In the initial phase of freedom of the press, the views of Jawaharlal Nehru regarding press was that he wanted the press free from all evils and also free from all forms of danger involved in the wrongful use of that freedom. But Indira Gandhi had opposite or conflicting views in respect of Jawaharlal Nehru. She didn’t have much faith in the press and her misgivings were first expressed when she was addressing the International Press Institute Assembly in New Delhi on November 15, 1996, when she blamed the press for giving wide publicity to the student unrest in the country.
The press has slowly been losing its importance in the country. Many politicians take advantage of the press to win an election by giving rise to conflict amongst the people. Many a time, freedom of the press has been suppressed by the legislature. There is a case in respect of that condition, Sakal Paper v.Union of India. , in which, the Daily Newspapers (Price and Page) Order, 1960, fixed the number of pages and the size of the pages which a newspaper could publish. It was held that it violated the freedom of the press and was not a reasonable restriction under Article 19(2).
Freedom of Commercial Speech
The current judicial position of commercial speech in India is that it can be seen as a part of freedom of speech and expression with reasonable restrictions given or guaranteed under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.
Are we having the freedom to advertise?
The freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India has been given to every citizen. Various judicial pronouncements have increased the ambit of freedom of speech and expression. Now it includes:
- Right to acquire and disseminate information.
- The right to communicate through any media, in the form of an advertisement, movie, speech, etc.
- Right to free debate and open discussion.
- Freedom of press.
- Freedom to be informed.
- Right to remain silent.
Thus, it can be seen that we have the right to advertise. In the case of Tata Press Limited v. Mahanagar Telephone Nagar Limited , the Supreme Court held that commercial speech or commercial advertisement was also a part of freedom of speech, which could be restricted only within the limits of Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.
Right to Broadcast
The concept of freedom of speech and expression has evolved to include in its ambit all available means of expression and communication because of the advancements in technology. This includes broadcast media, electronic media and many other types of media.
In the case of Odyssey Communications (P) Ltd. v. Lokvidayan Sanghatana ,  the supreme court held that the right of the citizens to display films on state channels such as Doordarshan came under the purview of fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.
Right to Information
The right to know or to get information is one of the aspects of freedom of speech and expression. Freedom to receive information is also included in the freedom of speech and expression through various supreme court judgments. Right to Information Act, 2005 , which especially talks about the right of the people to ask for information from the government officials.
Rights of voters to know about their candidates
In the case of Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms , it has been held that the amended Electoral Reform Law passed by the Parliament was unconstitutional as it violated the right of the citizens to know under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian constitution.
Right to Criticize
In a monarchy, we know that the king is supreme and people are his subjects. This system of relationship gets reversed in a democratic form of government. The people are supreme and the state authority is a servant of the people. In Kedar Nath Singh v. The State of Bihar , the supreme court held that mere criticism of the government is not sedition unless this criticism leads to incitement of violence or breach of public order. Similarly, there is a case of Manipur, where a journalist named Kishorechand Wangkhem was charged for criticizing the chief minister and charged with the offence of sedition under the National Security Act. However, he was released as the court found that the people of India had the right to criticize under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.
In another case of S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram , it was held that everyone has got the right through the Indian constitution to form his/her opinion on any issue of general concern.
Right to Expression Beyond Boundaries
The advancement in technology or the revolution in communication and electronic media has narrowed the gap of transnational barriers or we can say that it has diminished this barrier. It has made the transmission of information possible, even to other parts of the world within a fraction of second. In Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India , the Supreme Court analysed whether Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution was confined to the Indian territory and finally held that the freedom of speech and expression was not confined to the national boundaries.
Right not to Speak
This right has also been included in freedom of speech and expression. This right came to the notice of people after the judgment in the leading case of Bijoe Emmanuel v. The State of Kerala . This case is also known as the National Anthem case . In this case, three students were expelled by the school authority on refusal to sing the National Anthem.
However, these children stood from their seats in respect, when the national anthem was playing. The validity of the expulsion of children was challenged before the Kerala High Court. The court held that the expulsion of students on the ground that it was their fundamental duty to sing the national anthem was upheld.
However, on a further appeal by the students before the Supreme Court, it held that the students had not committed any offence under the Prevention of Insult to National Honor Act, 1971 . Also, there was no law through which their fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution could be curtailed. And also it was held that expulsion of children from school violated the right of freedom not to speak under Article 19(1)(a).
Some of the important cases relating to the freedom of speech and expression are as follows:
People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India 
This case challenged the validity of Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, which stated that if there occurred any public emergency, or in the interest of public safety, the Central Government or the State Government or any other officials were authorized to take temporary possession of any telegraph, on behalf of the government. Two conditions were observed while dealing with this case:
- The occurrence of public emergency
- In the interest of public safety
For the application of the provisions of Section 5(2), these two conditions were the sine qua non . If any of these two conditions were not present, the government had no right to exercise its powers under the said Section.
Hamdard Dawakhana v. Union of India 
This case challenged the validity of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1956, on the ground of restriction that it took away or abridged this freedom. The Supreme Court held that an advertisement is a form of speech only if every advertisement was held to be dealing with commerce and trade and not for propagating any idea.
A. Abbas v. Union of India 
It is the first case in which the issue of the prior censorship of films came into consideration by the supreme court of India. The petitioner’s film was not given ‘U’ certificate so he challenged the validity of censorship under the criteria as it violated his fundamental rights of freedom of speech and expression. The court, however, held that the motion picture stirs emotions more deeply than any other form of art. Hence pre-censorship was valid and was justified under Article 19(2).
Grounds of restriction
It is necessary to preserve freedom of speech and expression in a democratic country. And it is also necessary to restrict this freedom to maintain social order otherwise some people might misuse this freedom. There are some restrictions imposed through Clause (2) of Article 19 on freedom of speech and expression on certain grounds.
Article 19(2) states that “ nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause ( 1 ) shall affect the operation of the existing law, neither can it prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such type of law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right bestowed by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign states, the security of the State, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence ”.
The ground for restriction is as follows:
Security of the state
Article 19(2) imposes reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression in the interest of the state. The term ‘security of the state’ should be distinguished from ‘public order’ as security of the state includes an aggravated form of public order. For e.g., waging war against the state, rebellion, insurrection, etc. The term ‘security of the state’ in Article 19(2) does not only mean danger to the security of the entire country but it also implies danger to the security of a part of states or threat to a part of states.
Friendly relations with a foreign state
This ground of restriction was added through the Constitutional First Amendment, 1951. The main objective behind adding this provision was to forbid unrestrained vitriolic propaganda against a foreign-friendly state, which could jeopardize the maintenance of good relations between India and that state. If the freedom of speech and expression disturbs or hampers the friendly relations of India with foreign states, the government has the right to impose a reasonable restriction.
This ground of restriction was also added through the Constitutional First Amendment,1951. A situation had arisen in the case of Romesh Thapar by the Supreme Court and to meet that situation, this ground had been added in the constitution. The word ‘public order’ depicts the sense of public safety, public peace, and peace of the community. In Om Prakash v. Emperor , it has been said by the judge that anything that disturbs public peace can be said to disturb public order automatically. There is also a test that determines whether an act affects law and order or public order.
Decency and Morality
The word to express or say something should be a decent one that it should win the heart of the opposite person and it should not affect the morals of the society. So our Constitution has considered this view and added this ground in our Constitution. On the ground of decency and morality, Sections 292 to 294 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides an example of a restriction on the freedom of speech and expression. These are the terms of variable content having no fixed meaning or we can also say that these words are of wide meaning. It varies from society to society and time to time depending upon the morals prevailing in contemporary society. The word morality and decency is not confined to sexual morality only; it has a broader scope.
Contempt of court
In a democratic country, we know that the judiciary plays an important role in governing a country in a peaceful manner so in such types of situation it is important to respect the institution and its order. What hampers the administrative law? How does anything interfere with justice? We know that there is a limitation in a judicial proceeding and anything that curtails its freedom leads to hampering of the administrative law and also anything can interfere with the decision of justice.
Contempt of court can be defined in two categories i.e., civil contempt and criminal contempt. Contempt of court has been defined in section 2(a) of the contempt of court act, 1971. Initially ‘truth’ was not a defence under contempt of court but in 2006 an amendment was made to add ‘truth’ as a defence. In the Indirect Tax Practitioner Assn. v. R.K. Jain  case, the court has held that truth which is based on the facts should be allowed as a valid defence.
Elements or essential needed to established a contempt:
- Making of a valid court order.
- The respondent should have knowledge of that order.
- The respondent should have the ability to render compliance.
- Intentionally or willfully disobey the order.
Article 19(2) prevents any person from making any statement that defames the reputation of another person. One who gets the freedom of any type should not misuse that freedom to hurt or affect the reputation or status of another person. Generally, a statement that injures the reputation of a man results in defamation. The right to free speech is not qualified. So it does not mean to hurt any person’s reputation which is protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Incitement to an offence
This ground was also added by the Constitutional First Amendment act, 1951. It is obvious that freedom of speech and expression does not include the right to incite people to commit an offence. The word ‘offence’ has been described under section 40 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
Any type of offence takes place in two ways:
- By the commission of an act
- By the omission of an act
Sovereignty and Integrity of India
To maintain the sovereignty and integrity of a state is the main duty of a government. This ground has been added by the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963 .
From the above analysis, it can be stated that grounds contained in Article 19(2) show that they are all concerned with national interest or in the interest of the society.
Civil society provides one of the most basic guarantees to citizens i.e., freedom of expression in the context of speech. After concluding we can say that the right to freedom of speech and expression is an important fundamental right, whose scope has been widened to include freedom of the press, right to information which also includes commercial information, right to not speak and right to criticize.
In the modern world, the right to freedom of speech does not include only freedom to express one’s view through words but it has also included several means of communication to express one’s views. The right that we talked about is subject to reasonable restriction under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution.
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- Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927)
- Union Of India vs Naveen Jindal & Anr on 23 January 2004, 2920 of 1996
- Virendra v. The State of Punjab, 1957 AIR 896
- Sakal Papers v. Union of India, 1962 AIR 305
- Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras , 1950 AIR 124
- Indian Express Newspaper v. Union of India, 1986 AIR 515
- Tata Press Limited v. Mahanagar Telephone Nagar Limited, 1995 SCC (5) 139
- Odyssey Communications (P) Ltd .v. Lokvidayan Sanghatana, 1988 AIR 1642
- Union of India v. Association for Democratic Reforms, AIR 2001 Delhi 126
- Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, 1962 AIR 955
- S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram, 1989 SCR (2) 204
- Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, 1978 AIR 597
- Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala, 1987 AIR 748
- People’s Union for Civil Liberties v. Union of India, 490 of 2002
- Hamdard Dawakhana v. Union of India, 1960 AIR 554
- A. Abbas v. Union of India, 1971 AIR 481
- Article 19(2), Constitution of India, 1950.
- AIR 1948 Nag, 199
- Indirect Tax Practitioner Assn. v. R.K. Jain, NO.15 OF 1997
- The constitution of India, P.M. Bakshi, 8th Edn. ( New Delhi: Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt. Ltd., 2007)
- Indian Penal Code, Ratanlal and Dhirajlal, Thirty-third Edition, 2006
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Insights into Editorial: Is the freedom of speech absolute?
In the wake of the war cry targeting minorities at a religious congregation in Haridwar , it’s high time India recognised hate speech as the vilest affront and the greatest dishonour to the freedom of speech as conceived and cherished by the Indian Constitution.
Discussion of Hate Speech:
- In general, Hate Speech refers to words whose intent is to create hatred towards a particular group, that group may be a community, religion or race. This speech may or may not have meaning, but is likely to result in violence.
- The Bureau of Police Research and Development recently published a manual for investigating agencies on cyber harassment cases that defined hate speech as a language that denigrates, insults, threatens or targets an individual based on their identity and other traits (such as sexual orientation or disability or religion etc.).
- Hate Speech as defined by the 267th report of the Law Commission of India is “an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like”.
- Any attempt to casually pass off such demagogic claptrap under the political tapestry of free speech in an election-bound State (Uttarakhand) amounts to the denial of all that the Constitution of India represents.
The debates on limits to Free Speech:
As the Constituent Assembly deliberated on Article 13 of the draft Constitution , which would later become Article 19 in the enacted Constitution , intense apprehensions were expressed on the proposed proviso to Article 13 listing restrictions to the freedom of speech and expression. These restrictions finally became Article 19(2).
The proposed restrictions were resisted on the ground that these sought to rein in free speech and are not seen in the American Constitution , which had tremendously inspired members of the Constituent Assembly.
The laws enacted under the ‘ public order’ restriction included Section 153A, Section 153B, Section 295A and Section 502(2) of the Indian Penal code.
Present constitutional articles on Freedom of Speech and Expression:
Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India states that, “all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression”.
The philosophy behind this Article lies in the Preamble of the Constitution, where a solemn resolve is made to secure to all its citizen, liberty of thought and expression.
The exercise of this right is, however, subject to “reasonable restrictions ” for certain purposes being imposed under Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India .
Under Indian Penal Code:
Sections 153A and 153B of the IPC : Punishes acts that cause enmity and hatred between two groups.
Section 295A of the IPC: Deals with punishing acts which deliberately or with malicious intention outrage the religious feelings of a class of persons.
Sections 505(1) and 505(2): Make the publication and circulation of content which may cause ill-will or hatred between different groups an offence.
The Supreme court Concern:
- In Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan vs Union of India & Ors.(2014) the Supreme Court said: Hate speech is an effort to marginalise individuals based on their membership in a group.
- Using expression that exposes the group to hatred, hate speech seeks to delegitimise group members in the eyes of the majority , reducing their social standing and acceptance within society.
- Hate speech, therefore, rises beyond causing distress to individual group members. It can have a societal impact .
- Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on vulnerable that can range from discrimination, to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence and, in the most extreme cases, to genocide.
- Hate speech also impacts a protected group’s ability to respond to the substantive ideas under debate , thereby placing a serious barrier to their full participation in our democracy.
- On the proliferation of hate speech, the Supreme Court pointed out that the root of the problem is not the absence of laws but rather a lack of their effective execution.
- Therefore, the executive as well as civil society has to perform its role in enforcing the already existing legal regime.
- Effective regulation of “hate speeches” at all levels is required as the authors of such speeches can be booked under the existing penal law and all the law enforcing agencies must ensure that the existing law is not rendered a dead letter.
- Further, the Supreme Court requested the Law Commission of India to examine the issue.
- The 267th report of the Law Commission was of the clear opinion that new provisions in IPC were required to address the issue.
- It suggested the insertion of new Sections 153C (prohibiting incitement to hatred) and section 505A (causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases) to curb the menace of hate speech.
- Despite a draft Bill being annexed to the report, none has been presented to Parliament so far.
- Neither has the law been strengthened, nor the existing law strongly enforced. This sums up the citizens’ predicament
However, Importance and need of freedom of speech and expression:
The importance and need of the freedom of speech and expression can be understood from the following:
- In a democracy, the freedom of speech and expression is one of the prime liberties granted to the citizens.
- It forms a foundation for other rights granted to citizens, such as the freedom of the press.
- Freedom of the press, in turn, helps in inculcating a better-informed public and electorate.
- It ensures that citizens can express their opinions freely and also hold their political leaders accountable. Also, this freedom ensures that important information is legally shared and circulated among citizens .
- It also provides a platform to make the marginalized and minority voices heard.
- Issues that concern these groups can be highlighted and brought to the forefront by using the right to freedom of speech and expression .
- The freedom of speech and expression protects the creative license of artists and allows them to develop and share ideas freely.
- These can be academic writings, satirical work, theatre, cartoons, visual arts, and stand-up comedies.
The Constitution of India by law seeks to prevent the delivery of hate speech under the garb of free speech and expression. It prohibits expressions that can be insulting to others.
According to Article 51A (h) of the Indian Constitution , citizens must develop scientific temper, humanism, and the spirit of inquiry and reform. Various criminal laws in India also penalize hate speech.
Several factors are to be considered while restraining speeches like the number of strong opinions, offensive to certain communities, the effect on the values of dignity, liberty, and equality.
Certainly, there are laws for such atrocities but a major part of work is still left.
Therefore, giving a proper definition to hate speech would be the first step to deal with the menace and other initiatives such as spreading awareness amongst the public is the need of the hour.
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Argumentative Essay on Freedom of Speech
The Indian constitution guarantees freedom of speech to all Indians regardless of gender, class, religion, or belief. These are guaranteed fundamental freedoms that define the values of democracy in the country. Freedom of religion, expressing love and affection, expressing our views and conflicting ideas without harmful feelings, and creating violence are integral parts of India is built on.
India and Indians are known for their national fabric and loading values of global democracy. Therefore, it is necessary to enforce freedom of speech in India to preserve and celebrate our democracy. Freedom of speech is not limited to our fundamental rights; it is, in fact, an important function that every citizen must do adequately to save the essence of our democracy.
The freedom of speech found in older democratic countries such as the UK, the USA, France, or Germany is not evident in authoritarian governments like Malaysia, China, or Syria and failed democratic countries like Pakistan or Rwanda. These regimes have been unable because of a lack of free speech in their countries. Freedom of speech in the country can be rightly equated with media freedom. Vital media shows a robust, accessible, and healthy democracy that seeks to critique and oppose constructively.
Some governments strongly oppose any form of opposition that comes their way and try to block out possible words against them. This is a dangerous example for the world. For instance, there are more than 130 crore people in India, and we can be sure that not everyone will have the same opinion and perspective on the topic. The differences in views and mutual respect we have for each other in the policy-making body make true democracy.
All aspects and angles of the topic should be considered before making an informed choice. A good democracy will involve all stakeholders before formulating a policy. Still, a bad one will blind the eyes of its critics and adopt unilateral and dictatorial policies and force its citizens to go down.
One of the most prominent examples of restricting freedom of speech in India is the suppression of criticism through apartheid and British law. Through section 124A of the Indian Penal Code, Rebellion law states that if a person verbally or verbally expresses hatred, contempt, or provocation in the government or a person may be fined or imprisoned, or both. This law has never been applied to its spirit. The British used this law to silence the Indian freedom fighters. Now, the Indian ruling parties are using this to suppress the opposition and, thus, undermine the country’s democratic principles.
Also, various laws protect the people of India from taking full advantage of their freedom of speech. But while the rules are still in place, their application of these rules seems to be a significant challenge for the authorities.
At the same time, freedom of speech and expression is entirely lacking. People cannot create violence, hatred, discrimination, and social ills in the name of freedom of speech. This would be highly damaging to the very reason why freedom of speech has been tolerated in the first place. Freedom of speech should not lead to chaos in the country. During the abolition of Article 370 in Kashmir, freedom of speech was curtailed, not because the government sought to suppress democratic values but to curb the spread of false news, imposing restrictions on terrorism and any other form of civil strife in the area.
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Is the freedom of speech absolute?
Understanding the constitutional and legal definitions as well as restrictions of free speech.
December 28, 2021 10:39 am | Updated 10:39 am IST
No to hate: Various activists shout slogans during a protest against hate speech in New Delhi, on December 27, 2021.
In the wake of the war cry targeting minorities at a religious congregation in Haridwar, it’s high time India recognised hate speech as the vilest affront and the greatest dishonour to the freedom of speech as conceived and cherished by the Indian Constitution. Hate Speech as defined by the 267th report of the Law Commission of India is “an incitement to hatred primarily against a group of persons defined in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious belief and the like”. Any attempt to casually pass off such demagogic claptrap under the political tapestry of free speech in an election-bound State (Uttarakhand) amounts to the denial of all that the Constitution of India represents.
- The Constituent Assembly extensively deliberated on Article 13 of the draft Constitution. The proposed restrictions to free speech were resisted on the ground that these were not seen in the American Constitution. Dr. Ambedkar countered these arguments by stating that the freedom of speech was not absolute in the U.S. as can be seen by numerous U.S. Supreme Court judgments restricting free speech.
- The term ‘public order’ was added later by an amendment which is now known as the First Amendment. Jawaharlal Nehru was a staunch supporter of the First Amendment.
- To effectively curb hate speech, Supreme Court requested the Law Commission of India to examine the issue. The 267th report of the Law Commission was of the clear opinion that new provisions in IPC such as section 153C (Prohibiting incitement to hatred) and section 505A (Causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases) were needed to address the issue.
The debates on limits to Free Speech
As the Constituent Assembly deliberated on Article 13 of the draft Constitution, which would later become Article 19 in the enacted Constitution, intense apprehensions were expressed on the proposed proviso to Article 13 listing restrictions to the freedom of speech and expression. These restrictions finally became Article 19(2). The exceptions under the same clause fell under four broad categories: “libel , slander, defamation”, “contempt of court”, “offends against decency or morality” and “undermines the security of or tends to overthrow the state.” The proposed restrictions were resisted on the ground that these sought to rein in free speech and are not seen in the American Constitution, which had tremendously inspired members of the Constituent Assembly. Dr. Ambedkar sought to douse the fire of concern by declaring, “It is wrong to say that fundamental rights in America are absolute. The difference between the position under the American Constitution and the Draft Constitution is one of form and not of substance. That the fundamental rights in America are not absolute rights is beyond dispute. In support of every exception to the fundamental rights set out in the Draft Constitution one can refer to at least one judgment of the United States Supreme Court. It would be sufficient to quote one such judgment of the Supreme Court in justification of the limitation on the right of free speech contained in Article 13 of the Draft Constitution.”
The First Amendment
As the original text of Article 19(2) did not contain the term ‘public order’, the pre-publication ban on newspapers/weeklies in Delhi and Madras under the state laws were invalidated by the Supreme Court on the ground that the amplitude of the restriction under Article 19(2) did not cover “public order”. This prompted Parliament to amend Article 19(2) by way of The Constitution( First Amendment) Act, 1951, to include ‘public order’ among other additional grounds, but with a general rider that such a law shall impose (only) “reasonable restrictions”.
Jawaharlal Nehru, the protagonist of the proposal, defended the First Amendment. In his address to Parliament, he said, “It has become a matter of the deepest distress to me to see from day to day some of these news-sheets which are full of vulgarity and indecency and falsehood, day after day, not injuring me or this House much, but poisoning the minds of the younger generation, degrading their mental integrity and moral standards. It is not for me a political problem but a moral problem. How are we to save our younger generation from this progressive degradation and the progressive poisoning of the mind and spirit?” The laws enacted under the ‘public order’ restriction included Section 153A , Section 153B, Section 295A and Section 502(2) of the Indian Penal code. However, the mesh of law was perforated by weak as well as selective enforcement.
The Supreme Concern
In Pravasi Bhalai Sangathan vs Union of India & Ors.(2014) the Supreme Court said: “Hate speech is an effort to marginalise individuals based on their membership in a group. Using expression that exposes the group to hatred, hate speech seeks to delegitimise group members in the eyes of the majority, reducing their social standing and acceptance within society. Hate speech, therefore, rises beyond causing distress to individual group members. It can have a societal impact. Hate speech lays the groundwork for later, broad attacks on [the] vulnerable that can range from discrimination, to ostracism, segregation, deportation, violence and, in the most extreme cases, to genocide. Hate speech also impacts a protected group’s ability to respond to the substantive ideas under debate, thereby placing a serious barrier to their full participation in our democracy.”
On the proliferation of hate speech, the Supreme Court pointed out that “the root of the problem is not the absence of laws but rather a lack of their effective execution. Therefore, the executive as well as civil society has to perform its role in enforcing the already existing legal regime. Effective regulation of “hate speeches” at all levels is required as the authors of such speeches can be booked under the existing penal law and all the law enforcing agencies must ensure that the existing law is not rendered a dead letter.”
Further, the Supreme Court requested the Law Commission of India to examine the issue. The 267th report of the Law Commission was of the clear opinion that new provisions in IPC were required to address the issue.
It suggested the insertion of new Sections 153C (prohibiting incitement to hatred) and section 505A (causing fear, alarm, or provocation of violence in certain cases) to curb the menace of hate speech.
Despite a draft Bill being annexed to the report, none has been presented to Parliament so far.
Neither has the law been strengthened, nor the existing law strongly enforced. This sums up the citizens’ predicament
Abhilash M.R is lawyer practising in the Supreme Court.
constitution / freedom of religion / Text and Context
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The constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech to every Indian irrespective of gender, caste, creed or religion. This is a fundamental freedom guaranteed that defines the values of democracy ina country.
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