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Freedom Of Speech And Expression In India (By-Valluri Viswanadham)

Freedom Of Speech And Expression In India


Authored By-Valluri Viswanadham

When a person is free to voice their opinions, they also have the right to seek out knowledge in addition to the freedom to do so. One of the most crucial elements in the growth and development of any human community is the free capacity to imagine and say whatever one wishes without concern about retaliation. The right to freedom of speech is protected by several international treaties in addition to being guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. It is perhaps one of the most important elements necessary for maintaining thriving democracies with an open mind. As a result, residents are able to freely engage in the nation's social and political life. The Constitution's Article 19(1)(a) guarantees everyone's right to free speech and expression. This essay will describe the significance of that right, as well as its range, origins, and reasons for current use. This research focuses on the preservation of free speech and all of its facets, in addition to the safeguarding of the right to speak one's mind and express oneself without restraint. Additionally, it examines the justification for the restrictions put in place in accordance with Article 19(2) of the Constitution. The researcher attempted to examine the right to freedom of speech and expression in this study, although in a shortened manner.


1. To grasp the concept of free speech and expression in India in accordance with relevant legal precedent
2. Restrictions on people's ability to exercise their right to freedom of speech and expression


The foundation of democratic administration is free speech. This independence is necessary for the democratic process to run smoothly. The first prerequisite for liberty is the freedom of speech, expression, and thought. “It holds a favored place in the hierarchy of rights, supporting and defending all other rights. It is, in fact, the source of all liberties, as has been remarked”[1]

Freedom of speech and expression creates forums for open discourse on issues in democracies. In influencing public opinion on social, political, and economic issues, freedom of expression is vital. Since the 1950s, the Supreme Court has interpreted the right to free speech and expression in much the same way that it has interpreted the equality clause and the guarantees of life and liberty. It has been variably referred to as a "natural right" or a "fundamental right."

The right to freely express one's thoughts and beliefs through speech and writing, as well as through the use of images, photographs, and other media, is known as freedom of speech. The right to free expression is now largely acknowledged as the foundation of a free society and as such, it must always be protected. The unrestricted exchange of ideas in a public arena is the foundational tenet of a free society. The unrestricted expression of ideas and opinions, especially without concern for repercussions, is crucial to the growth of a given society and, eventually, a given state. One of the most significant fundamental liberties protected from official repression or control is this one.

The right to free speech is protected by numerous international conventions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and others, in addition to the constitutions and laws of different countries. These declarations specifically mention the preservation of the right to free speech and expression.

Freedom Of Speech And Expression- Meaning & Scope

Out of the many rights listed in Article 19's clause (1), the right clause (a) is a right of freedom and expression, not just the freedom of speech. Other rights are listed without mentioning freedom. All citizens are entitled to "freedom of speech and expression" under Article 19(1)(a). For some purposes, "reasonable restrictions can be established on the exercise of this right," according to article 19(2). Any restriction on the use of the right granted by Article 19(1)(a) that does not fit within the parameters of Article 19(2) is invalid.

The right to express one's thoughts and opinions in any medium, such as through spoken words, writing, printing, pictures, movies, etc., is included in Article 19(1)(a definition )'s of freedom of expression. Thus, it encompasses the freedom of speech and the right to spread ideas or express opinions. But under Article 19, this right is subject to prescribed reasonable limitations under 19(2). “Freedom of expression is not a license to make careless and unwarranted accusations against the judicial system”[2]

It's crucial to remember that the State's actions or inactions might limit a citizen's right to free expression. Thus, if the State fails to protect the basic right to freedom of speech and expression for all of its people, regardless of their circumstances or the class to which they belong, it would violate Article 19(1). (a). Citizens are able to engage in the social and political process in a healthy democracy when they have the right to freedom of speech and expression, which is recognised as one of the most vital characteristics. Freedom of speech and expression, in reality, broadens the idea of citizenship, moving it from the level of fundamental existence to a political and social one. This privilege is solely accessible to Indian citizens, and not to foreign persons who are not citizens of India. As a result of this right being not absolute, the government has the power under this law to apply reasonable limits in order to protect the country's sovereignty and integrity; the security of the state; friendly relations with other countries; public order; decency; and morality.

In the Preamble to the Constitution of India, the people of India made a solemn promise to protect the freedom of opinion and expression of every person in the country. The right to freedom of

speech is included in the Constitution, and this includes the freedom to express one's thoughts, seek out new ideas and information, receive information, and disseminate information. All people of India have a responsibility to the Indian government to ensure that they are able to properly and efficiently exercise their rights. Since a publication has no value without circulation, the right to distribute ideas is guaranteed by freedom of distribution in Romesh Thappar v State of Madras, an Indian Supreme Court decision. Indeed, the observation of J. Patanjali Sastri was correct-

There are no democratic organizations without free speech and free press, since without these two freedoms, public education, which is so crucial to the effective functioning of government, cannot take place. This right, according to Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India, is not unrestricted, and it may be subject to "reasonable constraints" for certain reasons. If you have a voice, you may express it in whatever media, whether written or spoken, as long as you don't harm anyone's feelings. As stated in Article 19(1) (a), the term "speech and expression" encompasses a wide range of meanings. The right to disseminate, publish, and market information is included in this privilege. Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression, which implies the right to freedom of the press (a). Freedom of expression is viewed as a "genus" ingenious "species" of press freedom. “Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the basic freedom of speech and expression, and the Supreme Court pointed out that citizens have the right to display films, which falls within Article 19(1)(a)”[3]. Article 19(1) (a) covers the right to paint, sing, dance, write poetry, and literature since the shared fundamental trait of all these activities is the right to freedom of speech and expression.

Articles 32 and 226 of the Indian Constitution provide individuals and corporations the ability to file a Writ Petition against the government, invoking the freedom of expression and other basic rights. However, the government may impose reasonable limits to maintain social order.


Subclause (a) of Article 19's first paragraph lists various rights, one of which is the right to freedom of speech and expression. Rather than using freedom as a benchmark, additional rights are listed.[4]

'Freedom of speech and expression' is guaranteed to all people in Article 19(1) a. It is permissible to limit the use of this right in specific circumstances, as stated in article 19(2). There can be no legitimate restriction on the exercise of Article 19(1)(a) if it falls outside of the four corners of Article 19(2).

At whatever media, including words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures, movies, etc., one has the right to express one's ideas and beliefs. In this way, it encompasses the freedom of speech and the right to disseminate ideas. Nonetheless, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights imposes appropriate constraints (2). The right to free speech is not the same as the right to make baseless and reckless accusations against the court[5]

The Right To Information

It has been determined that the phrase "freedom of speech and expression" in Article 19(1) (a) includes the freedom to gather and disseminate information. This freedom also involves the ability to freely express one's opinions to as many people as it is possible to reach both domestically and overseas. “The Supreme Court elaborated on this aspect of freedom in PUCL v. UOI. The fundamental right outlined in Article 19(1) gives citizens the right to information on issues pertaining to public acts (a). Securing information based on information on candidates running for office in elections for the State legislature or the Parliament encourages freedom of expression, hence the right to information is a crucial component of Article 19(1)(a)”[6]

Article 19(2) limits the right to information to a set number of restrictions, and Article 21's right to privacy imposes additional restrictions (though the right to privacy is not so absolute). However, there are limitations on the right's scope for information gathering. In the interest of the state's security, a justifiable restriction on exercising the right to information or knowledge is always acceptable. According to the laws mentioned in Article 19 (2), the government was generally permitted to withhold information pertaining to the following topics. International relations, national security (including defense), public safety, crime investigation, detection, and prevention; internal government deliberations; information received in trust from an origin outside the government; information that if disclosed would violate an individual's privacy; information of an economic nature (including trade secrets) that, if disclosed, would give another party an unfair advantage; and internal government deliberations.

Right To Silence:
The right to be silent is implicit in the right to free expression. Not having to listen and not being compelled to listen are both implied by the phrase. It is the right to be free of what one wishes. Using a loudspeaker pushes a person to hear what he doesn't want to hear Use of speaker may be necessary for the exercise of aright, but it is not a matter of right or protected by Article 19 of the Constitution[7]


It is not explicitly stated in Article 19, but Article 19 implicitly provides for freedom of speech and expression, which includes freedom of the press. For example, in the well-known case of Express Newspapers v. Union of India[8], It's clear that the 13th Circuit Court of Appeals understands the value of free press. According to the court, "In today's free society, free speech and free expression are at the core of social and political interaction. Press has taken on the role of public educator, enabling formal and non-formal education on a broad scale in the developing countries, where television and other forms of contemporary communication are still not widely accessible. The role of the press is to disseminate information in the public interest, allowing a representative

democracy's voters to make informed decisions. Newspapers, as disseminators of public administration-relevant news and ideas, often publish articles that are offensive to governments and other authorities.According to the Supreme Court's declaration above, the smooth functioning of the democratic process depends on the freedom of the press. There can be no doubt that every citizen must be allowed to engage fully in the democratic process and that free and open debate of public issues is crucial to enabling him to make an informed decision.. This clarifies India's constitutional stance on press freedom.

Article 19(1) would be violated if a newspaper was subjected to censorship before to publication (a). After hearing arguments in the matter of Brij Bhushan v. State of Delhi[9], the Delhi High Court said, Press freedom, as defined by Article 19(1)(a), is jeopardized when a newspaper must undergo pre-censorship before it may publish its content. It was argued as unconstitutional by the petitioner in Sakal Papers Ltd. v. Union of India[10] that the Daily Newspapers (Price and Control) Order, 1960, which set a minimum price and page count that a daily may print, violated free speech. Freedom of speech and expression cannot be taken away for the purpose of limiting the commercial activities of citizens, the Supreme Court said. Article 19 only allows for restrictions on freedom of expression based on such reasons. It cannot be restricted in the interest of the broader public, just as commercial freedom cannot be reduced.

Press freedom encompasses a number of additional factors, including the following:

In M Hasan v. State of Andhra Pradesh[11] If a news reporter is denied permission to interview an unwillingly executed prisoner on the basis of anything that is not covered by Article 19(2) of the Indian Penal Code, the Andhra Pradesh High Court has ruled that the rejection is invalid. A citizen's right to freedom of speech and expression is denied if such a denial is made.[12]Political parties' periodic "Bandhs" have been deemed unlawful by the Kerala High Court, which ruled in Bharat Kumar K Palicha v State of Kerala that they were violating the people's Fundamental Rights. The concerned party asking for a bandh was unable to convince the court that it was exercising its right to free speech. When a bandh is declared, individuals are urged to stay at home and avoid travel and employment. Any effort to defy the demand for a bandh is met with a threat of

bodily harm, whether it is made explicitly or impliedly.

Voting is a way of expressing one's views[13] As a voter, a person is in charge of his or her own vote. The information he needs to make an informed decision in favor of a candidate who meets his criteria for being elected as an MP or MLA must be available to him.

Constitutional Restrictions of Freedom of Expression

There must be certain limits placed on the freedom of speech and expression in order to maintain social order in a democratic society. A person's freedom can never be unconstrained in its entirety. Accordingly, the state may enact legislation restricting the right to freedom of speech and expression "in the interest of" state security under Articles 19(2)

Reasonable Restrictions During Normal Times

Free speech is protected under Article 19(2) from being curtailed save in cases involving contempt of court defamation or incitement as a criminal offence or national security, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency, or morality in India. It is the goal of these regulations to establish a reasonable balance between Article 19(1) (a) and Article 19(1) (b) of the European Convention on Human Rights (2). Because of the court's dedication to free speech, it cannot be curtailed unless there is an urgent emergency or the public interest is endangered. It is a well-established principle of the law that the feared harm cannot be just hypothetical or speculative. To be effective, it must be directly linked to expression. It ought to be inherently harmful to the public good. The burden of proof rests squarely on the State to show that the limitation in question is fair. The state's most common justification for restricting the rights of its people is a concern for public morality.[14] It is not uncommon for artwork depicting the human body or sexuality, such as two men kissing one another and M. F. Hussain's paintings, to fall under the furious hand of the State. A similar rationale has been offered by the government for prohibiting bar dances, which it views as vulgar and indecent.

If they allow dances in movies that are seen by a huge audience but forbid the same dances in bars performed in front of a constrained adult audience, and when they allow movie posters or fashion shows with women wearing skimpy clothes but forbid paintings of art depicting nudity or sexuality on the grounds of religion, morality, and obscenity, the state is exposed as hypocritical. Is it a "reasonable democracy" if someone chooses what is and isn't acceptable to society as obscene, lewd, vulgar, and so on?

Clause (2) of Article 19 lists the following eight reasons for restriction:

State security;
Friendly relations with foreign states.
For public safety,
Morality or Decency.
Disobedience to the law.
Provocation of criminal conduct.
Respect for India's independence, integrity, and sovereignty.


Not every Constitutional Amendment that has come before has had a significant impact on history. In any event, one thing is for sure: every crisis in the history of India can nearly be traced back to a history of constitutional amendments, with the constitutional history under the Emergency being a typical example. This history, however, does not only include the first amendment because it was the first amendment, but because it also foretold the types of struggles that would take place between the programmes of nation building and the media realm in the years ahead. As a result of the emphasis placed on national security and sovereignty at the expense of democratic institutions, the dream of a seamless web came to an end quite early.

The influence of the first amendment is likewise rife with inconsistencies and internal conflicts, as is the case with every project of state imagination. To begin with, Nehru was correct in his prediction that "it proved to be the ground for future debates over media, the Constitution, and state formative practises" since it incorporated the rhetoric of public order into constitutional constraints on free speech and expression. Consistency was seen as the dissolution of the Constitution rather than as the natural process by which shards force their way into monumentalist imaginations. 'Constitutional inconsistencies' It may also be worthwhile to examine the circumstances that led to the drafting of the First Amendment. When it came to 1950, Nehru had to deal with speech and expression that ran counter to his liberal beliefs, from the extreme left to the far right. With Nehru's reaction, the democratic right or practise of a democratic state was deferred in favour of a more general interest or abstract standard. In order to behave with a democratic conscience, after assuming the larger good, he could evaluate what was acceptable and unpleasant speech. Instead than seeing the media as a vehicle for advancing a supposed public interest, it was seen as a place where politics and debates over the nation's shape might take place in perpetuity. This may also be relevant to current discussions in which progressive intellectuals, journalists, and others call for tighter controls on the "hate speech" of the right. It is important that we exercise caution when responding to speech that offends our liberal sensibilities.


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