Freedom of Speech and Expression and its Territorial Extent

Introduction

Article 19(1)(a): According to Article 19(1)(a), all citizens have the right to freedom of expression. This means that all citizens have the right to freely express their views and opinions. This includes not only word of mouth, but also speech in the form of texts, pictures, movies, banners, etc.
India’s Supreme Court has ruled that participation in sport is an expression of individual personality and a form of freedom of expression. In 2004, the SC considered flag-hoisting to be a form of that freedom. Freedom of the press is a derivative freedom under this article. The right also includes the right to access information. This right is meaningless if other people cannot know/hear the information. According to this interpretation, the Right to Information (RTI) is a fundamental right. The SC also ruled that freedom of expression is an inalienable right alongside the right to life (Article 21). These two rights are not distinct but related. Restrictions on the freedom of expression of all citizens can be caused either by the actions of the State or by the inaction of the State. This means that the failure of the state to guarantee this freedom to all classes of citizens constitutes a violation of their fundamental rights. The right to freedom of expression also includes the right to communicate, print and publicize information.
This right also includes commercial and artistic speech and expression.

Importance of Freedom of Speech and Expression:


A fundamental element of a functioning democracy is the participation of all citizens in a country’s political and social processes. A healthy democracy has great freedom of speech, thought and expression in all its forms (oral, written, broadcast, etc.).Freedom of expression is guaranteed not only by the Indian Constitution but also by international law such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (declared 10 December 1948), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. rights and fundamental freedoms, etc. This is important because democracy only works when people have the right to express their opinions about the government and criticize it if they wish.
We have to listen to people and address their grievances. In a true democracy, people’s voices must be heard not only in the political arena, but also in other areas such as social issues, culture and the economy. Without the above freedoms, democracy is threatened. Governments become too powerful and begin to serve the interests of the few instead of the general public. Cracking down on the right to free speech and press freedom will create a fear factor that makes people silently endure tyranny. In such a scenario, people would feel suffocated and would rather suffer than speak their mind. Press freedom is also an important element of freedom of speech and expression. In the context of India, the importance of this freedom can be understood from the fact that the preamble itself guarantees freedom of thought, expression, belief, conviction and worship to all citizens. There is a very wide range of interpretations of freedom of speech and expression, especially in Western liberal democracies. There is a great deal of freedom for people to freely express their dissent. However, most countries (including liberal democracies) have some form of censorship, mostly related to defamation, hate speech, etc. The idea behind censorship is generally to prevent domestic law and order problems.


The need to protect Freedom of Speech:
There are four reasons that justify free speech. they are:
(i)To discover truth through open discussion.
(ii)It is the aspect of self-actualization and development.
(iii)express beliefs and political attitudes;
(iv)Participate actively in democracy.

Restrictions on free speech:
Freedom of expression is not absolute. Article 19(2) limits freedom of expression and the right to freedom of expression. The reasons for such restrictions are for the following:

a. Safety
b. National sovereignty and integrity
c. Friendly relations with foreign countries
d. Security
e. Good sense or morals
f. Hate speech
g. Defamation
h. Contempt of court


The Constitution allows people freedom of expression without fear of retaliation, but it should be used with caution and responsibility.


Freedom of expression on social media
The Tripura Supreme Court ruled that posting on social media is effectively the same as a fundamental right that applies to all citizens, including civil servants. It is also claimed that government officials have the right to hold and express their political beliefs, subject to the restrictions set out in the Tripura Citizen Services (Conduct) Regulations, 1988.


Hate speech


India’s Supreme Court had asked the Judiciary Commission to submit a recommendation to parliament to give the Electoral Commission powers to limit the issue of “hate speech” regardless of when it took place. rice field. But the Judiciary Commission must consider several factors before restricting speech, including the context of the speech, the status of the speaker, the status of the victim, and the likelihood that the speech will be discriminatory and confusing. recommended.


Freedom of expression in art
As regards art, the court held that “art must be so attractive that it masks the profanity, or the profanity is so trivial and insignificant that it has no effect and can go unnoticed.” ‘ was the judgment.

Safeguards for Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19(2):


The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and opinion to all citizens, but these freedoms are not absolute as Article 19(2) of the Constitution provides for the protection of this freedom. specific purpose. The listed safety precautions are explained below.
Article 19 (2) of the Indian Constitution allows states to enact laws restricting freedom of speech and expression, so long as they restrict:


a. National security, including rebellion, war against the nation, rebellion, and unusual violations of public order and security.


b. Concern for India’s integrity and sovereignty – This was added by the 16th Constitutional Amendment Act in view of the tense situation in various parts of the country. Its purpose is to give appropriate powers to impose restrictions on individuals or entities calling for India’s secession or the collapse of India for the political purpose of fighting elections.


c. Contempt of Court: Restrictions may be imposed if speech and expression exceeds reasonable and fair limits and amounts to contempt of court. Friendly Relations with Foreign Countries: Added by the First Amendment of 1951 to prohibit unrestricted malicious propaganda against friendly foreign nations. This is because it could jeopardize the maintenance of good relations between India and its states.


d. Defamation or incitement to commit a crime: Any statement that harms a person’s reputation constitutes defamation. Slander consists in exposing a person to hatred, ridicule, or contempt. Civil defamation laws have not yet been codified in India and certain exceptions apply. decency or morality – Section 19(2) inserts decency or morality as grounds for restricting freedom of speech and expression. Sections 292 to 294 of the Indian Penal Code provide examples of common sense or moral restrictions on this freedom. Selling, distributing, or posting obscene language in public places is prohibited. However, the terms decency and morality are highly subjective and do not have strict definitions. It also depends on the time and place.

Cases

Romesh Thappar vs State of Madras the supreme court in this case said that the right of circulation of the newspaper lies solely with the establishment i.e., the company of the newspaper and the state of Madras cannot interfere with the same.
Prabha Dutt vs Union of India here the Supreme Court in this case directed the Superintendent of the Tihar Jail to allow the representatives of a few newspapers to interview two death sentence convicts under Article 19(1)(a)

References:
Freedom of Speech and Expression [Article 19(1)(a)] – Indian Polity Notes (byjus.com)
Freedom of Speech and Expression in India (myadvo.in)

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