Article 19 of Constitution of India and Right to Freedom
Article 19-22 (Right to Freedom) deal with the different aspects of Personal Liberty, the basic right of a citizen in a democracy. These articles are as follows:
- Article 19: Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc.
- Article 20: Protection in respect of conviction for offences.
- Article 21: Protection of life and personal liberty.
- Article 22: Protection against arrest and detention in certain cases.
Article 19: Protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc
Article 19 is the most important and key article which embodies the “basic freedoms”. Article 19(1) provides that all citizens shall have the right- (originally 7, now 6)
- to freedom of speech and expression;
- to assemble peaceably and without arms;
- to form associations or unions;
- to move freely throughout the territory of India;
- to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India;
- omitted by 44thamendment act. (it was right to acquire, hold and dispose of property)
- to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
However, Freedom of speech and expression is not absolute. As of now, there are 8 restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression. These are in respect of the sovereignty and integrity of the country. These 8 restrictions were:
- Security of the state
- Friendly relations with foreign states
- Public Order
- Decency or morality
- Contempt of Court
- Incitement to offence
- Sovereignty and integrity of India.
These 8 restrictions were embodied in their current form in the constitution First Amendment Bill 1951, this was necessitated by Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras (1950). In this case the entry and circulation of the English journal “Cross Road”, printed and published in Bombay, was banned by the Government of Madras. The Supreme court held in this case that, unless a law restricting the freedom of speech and expression were directed solely against the undermining of the security of the state or its overthrow, the law could not be held a reasonable restriction though it sought to impose a restraint for the maintenance of public order.
- When a proclamation of emergency is made under article 352, article 19 itself remains suspended.
Freedom of Speech and Expression
- Article 19 of the constitution provides freedom of speech which is the right to express one’s opinion freely without any fear through oral / written / electronic/ broadcasting / press.
- The Constitution does not make any special / specific reference to the Freedom of Press. The protagonists of the “free Press” called it a serious lapse of the Drafting committee. However, the freedom of expression includes freedom of press. Dr. Ambedkar in this context had said on speaking behalf of the Drafting Committee that the press had no special rights which are not to be given to an individual or a citizen. Dr. Ambedkar further said that the “editors or managers of press are all citizens of the country and when they chose to write in newspapers they are merely expressing their right of expression”.
- So, the word expression covers the Press. In modern times it covers the blogs and websites too.
Some landmark Supreme Court Judgments regarding the Freedom of Expression
Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras, (1950): Freedom of speech and of the press laid at the foundation of all democratic organizations, for without free political discussion no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the process of popular government, is possible.”
Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, (1978):Freedom of speech and expression has no geographical limitation and it carries with it the right of a citizen to gather information and to exchange thought with others not only in India but abroad also.
Prabha Dutt v. Union of India ((1982) :Supreme Court directed the Superintendent of Tihar Jail to allow representatives of a few newspapers to interview Ranga and Billa, the death sentence convicts, as they wanted to be interviewed.
Indian Express v. Union of India (1985):Press plays a very significant role in the democratic machinery. The courts have duty to uphold the freedom of press and invalidate all laws and administrative actions that abridge that freedom.
Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v. Cricket Association of Bengal(“Cricket Association”) (1995):Every citizen has a fundamental right to impart as well as receive information through the electronic media. It ruled that frequencies or airwaves are public property, and that the government enjoys no monopoly over broadcasting. Court ordered the government to take immediate steps to set up an independent and autonomous public authority to regulate frequencies. Freedom of speech and expression (Article 19 .1 & 19.2) played an important role in this decision.
Union of India v. Assn. for Democratic Reforms (2002):One-sided information, disinformation, misinformation and non information, all equally create an uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce. Freedom of speech and expression includes right to impart and receive information which includes freedom to hold opinions.
Freedom of Assembly
- The constitution guarantees right to hold meetings and take out processions. The processions and meetings should be unarmed and peaceful. This right may be restricted in the interest of the public order or sovereignty and integrity of the country.
- This article has also been reviewed an interpreted by the Supreme Court many times. It’s worth note that section 144 of the Sub-section (6), of the Code of Criminal Procedure can be imposed by the government in certain areas which makes the assembly of 5 or more people an unlawful assembly. This section was challenged in the supreme court via Kamla Kant Mishra And ors. vs State Of Bihar And ors. Case (1962), on the basis that it violates article 19(1) of the constitution and thus is invalid. The Supreme Court in its judgment held that power conferred upon the State Government under Section 144, Sub-section (6), of the Code of Criminal Procedure, is constitutionally valid.
- Section 129 of the Code of Criminal Procedure authorizes the police to disperse any unlawful assembly which may cause disturbance to public peace.
Freedom of Association
- The constitution declares that all citizens will have the right to form associations and unions.
Freedom of Movement
- The freedom of movement is guaranteed by the constitution and citizens can move from one state to another and anywhere within a state. A person free to move from any point to any point within the country’s territories. There are certain exceptions such as Scheduled Tribes areas and army areas.
Freedom of Residence
- An Indian Citizen is free to reside in any state except Jammu & Kashmir. Again this is subject to certain restrictions.
Freedom of Trade & occupation
- The constitution of India guarantees each of its citizen to do trade , occupation or business anywhere in the country.
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