In this article, we will discuss ‘freedom of expression’ in a simple and easy way and try to understand its various important aspects.

So to understand well, read the article till the end and also read other articles related to this topic – Other Fundamental Rights.

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| concept of freedom

Who doesn’t like freedom! Looking back at the history, it is known that more than half of the history has been spent in the struggle for the freedom of the people. but why ?

Because freedom is directly related to the development of mankind. We are a rational creature and today we have been able to make so much progress because we got freedom as per our wish.

In this too, if we talk about freedom of expression, then it is not a right that is given by any law, but it is natural and cannot be taken away.

By definition, freedom means the absence of external restrictions on the individual. But remember that freedom is not an absolute concept in itself, rather it is strongly influenced by time, place and circumstances.

Freedom can be positive as well as negative (we have understood it in the right to freedom). That is why we need restrictions and freedom of expression is no different. Let us understand this in detail;

| Article 19 – Protection of certain rights relating to freedom of expression,

Right to freedom has been discussed from Article 19 to Article 22 of Part 3 of the Indian Constitution, which you can see below;

Article 19 – Protection of six rights; (1) Expression (2) Conference (3) Association (4) Transmission (5) Residence (6) Trade
Article 20 – Protection in respect of conviction for offenses
Article 21 – Life and personal liberty
Article 21A – Right to elementary education
Article 22 – Protection from arrest and detention

To all citizens under Article 19(1),

(a) freedom of expression,

(b) assembly peacefully and without arms,

(c) forming associations or groups,

(d) free movement anywhere in India,

(e) settling anywhere in India, and

(f) ***

(g) shall have the right to carry on business anywhere in India.

*** Article 19 under the original Constitution talked about 7 rights, but (f) which was related to the right to buy or sell property; It was removed in 1978 through the 44th Constitutional Amendment. And it was put under Article 300A.

You can see that under the first clause of Article 19, 6 rights have been guaranteed, the first of which is Freedom of Expression.

| freedom of expression concept

Freedom of expression is a natural or common law, that is, it is not a category of freedom that can be given and taken away by law, but it is given by nature and people can express themselves even if it is not provided for by any law. Even making laws is a form of expression.

◾ Freedom of expression means that every person has the right to express his views and opinions fully. He may do it by speaking, by writing, by printing, by picture or by any other means (such as through gestures).

Remember here that this includes freedom of the press as well as the freedom to express one’s thoughts through any visual representation, such as dance and acting.

◾ The Supreme Court has included the following things in the freedom of expression;

(1) The right to propagate and propagate one’s own or anyone else’s views.

(2) Freedom of press and advertisement,

(3) Right to information of government activities,

(4) Right to peace,

(5) Right to protest and protest, but not the right to strike.

Remember that all these things are not written in this way in the constitution, but now it is an established fact that all these rights will come under freedom of expression.

🔴 We see every day that in the name of freedom of expression, anything is said, anything is printed, anything is shown. Even in the name of this freedom, we see and hear statements that destroy the unity and integrity of the country;

So the question comes whether freedom of expression is absolute or free from restrictions? Can anything be done in the name of this freedom?

The answer is no! Freedom is like a double-edged sword and there is every scope that we may end up doing harm to ourselves or our culture or our nation.

This should not happen, that is why the state has imposed some reasonable restrictions on it, what are those restrictions, let us understand, but a question may come in your mind that what is this reasonable restriction?

Q. What is a reasonable restriction?
Reasonable restriction means that the limit imposed on the enjoyment of a person’s rights should neither be arbitrary nor exceed what is necessary in the public interest.

In simple language, it is necessary to impose restrictions, but the state cannot be given a free hand, otherwise it can impose restrictions on any right according to its mind or for its own benefit.

That is why the concept of reasonable restriction was adopted so that whenever the state thinks of imposing restriction, its basis should be logical and justified.

| freedom of expression and restrictions on it

The State, if it so desires, may impose restrictions on the freedom of expression on the following grounds. These grounds are mentioned in Clause 2 of Article 19;

1.Security of the State,

2. Friendly relations with foreign states,

3. Public order,

4. Courtesy or virtue,

5. Contempt of Court,

6. Defamation,

7. Crime Incitement,

8. Sovereignty and integrity of India.

1. राज्य की सुरक्षा (state security) Remember that no danger to the State arises from a simple breach of public safety or public order. Rather The security of the state is threatened by violent crimes aimed at subverting the government, waging war against the government, and insurrection.

That is to say, whenever the state sees a situation like violent crimes, it can use sanctions.

2. विदेशी राज्यों के साथ मैत्रीपूर्ण संबंध (friendly relations with foreign states) Coexistence requires that each other be respected. Usually, friendly relations with other countries are based on certain interactions.

So no one can be allowed to vitiate friendly relations with foreign states in the name of expression.

3. लोक व्यवस्था (public order) Public order means public peace, security and tranquility. If someone violates security, order or peace in the name of freedom of expression, then the state can impose reasonable restrictions.

4. शिष्टाचार या सदाचार (manners or morality) The purpose of this exception is to put restrictions on those speeches and publications which are offensive to morality.

The question of whether a statement is against decency or morality will be determined by the further effect it is likely to have on the persons to whom it is addressed.

5. न्यायालय का अवमान (contempt of court) By virtue of the right to freedom of expression, no person can interfere with the course of justice or lower the prestige or authority of a court by pretending to criticize it.

The court also has the power to punish for contempt of court. However, remember that criticism does not mean contempt.

6. मानहानि (defamation) It is actually related to maintaining the right to reputation. It means to say that a person cannot use his freedom of expression to damage the reputation of another person.

7. अपराध उद्दीपन (Guilt Provocation) – A person cannot incite someone to commit a murder by using the freedom of expression.

8. भारत की प्रभुता और अखंडता (India’s sovereignty and integrity) This section has been added on the basis of restriction on freedom of expression by the 16th amendment of the constitution.

Its objective was to stop the demand for partition of the country and the activities carried out in its pursuance by organizations such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam in the south and the Janmat Morcha in Kashmir.

It means to say that no such idea can be allowed to flourish which is related to breaking the country.

Freedom of the press and related facts:

As we have also discussed above that there is no separate section in the constitution by the name of freedom of press but it is kept under freedom of expression.

Remember here that the freedom of the press is not superior to the freedom enjoyed by ordinary citizens, but it is also subject to all the restrictions that are imposed on freedom of expression under Article 19(2).

However, there are certain things that the state cannot do, such as –

  1. The press cannot be subjected to any law which takes away the freedom of expression.
  2. No such tax can be deliberately imposed on the press so as to limit the circulation of its information.
  3. The state cannot ask the press to reduce its page count or to increase its price.
  4. That building cannot be deliberately demolished so as to obstruct the press work.

| constitutionality of censor

Any type of expression can be censored if it is not unreasonable. For example, if any action is taken on the basis of forecast in emergency situations, it would be reasonable. For example, due to apprehension of breach of peace, the ban can be imposed even before the occurrence of the incident.

If it appears that some awkward situations may arise from a film, then the film can be censored.

So hope you have understood the freedom of expression. Must understand right to freedom and article 19 to 22 to understand in detail.

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◾ Fundamental Rights : Article 12 & 13
◾ Right to Equality
◾ Right to Freedom
◾ Right against exploitation
◾ Right to religious freedom
◾ Right to Culture and Education