The concept of Freedom of Speech and Expression as given in the Indian Constitution is not a new concept. It has been originated by England’s Bill of Rights in 1689 as a constitutional right which is still in effect. Further in 1789, the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen was adopted by the French Revolution. It was added in Article 11 of the declaration which states that ‘Free communication of ideas and opinions is the right of every person. Every citizen can speak, write, and print with freedom until it shall be abusive as defined by law’. In 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted giving everyone the freedom to express their ideas and opinions.
Freedom of Speech and Expression in one of those fundamental rights guaranteed under Part III of the Indian Constitution. Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution states that ‘all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression’. It is one aspect of liberty which is given under fundamental right as well as in the Preamble of the Constitution. However, this right is subject to some restrictions given under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution. This right includes the right to assemble peacefully without arms, move freely throughout the territory of India, settle in any part inside the territory of India, practice any profession, carry on any occupation, trade, freedom to forms unions, and so on. This right is only available to citizens of India.
This right includes expression in itself that includes publication. In this way, freedom of press is included in this. This right includes expressing our own opinions in any form like words, gestures, writing, printing, picture, film, movie, etc. However, this right is not absolute. Government and the laws restrict the right in the matter of sovereignty and integrity of India, security, friendly relations with foreign states, contempt of court, public order, decency and morality, defamation, incitement to an offense, Sedition, and so on. The right to silence is also included in Freedom of speech and expression.
Freedom of Speech and Expression is important for an individual as it helps an individual for attaining self-fulfillment assists in knowing the diversity and helps in the discovery of every perspective of anything. It increases individual participation in decision making and helps in the strength of democracy. It helps in the establishment of a balance between social change and stability. It is because of this right that people can form their own beliefs and communicate freely with each other.
- In the case of Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras, the Supreme Court declared freedom of the press as a vital part of freedom of speech and expression. It further observed that ‘freedom of speech and expression’ acts as the foundation of all democratic organizations. And without free political discussion, public education proper functioning of the Democratic government is not possible.
- In the case of Indian Express v. Union of India, it was held that the press plays a significant role in the democratic machinery. Further, the court has the right and duty to uphold all such laws and administrative actions that abridge the freedom from the press.
- In the case of Union of India v. Assn. for Democratic Reforms, it was observed that ‘One-sided information creates an uninformed citizenry making democracy a farce. Freedom of speech and expression also includes the right to impart and receive information, including the freedom to hold opinions in it.
- In the case of People’s Union of Civil Liberties v. Union of India, it was observed that ‘occurrence of public emergency and in the interest of public safety’; the government has no right to exercise its power under Section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. At this point of time, telephone tapping violates Article 19(1)(a) unless it comes within the scope of reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2).
- In the case of E.M.S. Namboodripad v. T.N. Nambiar, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the High Court, holding Namboodripad guilty of contempt of court. And in the case of M.R. Parashar v. Farooq Abdulla, contempt proceedings were acted against the Chief Minister of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. But the court dismissed the petition by wanting for the proof.
RomeshThappar v. the State of Madras, (1950) SCR 594.
Indian Express v. Union of India, (1985) 1 SCC 641.
Union of India v. Assn. For Democratic Reforms, (2002) 5 SCC 294.
People’s Union of Civil Liberty v. Union of India, AIR 1997 SC 568.
E.M.S. Namboodripad v. T.N. Nambiar, (1970) 2 SCC 325.
M.R. Parashar v. Farooq Abdullah, (1984) 2 SCC 343.