Explain The Right To Privacy And Media Laws In India


Our country faces many difficulties to make the right to privacy a Fundamental Right. The right to privacy is a very dynamic concept it also covers under Property Law, Law of Torts as well as in Criminal law.

In simple words, the Right to Privacy means the right to be let alone, to live without the undue interference of the government and without undue publicity it mainly averts the disclosing of private information of the people. There are many cases which don’t recognize privacy as a fundamental right before passing the judgement of the case K.S. Puttaswamy vs. Union of India in 2017.

Although, now Right to Privacy concerned with national citizens as well as non-citizens also. Now our judiciary recognized the Right to Privacy as a Fundamental Right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Fundamental Rights are the basic rights which are acquired by birth in every individual of the country and if anyone infringes this right will be penalized. The articles of the Indian Constitution like Article 14 defines the Right to Equality, Article 19(1)(a) defines the Right to free speech and expression, Article 21 Right to Privacy.

Although there is no media law until British rule started.

Background of Right to privacy and Media Law

Right to privacy

The right to privacy concept was pragmatic in ancient times. Like sex, family matters and worship should stay private forever. But, there are many concepts which disclose uncertainty about the right to privacy.

In the prior judgements of the case, Kharak Singh vs State of Uttar Pradesh[1] the Court held that the right to privacy is doesn’t include in the Fundamental Rights.

Media Law

Many law related to media law was enacted in the time of British Rule.

Initially, only Europeans can release the newspaper. James Augusts Hickey in the year 1780 publishes a newspaper named The Bengal Gazette or Calcutta General Advertises, the first newspaper release by him. But in the year 1872, it was grasp become of criticism of the government. Like, many Acts was introduced by British rule. After so much pressure by the British rule, the freedom militant leader’s contraband transfer information through secret radio and texts and also banged up on the wall, they are started doing their work underground.

After Independence, the government start making laws related to law because media became very powerful and started to influence the public.

For instance, if we see prior in 1870 in the law of Hate Speech Law Section 295 A was prevailing in the country which retrains the right of the public to express their ideas and view related to colonial rules. Moreover, in the year of 1907, legislation was introduced which impose restricting on the open discussion of union which also restrain the right of freedom of speech.

The First Amendment Act, 1951 was introduced then the makers of the Constitution made many alterations in the Fundamental Right under Part III of the Indian Constitution and provide against abuse of freedom of speech and expression. Dr BR. Ambedkar proposed that there should be no law which restrains the freedom of speech of the association, press and assembly except the restriction imposed in Article 19(2).

Present scenario

Initially right to privacy was not a fundamental right was discussed in the case of MP Sharma vs Satish Chandra. Next, approx. ten years in the case of Kharak Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh this case also doesn’t accept the right to privacy as a fundamental right clearly but include the right to privacy in the right to life and personal liberty.

Finally, in the case of K.S. Puttaswamy vs Union of India[2] in 2017 the court held to override the judgement of MP Sharma case and held that Right to Privacy is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

There was a landmark case were telephone tapping of a person is violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.

Case:- People’s Union for Civil Liberties vs. Union of India[3] popularly known as phone tapping case. The Apex Court held that telephone tapping is an infringement of the right to privacy which is related to the right to life and personal liberty[4] under the Constitution of India.

After the verification of the right to privacy that Constitution of India, it can be discussed in any other activity also.

The modern era became very advance in the respect of technology and online networking which start poking on the topic of privacy.

Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution States Freedom of speech and expression which came in conflict with the right to privacy. The publication of someone personal information without his/her consent can infringe the right of an individual but according to Article 19(2), it can be restricted on reasonable ground.

Although freedom of the press is now present expressly in the Constitution. Even so, it is mentioned in Article 19(1)(a) freedom of speech and expression.

The preamble expressly states the Government of the people, for the people and by the people.  In simple words, every individual is to be entitled to involve in this democratic country. Open debate and discussion are only possible if the press enjoys freedom.

Now media law is mainly a self-regulated organization. There is one body who regulate the media law called the Press Council of India (PCI).

Press Council of India

it is a constitutional body and the News Broadcasting Standards Authority, was situated in the year 1978, PCT Act. The primary objective is to preserve the freedom of the press and also improvement in the quality of newspaper and news firm in India.


  1. Aid the newspaper to sustain their freedom.
  2. Construct a code of conduct for news firm and journalists.
  3. Aid to sustain the standards of the public state.
  4. Review growth, likely to sustain the flow of news.

But, PCI can’t impose a penalty on the newspaper, news firm, editor or journalists for infringement of the guidelines and also it can’t force their power to review the work of the electronic media.

After seeing the PCI Act for the regulation of media. We above discussed Article 19(1)(a) of the constitution which stated the freedom of speech and expression and also include freedom of the press as a fundamental right, although this right also deals in various other laws: –

1. The Newspaper (Prices and Pages) Act, 1956

This legislation gives power to the Central Government to impose the price of newspaper according to the number of pages and size and also they have the power to impose the location on the newspaper is where the advertisement should publish.

Related to this Act a case was arise named Sakal Papers vs. Union of India[5] the Daily Newspaper (Price and Control) order, 1960 which rigid the price and number of pages, which a newspaper publisher, was struck down.

He court stated that the right of freedom of speech and expression couldn’t restrain the activity of the business.

2. Civil Defence Act, 1968:

It permits the government to construct those rules for the prohibition of printing and publication of any newspaper, book and any other documents relating to the civil defence.

However, the constitution gives the fundamental right to the press for speech and expression but on someplace like Article 105(2) of the Constitution restrict the publication of the proceeding in Parliament by the press.

In the famous case of M.S.M Sharma vs. S.K. Sinha[6] in this case the Supreme Court argued that the publication of certain speech of Parliament which were stated by the Speaker was a breach of their privilege.

3. Drug and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement) Act, 1954

This legislation controls the advertisement which was related to the drug in some cases and to restrict the advertisement for some purpose of treatment which publishes the process of magic qualities.

Case: – Hamdard Dawakhana vs Union of India the apex court argued to control the advertisement of drugs in some cases. The case was arising and challenged the Act that it was infringing the right of speech and expression. The court argued that the retail of drugs is not for the public interest.

There is much other legislation related to media in which they can or can’t use their freedom of speech and expression.

  1. Defence of India Act, 1962
  2. Delivery of Books and Newspaper (Public Libraries) Act, 1954
  3. The Cinematograph Act, 1952
  4. The Copyright Act, 1957
  5. Cine Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1981 and the Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act, 1981
  6. The Bombay Entertainments Duty Act, 1923

The media are also influential for the trials of the court proceeding like some cases discussed-

  1. Aarushi Talwar Murder case[7] This case is of a 13-year-old girl who found murdered at her own home. This case was fully covered by the media. Media painted this controversial case with the instant allegation against the xaarushi and also other suspects. This activity performed by the media was criticised very well by the public because they portray the incident in very depth and not only the incident they also defame the reputation of the deceased.
  2. Jasleen Kaur’s case in the year 2015 Jaslene posted a photo on the Facebook of Sanjeet Singh and made an allegation of sexual harassment. The photo got viral and the court has started their trial and after some year court declared that he was innocent and discharge him from all the penalties. But because the media platform started trolling him he lost his job and he has no other means of income.


In today’s era, the country can’t survive in ancient time rules and regulations. To go with the flow of society they have to give freedom to society and society has also a right to enjoy that freedom. The media is very important for every country and for society to know every information about the country. The provisions introduced in the Constitution for the freedom of speech and expression was a grant to every citizen of the country and after the time when this provision include press for their freedom it becomes very necessary to protect the pillars of the Constitution.

The above discussion shows both sides of the freedom of the press the positive and negative. Society accepts freedom of speech and expression as a very important right. Although Article 19(2) gave some restriction in this provision of freedom of speech and expression in the context of Integrity and to protect the nation.

[1] 1963 AIR 1295, 1964 SCR (1) 332

[2] 2017 10 SCC 1

[3] AIR 1997 SC 568

[4] Article 21

[5] AIR 1962 SC 305

[6] AIR 1959 SC 395

[7] 2013 (82) ACC 305

This Article is Authored by Vedanshi Gupta, 3rd Year B.Com LL.B Student at Banasthali Vidyapith.

Also Read – Right to Privacy in India: Evolution and Legal Analytical Study

Law Corner