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8th February 2023 (7 Topics)

The freedom of speech and an ‘adolescent India’


Freedom of speech is one of the most cherished freedoms and the Constitution of India, too, declares that Indians possess this freedom, but make it subject to the interest of public order, or the sovereignty and integrity of India.

  • There is still exists a sense of insecurity and aggression which is a sign of an adolescent stage of freedom of speech.

About Freedom of Speech:

  • The Indian Constitution, under Article 19(1)(a) provides the Right to freedom of speech and expression.
  • However, under Article 19(2), the constitution also provides for the ‘reasonable restrictions’ against 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.

Is controlling the freedom of Speech of officials against Constitutional Provision?

  • No, according to the Apex Court, the Fundamental right for freedom of speech is exposed to reasonable restrictions based on ‘Public order’ and ‘Security of the Nation’.

Why a constitutional restriction is important?

  • The original purpose of establishing formal or constitutional limits on government was to check the arbitrary actions of hereditary monarchs or rulers who abused their power, imposed unwanted taxes, or launched unpopular wars.
  • In this case, it relates to the ‘duty-based order’ amongst the people in a higher position and a responsibility towards a welfare society.

Other provisions restricting freedom of speech:

  • Section 153A IPCpenalizes 'the promotion of enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.
  • Section 295(A)of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), punishes any speech, writings, or signs that “with premeditated and malicious intent” insult citizens’ religion or religious beliefs with a fine and imprisonment for up to three years.

Freedom of Speech and dignity:

  • Freedom of speech and expression is a much-needed right so that citizens are well-informed and educated on governance.
  • The word ‘fraternity’ in the Preamble of the Constitution, ensures that the dignity of individuals cannot be harmed by an unwarranted speech by fellow citizens, including public officials.

Concluding point:

  • Hence, Hate speech strikes at the foundational values of society. However, common law remedies are present to address those issues and creating another set of guidelines or laws is a matter for Parliament to deliberate (the dissenting opinion).

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