The right to Freedom of Speech and Expression is guaranteed to the Citizens under Article 19 1(a) of the Indian Constitution. Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution does not particularly refer to the freedom of the press. It was stated by Mr. B.R Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee that the press’s right to freedom of speech was analogous to that of a person or citizen, hence no particular mention of press freedom was essential at all which implies Press freedom has been regarded as a component of the right to free speech and expression. The Indian Constitution’s protection of fundamental freedoms is not absolute, which implies that they are subjected to some restrictions, the terms of which have been laid forth in the Constitution under clause 2 of Article. Which asserts that nothing shall impede the execution of any existing legislation or abstain from effectively implementing any law unless such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercising the right imparted in the interests of public order, decency, morality, or linkage with contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to an offence. The world “reasonable” was inserted with the Constitution (First Amendment) Act of 1951.
Freedom of speech and expression refers to the ability to freely express one’s thoughts, beliefs, and ideas through spoken words, written works, visual arts, and other ways. The essence of a democratic society is the right to freedom of speech, and this right must always be safeguarded. As the term “press” now includes electronic media as well, journalistic ethics and freedom of the press are significant issues in India today. It is pertinent to have an unbiased press in a democratic country to keep its citizens aware of the new developments so that they could form rational opinions. A citizen cannot be expected to personally gather information to support such ideas. Because of this, the media are crucial to a democracy and act as a conduit for public information.
According to Reporters Without Borders’ 20th World Press Freedom Index, there has been a two-fold upsurge in extremism, which has been exacerbated by information disorder. This includes media divisiveness that is causing differences both inside and between nations on a global scale. The top three countries on the Index are three Nordic nations; Norway, Denmark, and Sweden. Whereas, India fell eight spots from the previous year’s ranking to 150th place amongst 180 countries. India was named as “one of the most dangerous countries in the world for the media” in the report, which also stated that “journalists are affected by all kinds of physical victimization, including police killings, ambushes by political activists, and deadly retaliation by criminal groups or crooked local officials.” However, according to Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha, the government disagrees with the organization’s findings for a myriad of factors, including “very low sample size, little or no weighting to underlying principles of democracy, implementation of a methodology which is unreliable and non-transparent.”
In contrast, India has witnessed numerous incidences involving the denigration of reporters, regardless of whether the reporters in question are Mohammad Zubair or Siddique Kappan. Recently, a website that verifies information Mohammad Zubair, a co-founder of Alt News, was detained by the Delhi Police after one of his tweets was said to have offended religious sensitivities. Mohammad Zubair was known to be one of a critic of PM Narendra Modi.
One of the numerous journalists incarcerated in 2020 was Siddique Kappan, a 42-year-old news reporter from Kerala. He was taken into custody on October 5, 2020, in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh. When Kappan was En route to report on the rape and murder of a young Dalit girl in Hathras, Uttar Pradesh, he was detained amid the outrage. Following Kappan’s arrest, the UP police concocted a plausible story. The UP police detained Kappan for his claimed participation with the Popular Front of India (PFI). Following the murder of a Dalit girl in the Hathras region, he was purportedly discovered in possession of materials that might cause unrest in the state and incite violence.
Related Case Laws
The constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice Hidayatullah, Justice Shelat, Mitter, Vidyialingam, and Ray ruled that Cinema is a medium for expressing ideas and opinions, hence it shouldn’t be subject to any restriction. Any sort of restriction shall not violate a person’s fundamental right to freedom of expression.
Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra were on the Supreme Court of India’s Division bench in the case of Anup Bhuyan v. the State of Assam, ruled that a person cannot be penalized for a simple act unless they used violence or incited others to use violence.
In this decision, the court ruled that the right to free speech cannot be restricted unless the situation it has produced is hazardous to the community or the public interest and that this threat must not be improbable, or distant. The expression should have an immediate connection to something else.
Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000 has drawn criticism for violating the basic right to free speech and expression granted by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The Court distinguished between debate, advocacy, and incitement, alleging that the first two constitute the essential elements of Article 19‘s prohibition on all types of incitement.
This prompts the question of the virtue of Indian nationalism, which did not strive to advance Indian interests at the expense of those of others or to subjugate weaker states, but rather supported and promoted their independence. Assaults on freedom of speech and expression, of movement, of making a living, bring home to us the urgent need to fend off these assaults, and that can only be accomplished by protecting civil rights and this inheritance as a foundational tenet of our nationality. It was ruled in Indian Express v. Union of India that the freedom of the press is extremely important in modern democracies. Courts must preserve journalistic freedom and invalidate any laws or government policies that restrict it. Being the greatest democracy in the world, as we Indians are aware, the nation needs to take action to combat its faltering reputation as one on a worldwide scale.
Author(s) Name: Ayush Yadav (Marathwada Mitramandal Shankarrao Chavan Law College, Pune)