There are several petitions filed in Supreme Court of India challenging the constitutional validity of sections 499 and 500 of IPC. Critically examine the issue while keeping Fundamental Rights in focus.

Section 499 and 500 of IPC pertain criminal defamation and the person guilty of criminal defamation can be sent to jail for two years. There are several petitions filed in Supreme Court of India challenging the constitutional validity of both sections.
 The petitions contend that both sections go beyond the restrictions enshrined in Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution and thus restrict the freedom of speech beyond reasonable limits.
Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech and expression to all Indian citizens, however not absolute in nature. For that, Article 19(2) exists which states that state is allowed to make laws to impose reasonable restrictions on the right of free speech in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. Out of those only defamation protects a private individual interest and all others are public interests. But the reasonable restrictions must not be arbitrary and excessive. The restrictions must be narrow. If the restriction is too broad, then it will be unconstitutional.
However, Sec-499,500 are not reasonable restrictions and they are blatantly used by politicians and corporations to silence the media, activists and criticisms. It acts as deterrent and is not valid as it mars freedom of speech and it may lead to an anarchy state.

Question for UPSC Mains:
There are several petitions filed in Supreme Court of India challenging the constitutional validity of sections 499 and 500 of IPC. Critically examine the issue while keeping Fundamental Rights in focus.

Published: March 17, 2016 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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