Freedom of Speech: in Danger

India presents a blended image of laws and occasions on the opportunity of articulation. From one perspective a few laws confine opportunity of articulation and then again certain ongoing occasions and laws are making opportunity of articulation more liberal than it was ever previously. While various new difficulties rose universally on the subject of the opportunity of articulation and several measures have been taken to beat those difficulties yet India’s situation concerning those difficulties is in close all-out nonattendance. In such a circumstance India should settle its situation concerning the opportunity of articulation in the zones of the web, security, and copyright.


Article 19(1)(a)[1] 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 citizens, 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 the right to freedom of speech and expression are as under-

This privilege is accessible just to a resident of India and not to outside nationals.

1. The ability to speak freely under Article 19(1)(a) incorporates the option to communicate one perspective and conclusions at any issue through any medium, for example by expressions of mouth, composing, printing, picture, film, film, and so forth.

2. This privilege is, be that as it may, not total and it permits the Government to outline laws to force sensible limitations in light of a legitimate concern for power and honesty of India, the security of the state, cordial relations with unfamiliar states, open request, respectability, and ethical quality and hatred of court, criticism, and induction to an offense.

3. This limitation on the right to speak freely of any resident might be forced as much by an activity of the State as by its inaction. Along these lines, disappointment concerning the State to ensure to every one of its residents the principal right to the right to speak freely of discourse and articulation would likewise establish an infringement of Article 19(1)(a).

Decided Cases Which Explained Freedom of Speech And Expression

Over 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-

a. Freedom of Press

Government can flourish through the watchful eye of Legislature yet also care and direction of general assessment and press second to none. The right to speak freely of discourse incorporates the option to spread one perspective through print media or some other correspondence station e.g radio, TV subject to sensible limitations forced under Article 19(2). Romesh Thappar v. Territory of Madras[2], was among the soonest cases to be chosen by the Supreme Court pronouncing opportunity of the press as a piece of the right to speak freely of discourse and articulation. Patanjali Sastri, J., rightly saw that-˜Freedom of Speech and Press establish at the framework of every vote based association, for without free political conversation, no state-funded training, so basic for the correct working of the cycle of Government, is conceivable.

On account of Indian Express v. Association of India, (1985)[3] , it has been held that the Press assumes a noteworthy part in the just apparatus. The courts must maintain the opportunity of the press and negate all laws and authoritative activities that shorten that opportunity. 

The opportunity of Press incorporates opportunity of distribution, the opportunity of course, and opportunity against pre-oversight.

In Sakal Papers Ltd. v. Association of India[4], the Daily Newspapers request, 1960, which fixed the number of pages and size which a paper could distribute at a cost and in Bennett Coleman and Co. v. Association of India[5], the legitimacy of the Newsprint Control Order, which fixed the most extreme number of pages, was struck somewhere near the Supreme Court of India holding it to be violative of the arrangement of Article 19(1) (a) and not to be a sensible limitation under Article 19(2). The Court struck down the Government stand that it would assist little papers with developing.”

On account of Brij Bhushan v. Province of Delhi[6], the legitimacy of request forcing pre-control on an English Weekly of Delhi, which coordinated the manager and distributor of a paper to submit for investigation, in copy, before the distribution, every public issue, all the issues and news and perspectives about Pakistan, including photos, and kid’s shows, on the ground that it was a limitation on the freedom of the press, was struck somewhere near a court.

b. Freedom of Commercial speech

In Tata Press Ltd. vs. Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd[7]., 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 limits 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. The public at large is benefited from the information made available through the advertisements. In a democratic economy, the free flow of commercial information is indispensable.

c. Right to Broadcast

The concept of speech and expression has evolved with the progress of technology and includes all available means of expression and communication. This would include electronic and broadcast media.  In Odyssey Communications (P) Ltd .v. Lokvidayan Sanghatana[8], 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 Anhonionon 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.

d. 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 judgments 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[9], “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 the right to impart and receive information which includes freedom to hold opinions”.

e. Right to criticize

In S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan Ram[10], 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 dangerous to democracy as to the person himself. In a democracy, everyone doesn’t need to sing the same song

f. Right to expression beyond national boundaries

In, the Supreme Court considered whether Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution was confined to Indian territory and held that the freedom of speech and expression is not confined to national boundaries.

g. Right not to speak or Right to silence is also included in the Right to speech and expression.

On account of the National Anthem, three understudies were ousted from the school for refusal to sing the public song of praise. Notwithstanding, the kids stood up regarding when the public song of devotion was playing. The legitimacy of the ejection of the understudies was tested under the watchful eye of the Kerala High Court and they maintained the removal of the understudies on the ground that it was their key obligation to sing the public hymn. Nonetheless, on an intrigue being documented against the request for the Kerala High Court under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court, it was held by the Supreme Court that the understudies didn’t submit any offense under the Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act, 1971. Likewise, there was no law under which their central right under Article 19(1) (a) could be abridged. Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala[11]

Grounds on Which This Freedom could be Restricted

Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Indian constitution imposes certain restrictions on free speech under the following heads: I. security of the State, II. friendly relations with foreign states III. public order, IV. decency and morality, V. contempt of court, VI. defamation, VII. incitement to an offense, and VIII. sovereignty and integrity of India.

Freedom of Speech and Expression & the Judicial Response

The right to speak freely and articulation under Article 19(1)(a) is an idea with differing features, both as to the substance of the discourse and articulation and in the methods through which correspondence happens. It is additionally a powerful idea that has developed with time and advances in innovation.

Article 19(1)(a) covers the option to communicate by listening in on others’ conversations, composing, printing, picture, or in some other way. It incorporates the opportunity of correspondence and the option to engender or distribute one’s perspectives. The correspondence of thoughts might be through any medium, paper, magazine, or film including the electronic and varying media. It is important here that through the legal inventive methodology, a rundown of various rights has flown from the fundamental ability to speak freely and articulation.

This section, along these lines, contemplates the legal reaction towards the ability to speak freely and articulation. The fair Supreme Court has in various cases derived certain major highlights which are not explicitly referenced in Article 19(l)(a) on the rule that specific unsaid rights are verifiable in the counted ensure. Hence, the legal craftsmanship possesses the credit of broadening the skylines of the ability to speak freely and articulation by remembering for it certain diverse angles like –

  • Freedom of the press,
  • Right to receive information,
  • Right to reply,
  • Compelled speech,
  • Right of the convict to express himself
  • Right not to speak,
  • Freedom of circulation
  • Right of access to the source of information,
  • No pre-censorship on press,
  • Freedom in the volume of news,
  • Commercial speech
  • Right to fly the national flag,
  • Right to broadcast,
  • Right to criticize,
  • Right to expression beyond national boundaries,
  • Right of the press to conduct interviews and the like.  Also, the interrelationship between Article 14, 19, and 21 which has been so finely brought about by the Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi’s case would be highlighted.


Freedom of speech and expression is the mother of all liberties and freedom of the press can be regarded as the very business of a democratic form of government. Richard M. Schmidt has rightly said, “our freedom depends in large part, on the continuance of a free press, which is the freedom of speech and expression of individual or press”. But it is not unfettered. Such freedoms are subjects to reasonable restrictions and one such restriction is censorship.

Article 19 (2) of the constitution of India provides the basis for the imposition of restrictions in the form of censorship. Consequently, so many laws have been enacted which provide for censorship viz. the Press Council of India Act,1978, the Press (Objectionable Matters)Act,1951, the Indian Cinematographic Act, 1952, etc. These laws are of such a nature that if they will not be used with caution, may lead to total deprivation of freedom of speech and expression.

Thus, it becomes incumbent upon the judiciary to strictly scrutinize restrictions in the form of censorship and allow such restrictions only in a situation where there is no other option left with the Courts. Often the grounds on which censorship is imposed are vague. So, Courts should give a narrow interpretation to those terms. By doing so it may be able to protect such a noble and cherished value like freedom of speech and expression.

Question :

  1. How broader the scope of freedom of speech and expression can be?
  2. Freedom of speech and expression in court preview?
  3. Essential elements of freedom of speech.

[1] Constitution Of India 1949

[2] 1950 AIR 124

[3] 1986 AIR 515

[4] 1962 AIR 305

[5] 1973 AIR 106

[6] 1950 AIR 129

[7] 1995 AIR 2438

[8] 1988 AIR 1642

[9] AIR 2001 Delhi 126

[10] 1989 SCR (2) 204

[11] 1986 3 SC 615

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