Freedom of Speech and Expression

What is Freedom of Speech and Expression?

As per oxford dictionary Freedom of Speech means, “the power or right to express one’s opinions without censorship, restraint, or legal penalty.” According to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted in the year 1948, “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Actually in legal sense the freedom of speech and expression includes any pursuit of receiving, probing, and conveying ideas or information regardless of the mode utilized. The Constitution of India has also provided detailed explanation regarding the Freedom of Speech and Expression.

All the Fundamental Rights are enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution, where Article 19 provides us with elucidation of the Freedom of Speech and Expression. Article 19 of the Constitution of India states that, “The Right of Freedom of Speech and Expression implies that every citizen has the right to express his views, opinions, belief, and convictions freely by mouth, writing, printing or through any other methods.” Freedom of Expression also includes Freedom of Press and it covers blogs and websites too. The Supreme Court of India has held that the Freedom of Speech and Expression includes the protection of certain rights related to speech and expression, etc. The philosophy behind this Article lies in the Preamble, where a deliberation is made to secure its citizens and their liberty of thought and expression. But the exercise of this right is subject to reasonable restrictions.

When Freedom of Speech is misused.

In certain circumstances free speech and freedom of expression is restricted. The reason it is said to be restricted is because it is misused. It is the duty and obligation of the government to prohibit hate speech and provocation. And such restrictions are absolutely justified if they do so to protect certain public interests and rights of others. But the question arises that how is freedom of speech misused? And obviously we are not unaware of the answer. Deprivation of freedom of speech starts from the government itself where the leaders of the Political Parties use hate speech against the opposing parties and their leaders. In many of the videos going viral all around the internet one can find how big political personalities and leaders mock different religions, beliefs, races, people, and their sentiments just in order to promote their own agendas. Big celebrities and notable luminaries use their freedom of speech and expression on big platforms to render animosity and enmity. Journalists circulate high boatload of damaging and dangerous misinformation and false claims that can lead to deadly consequences on people from vulnerable groups. Social Media platforms have now become a medium of abusing, harassing, shamelessly exploiting and creating disgust among one another. Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are especially operated as weapons to knock down and ravage certain delicate matters and issues. Big celebrities and famous public figures are seen now-a-days using these big platforms to create disparity among people from different religions, political parties, and interests. Film-stars, Comedians, Influencers, Authors, and other such known personas are detectable to be very active on social media platforms. Common people are also eyed using these platforms in an exacerbate manner. People create fake accounts and use them to abuse, harass, threaten, defame, and exploit either celebrity figures, protagonists or fellow users. Hence not only government but also independent journalists, activists, opposition figures and civil society groups use Freedom of Speech and Expression for disparaging, intimidating and harassing its critics.

Hate Speech Laws in India

The hate speech laws in India aims to protect the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression and to prevent dissonance among the religious and cultural communities. The laws authorize its citizens to pursue punishment of anyone who disrespects the citizen on grounds of race, religion, place of birth, language, residence, sexual orientation, gender identity, caste, color, or any other ground whatsoever. And it is very important for us to distinguish between speech that offends and disturbs, and hate speech as it separates offensive pronouncement from those that attack the idea of equal citizenship. Article 19, Article 21 and Article 28 of the Constitution of India provides for freedom of speech and expression. Laws restricting the freedom of speech and expression for the betterment are stated under Section 95 of Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 124A, Section 153A, Section 153B, Section 292, Section 293 and Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code.

Case Laws relating to Freedom of Speech and Expression

One can go through the case laws given below to study the judgements given in respect of Freedom of Speech and Expression;

  1. People’s Union for Civil Liberty versus Union of India. [AIR 1997 SC 568]
  2. Kishori Mohan versus State of West Bengal.
  3. Ranjit D. Udeshi versus State of Maharashtra. [AIR 1965 SC 881]
  4. E.M.S. Namboodripad versus T.N. Nambiar. [(1970) 2 SSC 325; AIR 1970 SC 2015]
  5. Indian Express versus Union of India. [(1985) 1 SSC 641]
  6. Brij Bhushan versus State of Delhi. [AIR 1950 SC 129]
  7. TATA Press Ltd. Versus Mahanagar Telephone Nigam.
  8. Maneka Gandhi versus Union of India.
  9. S. Rangarajan versus P. Jagjivan Ram.
  10. Bijoe Emmanuel versus State of Kerala. [1986 3 SC 615]

Conclusion

Free Speech is one of our most important rights yet it is one of the most misunderstood and misused one. Freedom of Expression in the context of speech is one of the most basic right guaranteed to the citizens provided by the Civil society. Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression is a very important fundamental right and its scope has been widened to comprise freedom of the press, right to information which even embraces commercial information, right to not speak and right to criticize. In todays world, the right to freedom of speech also encompasses freedom of expressing one’s view through several means of platforms and mediums.

The platforms promoting freedom of speech and expression must be more dynamic in shielding human rights, secularism, constitutional values, and non-discrimination. The Freedom of Speech and Expression designated to us by our Constitution can be applied and used in various beautiful manners. It can be used as a means of promoting harmony, brotherhood, peace and equality among us all. Instead using it as an asset why do we need to employ it as a grim? Why do we have to burden ourselves and others with melancholic thoughts and dark visions of issues that are gentle? Why can’t we utilize this Freedom of Speech to bring changes to the society and to create a good impact on people’s minds? We have to use our Freedom of Speech and Expression to speak out for those that are denied theirs. We have to use it responsibly and wisely, it is a very powerful thing.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

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The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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