The media have played an important role in educating and developing the
people. From the conservative society to the open-mindedness one, the role of
media have been immensely important. Now, the term 'Freedom' means absence of
any kind of control, any interference or free from restrictions. Hence, it is
clear that, the expression 'Freedom of press' means the right to print and
publish without any interference from the state or any other public authority.
Justice Hidayatullah in Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra
that, "Freedom of speech and expression is that cherished right on which our
democracy rests and is mean for the expression of free opinions." Press and
media is a medium of social, public and political intercourse. It is a platform
for expression of opinion, a means of communication of facts and circumstances
of public affairs. It is always regarded as the fourth pillar of the Democracy.
As the fourth pillar of State, it is an educator of the people. The ability of
journalists to report freely on matters of public interest is a crucial
indicator of democracy. A free press can inform citizens of their leaders'
successes or failures, convey the people's needs and desires to government
bodies, and provide a platform for the open exchange of information and ideas.
When media freedom is restricted, these vital functions break down, leading to
poor decision-making and harmful outcomes for leaders and citizens alike.
Media of the Nation, which is regarded as the Fourth Pillar of Democracy
especially in a Country like India after Legislature, Executive and Judiciary is
condemned stringently these days for their publications, news stuffs and
allegations for favoring any particular individual or party for creating a
sensation or for achieving their own TRP and Consumer Targets.
The Constitution of India does not expressly mention in Article 19 about freedom
of the press but it has been held to flow from the general freedom of speech and
expression guaranteed to all citizens. As constructed by the judiciary, this
freedom now includes not merely the freedom to write and publish, what the
writer considers proper, but also the freedom to carry on the business, so that
information may be disseminated and excessive and prohibitive burden restricting
circulation may be avoided.
Provisions Relating to Freedom of Press
The fundamental right of the freedom of press implicit in the right to freedom
of speech and expression is essential for political liberty and proper
functioning of democracy. Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution does not
expressly mention the liberty of press but it has been held that liberty of
press is included in the freedom of speech and expression. The fundamental right
of the freedom of the press implicit in the right to freedom of speech and
expression is essential for political liberty and proper functioning of
"The liberty of the press
" as defined by Lord Mansfield, "Consists in
printing without any license subject to consequences of law". Thus, the liberty
of the press means liberty to print and publish what one pleases, without
previous permission. The freedom of press is not confined to newspapers and
periodicals. It includes also pamphlets and circulars and every sort of
publication which affords a vehicle of information and opinion.
Thus, freedom of the press includes:
- Freedom of access to all sources of information (one's own views
borrowed from someone else or printed under the direction of person)
- Freedom of publication
- Freedom of circulation
Explaining the freedom of the press in Indian Express Newspapers Pvt. Ltd. V.
Union of India, the Supreme Court observed that freedom of the press has not
been used in Article 19 but it is comprehended within Article 19 (1) (a). The
expression means freedom from interference from the authority which would have
the effect of interference with the content and circulation of a newspaper.
There cannot be any interference in the name of public interest the purpose of
the press is to advance the public interest by publishing facts and opinion
without which a democratic electorate cannot make responsible judgments.
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, and 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. To preserve the democratic way of life it is essential that people
should have the freedom of express their feelings and to make their views known
to the people at large. The press, a powerful medium of mass communication,
should be free to play its role in building a strong viable society.
Denial of freedom of the press to citizens would necessarily undermine the power
to influence public opinion and be counter to democracy. Freedom of press is not
specifically mentioned in article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution and what is
mentioned there is only freedom of speech and expression. In the Constituent
Assembly Debates it was made clear by Dr.Ambedkar, Chairman of the Drafting
Committee, that no special rights are given or no special mention of the freedom
of press was necessary at all as the press and an individual or a citizen were
the same as far as their right of expression was concerned. The framers of the
Indian constitution considered freedom of the press as an essential part of the
freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed in Article 19(1)(a) of the
In, Sakal Papers Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of India
 , Daily Newspapers (Price
and Pages) Order, 1960, which fixed the number of pages and size, which could be
published by a newspaper at a price, was challenged. The State defended the law
as a reasonable restriction on the business activity of a newspaper, in the
interest of the general public. The hon'ble Court struck down the Order and held
that the right to freedom of speech cannot be taken away, with the object of
placing restrictions of the business activities of a citizen.
Later, in Bennett Coleman v. Union of India
 , Reiterating its view
the Supreme Court further explained that freedom of speech and expression is not
only in the volume of circulation but also in the volume of news and views. The
press has a right to free propagation and circulation without any previous
restraint. If a law was to single out the press for laying down prohibitive
burden on it that would restrict the circulation, penalize the freedom of choice
as to be personnel, prevent newspaper from being started and compel the press to
sick government aid, this would violate Article 19(I)(a) and would fall outside
History Of Freedom Of Press In India:
The beginnings of the struggle for free speech in India date back to 18th
century British India. The history of the freedom of press in India is
inseparable from the history of the nationalist movement. The nationalist
movement for a free India was fought with repression of the freedom of speech
and expression through a series of legislations aimed at stifling the
possibility of a consolidated outer against colonial subjugation. That the press
played an invaluable role in generating political consciousness is evident from
the fact that the British government found it necessary to introduce repressive
enactments from time to time neutralizes the power of the print medium.
The Press and Registration of Book Act, 1867
The earliest surviving enactment specially directed against the press was passed
in 1867, the Press and Registration of Books Act. The object was however to
establish government control over the Freedom of press. It was a regulatory law
which enabled Government to regulate printing presses and newspapers by a system
of registration and to preserve copies of Books and other matter printed in
The Official Secrets Act, 1923
A general Act which has a greater impact on the press, in particular is the
Official Secrets Act, 1923, which is aimed at maintaining the security of State
against brakeage of secret information sabotage and the like. The Indian press
(Emergency) Powers Act 1931 imposed on the press on obligation to furnish
security at the call of the Executive.
The Act ,( as amended by the Criminal law Amendment Act,1932 ) empowered a
provincial Government to direct a printing press to deposit a security which was
liable to be forfeited if the press published any matter by which any of the
mischievous acts enumerated in S.4 of the Act were furthered ,e.g., bringing the
Government into hatred or contempt or inciting disaffection towards the
Government ; inciting feelings of hatred and enmity between different classes of
subjects including a public servant to resign or neglect his duty.
The Press (Objectionable matter) Act, 1951
The preamble of the press (Objectionable Matter) Act, 1951, looked innocuous as
it was "to provide against the printing and publication of incitement to crime
aid other objectionable matter ". The other improvements were as follows: While
the Act of 1931 was a permanent statute, he Act of 1951 was a temporary one to
remain in force for a period of two years; the new Act provided for a judicial
inquiry by a sessions Judge before security could be demanded from a printing
press or forfeited to Government ; and the person against whom a complaint had
been made could demand the matter to be determined with the aid of a jury and
had a right of appeal from the order of the sessions Judge to the high Court.
The Press Council Act, 1965
Following the British precedent, a press Council was constituted in 1996 under
the press council Act 1965, which was enacted to implement the recommendations
of the press commission. The object of establishing the council was to preserve
the freedom of the press to maintain and improve the standards of newspapers in
India. It was to form a code of conduct to present writings which were not
legally punishable beet were jet objectionable.
Scope Of Freedom Of Press Under Article 19(1) (A):
Restrictions on Freedoms
- Freedom to spread information
Without this liberty, freedom of the press is nugatory. Though this right is
also implicit in the freedom of expression, Romesh Thapar v State of
Madras makes it explicit
- Freedom to criticize
The press, just like individuals has the liberty to criticize the government
although it's not express but it comes with some responsibility that to
criticize sometimes if any unusual happens to criticize, its officials, its
policies, its actions, its laws, its statements, etc.
- Freedom to receive the information
If the press is not equipped with the information, it cannot empower the
public with the knowledge and thus, the right of expression will become
futile because there will be no access to information on whose basis
anything can be expressed.
- Freedom to conduct interview
This right is necessary to bring in firsthand knowledge from the experts on
the particulars subjects and to enlighten the society at large.
- Freedom to report court proceedings
In Sahara India Real Estate Corporation ltd v SEBI, the Supreme Court
held that it is the right of the media to report the judicial proceedings.
In Saroj Iyer v Maharashtra Medical (Council) of Indian Medicine, the
Supreme Court held that the right to print faithful reports of the legal
proceedings witnessed is available even if it is against quasi-judicial
- Freedom to attend and report legislative proceedings
The right of reporting of legislative proceedings which is implicitly
envisaged in the right of expression is in discord with parliamentary
privileges, the right of speech and expression shall overshadow the
parliamentary privileges. Today it is mandatory to do live telecast of the
- Freedom to act as an advertising platform
We know that the major income of most of the presses comes from the
advertisement, whether it is a radio, or news channel, or mobile
application, or newspaper. It was after Tata Press v Mahanagar Telephone
Nigam that the Supreme Court incorporated the right to advertisement as
a part of the right to freedom of expression.
- Freedom to broadcast
In the modern age of technology, power to broadcast is essential as it is
one of the major channels to spread information. This right not only
includes broadcasting on news channels, radios, but also on the internet
like websites, blogs, and mobile applications.
We know that there is no any right which is absolute or unrestricted.
Unrestricted freedom, that is, liberty without any reasonable restrictions on it
always hampers the very purpose of granting that freedom in the first place,
that is to empower the individuals as it backfires and makes the rights of
individual collapse with one another. Since we know that while enjoying our
freedom or right one it should not hamper other right to such right or freedom.
As freedom of press derives its powers from Article 19(1)(a), it is also subject
to the reasonable limitations imposed on Article 19(1)(a) under Article 19(2)
which are explained as follow:
Sovereignty and integrity of the state
It was inserted by an amendment to control the extreme reactions of the people,
who were protesting for separate entities of the different regions of India. Any
form of speech or any expression which hampers the sovereignty or integrity of
the state would be covered under this restriction. The right of freedom to
speech and expression can't be allowed to be used as a weapon against the
sovereignty or integrity of the state. At this juncture, it is essential to take
cognizance of the fact that 'sedition' is no ground to impose reasonable
restrictions as envisaged under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
Security of the state
The freedom of expression cannot be exercised in a way so that it becomes a
threat to the security of the state in any manner. Any communication which
incites the people to cause social unrest, rebels, violence, riots, etc against
the state and its subjects would be covered under this restriction. In State
of Bihar v Shailabala Devi
, Supreme Court held that the speeches made by
any person (citizen or non-citizen) which encourage the people to commit
offences like dacoity, murder, robbery, etc. is without a doubt a threat to the
security of the state. Hence such a speech will be considered as a prejudice
towards the sovereignty or integrity of the state, and the order to stop or
curtail such communication is covered under reasonable restrictions of Article
Decency or morality
For preserving the decency or morality in the country, the state has the
authority to limit the freedom of speech and expression of an individual.
Further elaboration of this ground is reflected in Sections 292 to 294 of the
IPC. The mentioned sections list downs some acts as crime such as selling
obscene publications to young individuals, making indecent gestures in. Public
In Ranjit Udeshi v State of Maharashtra
 Supreme Court held that the
S. 292 of IPC is constitutional as it prohibits obscenity in public places and
promulgates public decency and morality. It was further supplemented in
Chandrakant Kalyandas Kakodkar v State of Maharashtra
 by Supreme Court
that while tackling the question of decency and morality, the court has to
consider the proposition as to whether or not the indecent or immoral acts were
sufficient to pollute the mind of the young individuals or is there a
possibility that their minds would become depraved. Defamation Article 19(1) (a)
in no manner gives a license to cause damage to the reputation of a person in
the name of freedom of speech and expression. Causing damage to an individual's
reputation is considered as defamation and is a stringent limitation to the
right of freedom of speech and expression.
No one is allowed to expose a person to hate, ridicule or contempt by means of
any expression, signs or gestures. Defamation is considered as a very stringent
act and therefore it is prohibited by the Civil Laws of Torts. Also, it is an
offence under S. 499 of the IPC. As something is enshrined as wrong under two
statutes, it is obvious that it has a defence under reasonable restrictions of
Article 19(2) of the Constitution. In Subramaniam Swamy Vs. Union of India
Supreme Court held that criminal defamation is reasonable restriction under
The freedom of the press in India requires critical analysis, as it faces a
myriad of challenges that can impact its effectiveness. While India has a
vibrant media landscape with numerous outlets and a constitutionally guaranteed
right to freedom of expression, there are concerns about the extent of this
freedom. Journalists in India often face threats, intimidation, and violence,
particularly when reporting on sensitive issues such as corruption, communal
tensions, or government policies. Additionally, there is a worryingly high level
of media ownership concentration, leading to potential biases and
The influence of political parties and powerful corporations on media
organizations further raises questions about the independence and objectivity of
reporting. Furthermore, the use of defamation laws and sedition charges against
journalists can be seen as attempts to stifle dissent and investigative
journalism. While India has made significant progress in developing a free
press, these challenges underscore the need for continuous efforts to safeguard
and strengthen the freedom of the press, ensuring that it can operate without
fear or favor, and serve as a robust watchdog in a democratic society.
Press is supposed to be the voice of the public to the government, but in modern
times, a contrast to this can be observed, where some of the major mainstream
media houses are marketing the political parties while criticizing the
opposition's parties and not discussing the relevant issues like public welfare,
corruption, analysis of government schemes, etc.
Though it is also true that forums like WhatsApp, YouTube, Telegram, and
Facebook which are totally independent are have become prone to fake news
leading to mob lynching, fear-mongering, hate speech, propaganda spreading and
indecency promoting, which highlights the need of some reasonable restrictions
of the press. The status of freedom of the press is the same as that of an
ordinary citizen. Though, without a shred of doubt, for preserving democracy and
not promoting informed citizenry in the nation, we have to give reasonable
freedom to the press.
- AIR 1965 SC 881.
- Media Freedom, available at, https://freedomhouse.org/issues/media-freedom
- Lowell Vs. Griffin, (1938), 303 US 444.
- M.S.M Sharma v. Sri Krishna Sinha, AIR 1959 SC 395.
- Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras, AIR 1950 SC 124.
- AIR 1986 SC 515.
- Dr. J. N. Pandey, Constitutional Law of India, 207(54th ed. 2017).
- Dr. Amedkar�s Speech in Constituent Assembly Debates, VII, 980.
- AIR 1962 SC 305.
- AIR 1973 SC 106.
- The Press and Registration of Book Act, 1867, available at, https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1867-25.pdf.
- Available at, https://www.indiacode.nic.in/bitstream/123456789/2379/1/A1923-19.pdf
- Available at, http://www.indianlegislation.in/BA/BaActToc.aspx?actid=16077
- Available at, https://www.presscouncil.nic.in/OldWebsite/history.htm
- AIR 1950 SC 124.
- (2013) 1 SCC 1.
- AIR 2002 Bom 97.
- Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India.
- Article 105 & 194 of the Constitution of India.
- 1995 AIR 2438.
- 1952 AIR 329.
- Supra 13.
- 1970 AIR 1390.
- (2016) 7 SCC 194.