Right To Freedom Of Speech And Expression

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 and broadcasting. Liberty of circulation and broadcasting 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 or broadcast the views of other people; otherwise this freedom would not include the freedom of press. Freedom to air one’s view is the lifeline of any democratic institution and any attempt to stifle, suffocate or gag this right would sound a death knell to democracy and would help usher in autocracy or dictatorship. The modern communication mediums advance public interest by informing the public of the events and development that have taken place and thereby educating the voters, a role considered significant for the vivacious functioning of a democracy. Therefore, in any setup more so in a democratic setup like ours, broadcasting of news and views for popular consumption is a must and any attempt to deny the same must be frowned upon unless it falls within the mischief of Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

The main elements of right to freedom of speech and expression are as under-

1. This right is available only to a citizen of India and not to foreign nationals.

2. The freedom of speech under Article 19(1) (a) includes the right to express one’s views and opinions at any issue through any medium, e.g. by words of mouth, writing, printing, picture, film, movie etc.

3. This right is, however, not absolute and it allows Government to frame laws to impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency and morality and contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence.

4. This restriction on the freedom of speech of any citizen may be imposed as much by an action of the State as by its inaction. Thus, failure on the part of the State to guarantee to all its citizens the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression would also constitute a violation of Article 19(1)(a).

Freedom of speech is not regarded as absolute by some with most legal systems generally setting limits on the freedom of speech, particularly when freedom of speech conflicts with other rights and protections, such as in the cases of libelslanderpornographyobscenityfighting words, and intellectual property.

Some limitations to freedom of speech may occur through legal sanction, and others may occur through social disapprobation.

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