Is Freedom Of Speech and Expression Absolute in India?

Every human being has been provided with certain rights and freedoms. We have the right to live, to move, to opt for any profession, adopt any religion, the right to speak and write whatever we want, and so on. In today’s blog, we are going to learn about our right to freedom of speech and expression which is said to be the mother of all liberties.

Freedom of Speech and Expression is a right to freely express one’s own views and opinions, including but not limited to spoken or written words, pictures, printing, publications, etc. 

In India, freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India. Apart from this, provisions relating to freedom of speech and expression are also given under various international conventions like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, etc.

Right to Freedom of Speech & Expression in India

Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression to all Indians. This includes the right to communicate, print, and advertise the information. In India, freedom of the press is implied from the Freedom of Speech and Expression. However, this right is not an absolute right as stated in Article 19 (2). Some reasonable restrictions have been imposed on freedom of speech under certain cases. So, let’s understand more about those restrictions that prohibit our right to free speech.

  1. Security of the state – anything that exposes the confidential matters pertaining to the safety and security of the nation is restricted from the right to freedom of speech. 
  2. Friendly relations with foreign countries – first amended in 1951. Under this provision, unrestrained malicious propaganda against foreign friendly countries is strictly prohibited.
  3. Public order – an expression of the wide connotation that signifies the state of tranquility. Any speech that disrupts public order is restricted.
  4. Decency or morality – under section 292 to 294 of the Indian Penal Code, restrictions have been imposed on freedom of speech and expression in the interest of morality and decency. This strictly prohibits obscene words in public places.
  5. Incitement to an offense – freedom of speech cannot confer a right to incite someone (through any mode of expression) to commit any punishable/unlawful act or action in force.
  6. Defamation – freedom of speech becomes an unlawful act when it is used to defame or damage one’s reputation or expose a person to hatred, ridicule, and contempt.
  7. Contempt of court – Under this, no person has the right to speak against the court order or decision. This is similar to disrespecting the Indian law.
  8. Sovereignty and Integrity of state – this does not permit anyone to challenge the integrity & sovereignty of our country or to preach cession of any part of India from the Indian Union in any form of speech.

Looking for more updates about Freedom of Speech? Click on this link to get an in-depth knowledge of freedom of speech and expression in India through several case studies.

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