Explain The Right To Freedom of Speech and Expression Under The Article 19
With The Help of Decided Cases. What Are The Grounds on Which This Freedom Could
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.
The main elements of right to freedom of speech and expression are as
- This right is available only to a citizen of India and not to foreign
- The freedom of speech under Article 19(1) (a) includes the right to
express one's views and opinions at any issue through any medium, e.g. by words
of mouth, writing, printing, picture, film, movie etc.
- This right is, however, not absolute and it allows Government to frame
laws to impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty and
integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign
states, public order, decency and morality and contempt of court, defamation
and incitement to an offence.
- This restriction on the freedom of speech of any citizen may be imposed
as much by an action of the State as by its inaction. Thus, failure on the
part of the State to guarantee to all its citizens the fundamental right to
freedom of speech and expression would also constitute a violation of
Decided Cases Which Explained Freedom of Speech And ExpressionOver the years, judicial creativity, judicial wisdom and judicial
craftsmanship have widened the scope of freedom of speech & expression by
including in it the following aspects:
Freedom of Press:
Democracy can thrive through vigilant eye of
Legislature but also care and guidance of public opinion and press par
excellence. Freedom of speech include right to propagate one's views through
print media or any other communication channel e.g radio, television subject to
reasonable restrictions imposed under Article 19(2).Romesh Thappar v. State
of Madras(1950 SCR 594, 607; AIR 1950 SC 124),was amongst the earliest
cases to be decided by the Supreme Court declaring freedom of press as a part of
freedom of speech and expression.
Patanjali Sastri, J., rightly observed
"Freedom of Speech and of 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 case of Indian Express v. Union of India,(1985) 1 SCC 641,it has been
held that the Press plays a very significant role in the democratic machinery.
The courts have duty to uphold the freedom of press and invalidate all laws and
administrative actions that abridge that freedom.
Freedom of Press includes freedom of publication, freedom of circulation and
freedom against pre-censorship.
In Sakal Papers Ltd. v. Union of India,[AIR 1962 SC 305]the Daily
Newspapers (Price and Page) Order, 1960, which fixed the number of pages and
size which a newspaper could publish at a price and in Bennett Coleman and
Co. v. Union of India, [AIR 1973 SC 106; (1972) 2 SCC 788], the validity of
the Newsprint Control Order, which fixed the maximum number of pages, was struck
down by the Supreme Court of India 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 Government's stand that it would help small newspapers to
In the case of Brij Bhushan v. State of Delhi(AIR 1950 SC 129), the
validity of order imposing pre-censorship on an English Weekly of Delhi, which
directed the editor and publisher of a newspaper to submit for scrutiny, in
duplicate, before the publication, 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, was struck down by
Freedom of Commercial speech In Tata Press Ltd. Vs. Mahanagar Telephone
Nigam Ltd., the Supreme Court held that a commercial advertisement or
commercial speech was also a part of the freedom of speech and expression, which
would be restricted only within the limitation of Article 19(2). Supreme Court
held that advertising, which is no more than a commercial transaction, is
nonetheless dissemination of information regarding the product-advertised.
Public at large are benefited by the information made available through the
advertisements. In a democratic economy, free flow of commercial information is
Right to Broadcast The concept speech and expression has
evolved with the progress of technology and include all available means of
expression and communication. This would include the electronic and the
In Odyssey Communications (P) Ltd .v. Lokvidayan Sanghatana, the Supreme
Court held that the right of a citizen to exhibit films on the State channel Doordarshan is part of the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a).
In this case, the petitioners challenged the exhibition on Doordarshan of a
serial titled Honi Anhonion on the ground that it encouraged superstitious and
blind faith amongst viewers. The petition was dismissed as the petitioner failed
to show evidence of prejudice to the public.
Right to information The freedom of 'speech and expression' comprises not
only the right to express, publish and propagate information, it circulation but
also to receive information. This was held by the Supreme Court in a series of judgements which have discussed the right to information in varied contexts from
advertisements enabling the citizens to get vital information about life-saving
drugs, to the right of sports lovers to watch cricket and the right of voters to
know the antecedents of electoral candidates.
The Supreme Court observed in Union of India v. Assn. for Democratic Reforms,
"One-sided information, disinformation, misinformation and non-information, all
equally create an uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce. Freedom of
speech and expression includes right to impart and receive information which
includes freedom to hold opinions".(2002) 5 SCC 294.
Right to criticize In S. Rangarajan v.P. Jagjivan Ram, everyone has
a fundamental right to form his opinion on any issues of general concern. Open
criticism of government policies and operations is not a ground for restricting
expression. Intolerance is as much dangerous to democracy as to the person
himself. In democracy, it is not necessary that everyone should sing the same
Right to expression beyond national boundaries In
Maneka Gandhi vs Union
of India, the Supreme Court considered whether Article 19(1)(a) of Indian
Constitution was confined to Indian territory and held that the freedom of
speech and expression is not confined to National boundaries.
Right not to speak or Right to silence is also included in the Right
to speech and expression. In the case of National Anthem, three students were
expelled from the school for refusal to sing the national anthem. However, the
children stood up in respect when the national anthem was playing. The validity
of the expulsion of the students was challenged before the Kerala High Court and
they upheld the expulsion of the students on the ground that it was their
fundamental duty to sing the national anthem.
However, on an appeal being filed
against the order of the Kerala High Court before the Supreme Court, it was held
by the Supreme Court that the students did not commit any offence under
the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971. Also, there was no law
under which their fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a) could be curtailed. Bijoe
Emmanuel v. State of Kerala 1986 3 SC 615
The Grounds on Which This Freedom Could Be RestrictedClause (2) of Article 19 of the Indian constitution imposes certain restrictions
on free speech under following heads:
- Security Of The State,
- Friendly Relations With Foreign States
- Public Order,
- Decency And Morality,
- Contempt Of Court,
- Incitement To An Offence, And
- Sovereignty And Integrity Of India.
Security of the State:
Reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the
freedom of speech and expression, in the interest of the security of the State.
The term security of state has to be distinguished from public order. For
security of state refers to serious and aggravated forms of public disorder,
example rebellion, waging war against the state [entire state or part of the
state], insurrection etc People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) v. Union
In the case of People's Union for Civil Liberty versus Union of India
1997 SC 568 a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed under Article 32of the
Indian Constitution by PUCL, against the frequent cases of telephone tapping.
The validity of Section 5(2)of The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 was challenged.
It was observed that occurrence of public emergency and in the interest of
public safety is the sine qua non
for the application of the provisions of
Section 5(2). If any of these two conditions are not present, the government has
no right to exercise its power under the said section. Telephone tapping,
therefore, violates Article 19(1) (a) unless it comes within the grounds of
reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2).
Friendly relations with foreign States:
This ground was added by the
Constitution (First Amendment) Act of 1951. The State can impose reasonable
restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression, if it hampers the friendly
relations of India with other State or States.
This ground was added by the Constitution (First Amendment)
Act, 1951 in order to meet the situation arising from the Supreme Court's
decision in Romesh Thapar's, case
(AIR 1950 SC 124). As per hon'ble Supreme
court, public order is different from law and order and security of state [Kishori
Mohan v. State of West Bengal
]. The expression 'public order' connotes the sense
of public peace, safety and tranquillity.
Anything that disturbs public peace
disturbs public order [Om Prakash v. Emperor
, AIR 1948 Nag, 199].But mere
criticism of the government does not necessarily disturb public order. A law,
which punishes the deliberate utterances hurting the religious feelings of any
class has been held to be valid and reasonable restriction aimed to maintaining
the public order.
Decency and morality section 292 to 294 of the Indian Penal Code provide
instances of restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression on the grounds
of decency and morality, it prohibits the sale or distribution or exhibition of
obscene words. The standard of morality changes with changing times. Supreme
Court in RanjitD. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra
(AIR 1965 SC
881)upheld the conviction of a book seller who was prosecuted under Section
292, I.P.C., for selling and keeping the bookLady Chatterley's Lover.
Contempt of court:
The constitutional right to freedom of speech would
not allow a person to contempt the courts. The expression Contempt of Court has
been defined Section 2 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The term contempt of
court refers to civil contempt or criminal contempt under the Act.
In E.M.S. Namboodripad v. T.N. Nambiar
(1970) 2 SCC 325; AIR 1970 SC
2015), the Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the High Court, holding Mr.
Namboodripad guilty of contempt of court. In M.R. Parashar v. Farooq Abdullah
2 SCC 343; AIR 1984 SC 615),contempt proceedings were initiated against the
Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. But the Court dismissed the petition for
want of proof.
The clause (2) of Article 19 prevents any person from making
any statement that defames the reputation of another. Defamation is a crime in
India inserted into Section 499 and 500 of the I.P.C. Right to free speech is
not absolute. It does not mean freedom to hurt another's reputation which is
protected under Article 21 of the constitution
. Although truth is considered
a defence against defamation, but the defence would help only if the statement
was made "for the public good.' And that is a question of fact to be assessed by
Incitement to an offense:
This ground was also added by the Constitution (First
Amendment) Act, 1951. The Constitution also prohibits a person from making any
statement that incites people to commit offense.
Sovereignty and integrity of India:
This ground was added subsequently by
the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963. This is aimed to prohibit
anyone from making the statements that challenge the integrity and sovereignty
To conclude, right to freedom of speech and expression, is an important
fundamental right, scope of which, has been widened to include freedom of press,
right to information including commercial information, right to silence and
right to criticize. The said right is however, subjective to reasonable
restrictions under Article 19(2).
[sample Question LLB Ist Semester Paper-constitution of India-i]
Writers note-this question has 3 parts namely, explain right to freedom of
speech & expression under the Article 19; substantiate the said explanation by
decided cases and enumerate the grounds of restrictions on freedom of speech and expression.
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