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Speech is God's gift to mankind.

Through speech a human being conveys his thoughts,

sentiments and feeling to others. Freedom of speech and expression is thus a natural right,
which a human being acquires on birth. It is, therefore, a basic right. "Everyone has the right
to freedom of opinion and expression; the right includes freedom to hold opinions without
interference and to seek and receive and impart information and ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers" proclaims the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). The
people of India declared in the Preamble of the Constitution, which they gave unto
themselves their resolve to secure to all the citizens liberty of thought and expression. This
resolve is reflected in Article 19(1) (a) which is one of the Articles found in Part III of the
Constitution, which enumerates the Fundamental Rights.

Man as rational being desires to do many things, but in a civil society his desires have to be
controlled, regulated and reconciled with the exercise of similar desires by other individuals.
The guarantee of each of the above right is, therefore, restricted by the Constitution in the
larger interest of the community. The right to freedom of speech and expression is subject to
limitations imposed under Article 19(2).

Public order as a ground of imposing restrictions was added by the Constitution (First
Amendment) Act, 1951. Public order is something more than ordinary maintenance of law
and order. Public order in the present context is synonymous with public peace, safety and

Meaning And Scope

Article 19(1)(a) of Indian Constitution says that all citizens have the right to freedom
of speech and expression. Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to
express one's own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing,
printing, pictures or any other mode. It thus includes the expression of one's idea
through any communicable medium or visible representation, such as gesture, signs,
and the like. This expression connotes also publication and thus the freedom of press
is included in this category. Free propagation of ideas is the necessary objective and
this may be done on the platform or through the press. This propagation of ideas is
secured by freedom of circulation. Liberty of circulation is essential to that freedom
as the liberty of publication. Indeed, without circulation the publication would be of
little value. The freedom of speech and expression includes liberty to propagate not
one's views only. It also includes the right to propagate or publish the views of other
people; otherwise this freedom would not include the freedom of press.
Freedom of expression has four broad special purposes to serve:

1) It helps an individual to attain self-fulfillment.

2) It assists in the discovery of truth.

3) It strengthens the capacity of an individual in participating in decision-making.

4) It provides a mechanism by which it would be possible to establish a reasonable

balance between stability and social change.

5) All members of society would be able to form their own beliefs and communicate
them freely to others

In sum, the fundamental principle involved here is the people's right to know.
Freedom of speech and expression should, therefore, receive generous support from
all those who believe in the participation of people in the administration. It is on
account of this special interest which society has in the freedom of speech and
expression that the approach of the Government should be more cautious while
levying taxes on matters of concerning newspaper industry than while levying taxes
on other matters.

The power or right to express one’s opinions without censorship, restraint or

legal penalty is known as Freedom of Speech.1 Unhindered flow of words in
an open forum is the essence of free society and needs to be safeguarded at
all times. One’s opinions may, therefore, be expressed by words of mouth, in
writing, printing, pictures, or any other mode. This freedom includes a
person’s right to propagate or publish the views of other people.2

In India, freedom of speech is guaranteed under Article 19(1) (a) of the

Constitution of India. Apart from this, provisions relating to freedom of
speech are also contained in various international conventions like Universal
Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), European Convention on Human Rights
and Fundamental Freedoms, International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights, etc.

Freedom of speech vis-a-vis Constitution of India

Freedom of speech is one of the six fundamental rights conferred to the
citizens of India under Part III of the Constitution. It is one of the most
important aspects in the hierarchy of personal liberties provided under Article
19 to Article 22 of the Indian Constitution.

Article 19(1) (a) states that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of
speech and expression. But this right is subject to limitations imposed under
Article 19(2) which empowers the State to put ‘reasonable’ restriction on
various grounds, namely, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign
States, public order, decency and morality, contempt of court, defamation3,
incitement of offence4, and integrity and sovereignty of India.

Purpose of Freedom of speech and expression

Freedom of speech not only allows people to communicate their feelings,
ideas, and opinions to others, rather it serves a broader purpose as well.
These purposes can be classified into four:

1. It helps an individual to attain self- fulfillment;

2. It assists in the discovery of truth;
3. It strengthens the capacity of an individual to participate in the decision-
making process;
4. It provides a mechanism by which it would be possible to establish a
reasonable balance between stability and social change.

Freedom of speech and of the press lays at the foundation of all democratic
organizations, for without free political discussion no public education, so
essential for the proper functioning of the popular government is possible.5

Freedom of Silence- National Anthem Case

Freedom of speech also includes the right to silence. In a case6, three
children belonging to Jehovah’s witnesses were expelled from the school for
refusing to sing the national anthem, although they stood respectfully when
the same was being sung. They challenged the validity of their expulsion
before the Kerala High Court which upheld the expulsion as valid and on the
ground that it was their fundamental duty to sing the national anthem. On
appeal, the Supreme Court held 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.

Accordingly, it was held that the children’s expulsion from the school was a
violation of their fundamental right under Article 19(1) (a), which also
includes the freedom of silence.

Freedom of Speech and Sedition

The offence of sedition, in India, is defined under Section 124-A of the Indian
Penal Code as, “whoever by words either spoken or written, or by signs, or
by visible representation or otherwise brings into hatred or contempt or
excite or attempts to excite disaffection towards the government established
by law in India shall be punished”.

In the recent case of Kanhaiya Kumar v. State of Nct of Delhi7, students

of Jawaharlal Nehru University organized an event on the Parliament attack
convict Afzal Guru, who was hanged in 2013. The event was a protest
through poetry, art, and music against the judicial killing of Afzal Guru.
Allegations were made that the students in the protest were heard shouting
anti-Indian slogans. A case therefore filed against several students on
charges of offence under Sections [124-A, 120-B, and 34]8. The University’s
Students Union president Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested after allegations of
‘anti-national’ sloganeering were made against him. Kanhaiya Kumar was
released on bail by the Delhi High Court as the police investigation was still
at nascent stage, and Kumar’s exact role in the protest was not clear.

Case Study

1. HamdardDawakhana v. Union of India9

The validity of the Drug and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisement)
Act, which put restrictions on advertisement of drugs in certain cases and
prohibited advertisements of drugs having magic qualities for curing diseases
was challenged on the ground that the restriction on advertisement abridged
the freedom. The Supreme Court held that an advertisement is no doubt a
form of speech but every advertisement was held to be dealing with
commerce or trade and not for propagating ideas.

2. People’s Union for Civil Liberties(PUCL) v. Union of


In this case, public interest litigation (PIL) 11 was filed under Article 3212 of the
Indian Constitution by PUCL, against the frequent cases of telephone
tapping. The validity of Section 5(2)13 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 non14for 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.

Similarly, imposition of pre-censorship of a journal18, or prohibiting a

newspaper from publishing its own views about any burning issue19 is a
restriction on the liberty of the press.

4. A. Abbas v. Union of India20

The case is one of the firsts in which the issue of prior censorship of films
under Article 19(2) came into consideration of the Supreme Court of India.
Under the Cinematograph Act, 1952, films are divided into two categories-
‘U’ films for unrestricted exhibition, and ‘A’ films that can be shown to adults
only. The petitioner’s film was refused the ‘U’ certificate, and he challenged
the validity of censorship as violative of his fundamental right of freedom of
speech and expression. He contended that no other form of speech and
expression was subject to such prior restraint, and therefore, he demanded
equality of treatment with such forms. The Court, however, held that motion
pictures are able to stir emotions more deeply than any other form of art.
5. Bennet Coleman and Co. v. Union of India21

In this case, the validity of the Newsprint Control Order was challenged. The
Order fixed the maximum number of pages which a newspaper could publish,
and this was said to be violative of Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian
Constitution. The government raised the contention that fixing the newsprint
would help in the growth of small newspapers as well as prevent monopoly in
the trade. It also justified its order of reduction of page level on the ground
that big dailies devote a very high percentage of space to advertisements,
and therefore, the cut in pages will not affect them. The Court held the
newsprint policy to be an unreasonable restriction, and observed that the
policy abridged the petitioner’s right of freedom of speech and expression.
The Court also held that the fixation of page limit will have a twofold effect-
first, it will deprive the petitioners of their economic viability, and second, it
will restrict the freedom of expression as compulsorily reducing the page limit
will lead to reduction of circulation and area of coverage for news and views.