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Freedom of Press: A Guaranteed Right?

Introduction

The Constitution of India, under Article 19(1)(a), provides for the right of freedom of speech and expression to every citizen of India. Freedom of speech and expression connotes the citizens’ right to speak and to freely express their views without any unreasonable restrictions. In this article, we will study the freedom of the press which comes under the ambit of freedom of speech and expression.

There are various theorists who have expressed their views with regard to whether a company may possess the right to press or not. One such theory suggests that companies possess natural rights but do not have all the rights which are provided to citizens.[1] There are various judicial pronouncements through which courts explain whether companies have this right or not. A company has a distinct stand and it cannot be just confined to natural persons, it should be extended to private persons also.[2] Further, the court, while allowing the petition of R.M.D Chamarbaugwalla, considered them as a company for infringement of their basic rights Article 19(1)(g).

Moreover, Bennett Coleman and Company[3] is a vital case in reference to deciding whether or not a corporation will have freedom of speech and expression. The Supreme Court ruled during this case that “the basic rights of shareholders as voters don’t seem to be lost after they associate to make a company”. The court explicitly held that as a result of the individual rights of freedom of speech and expression of editors, administrators and shareholders are all expressed through their newspapers, riddance relief to a newspaper company which isn’t a national can really cause a denial of relief to the shareholders of the corporate.[4]

In fact, the Law Commission of India, in its Hundred-First Report[5], had really obsessed with the thought of whether or not the basic right of freedom of speech and expression ought to be created obtainable to the businesses and alternative artificial entities. The Law Commission took recognition of the actual fact that there existed a minimum of four classes of companies that needed freedom of speech and expression like firms owning a newspaper, firms owning magazines, firms manufacturing or distributing films, and company like universities or establishments withstanding of the university that conduct seminars and convey out publications.[6]

In 1983, the Supreme Court of India reiterated the reasoning given in the Bank Nationalization case, and in the Cotton Mills case[7], that basic right wasn’t denied to the petitioner who was a shareowner. Article 19 of the Constitution being confined to voters, a company cannot claim citizenship, and can’t thus claim any right underneath Art. 19. The Supreme Court has held that companies weren’t considered as “citizens”. Press Commission whereas giving their recommendation, aforementioned that “a corporation isn’t a nation and thus, cannot claim the basic rights enumerated underneath Art. 19. Since several newspapers are printed by firms, and a corporation isn’t entitled to the basic right underneath Art. 19, not being national.

Arguments which stated that the term freedom of the press is defined in the Constitution

Rights that are given to the press are not only recognized but also protected. The rights of the press and media are protected by the Judiciary through its various judgments. When the state tries to curtail the rights of the press through its arbitrary actions, then the judiciary upholds the rights of the press. The constitution of India integrates the autonomy of media in two outlooks:[8]

(i) Preamble                                   

(ii) Article 19(1)(a)- Right to freedom of speech and expression

Preamble: The liberty of expression is guaranteed to the citizens by way of the Preamble. It assures that citizens have the freedom of expressing their thoughts, expressions, beliefs, faiths, and worships. The liberty of thought and expression includes the accuracy of print media. Freedom of speech and expression was already included under Article 19 of the UDHR (1948), which is one of the identifiable features of Freedom of Press. Article 19 also guarantees that everyone is provided with the freedom of expressing their views and opinions without any fear and also the freedom of expressing their feelings.[9]

Constitutional Provisions: Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, had strongly opinionated that “the press is simply otherwise stating a person or a citizen. The press has no special rights which are not to be or which are not to incline or which are not to be exercised by the citizen in his individual capacity. The editors of the press or the manager are all citizens so once they favour writing down in a newspaper they’re merely exercising their right of freedom of speech and expression and in my judgment, therefore, no special mention is very important of the freedom of the press within the slightest degree.[10].

In Re: Daily Zemmedar[11], the court held that the publication and printing of the news was the crucial right of the media. Further, the court also held that it is the entitlement of the media to characterize the reality of the latest history.[12] The right of the press is also to print views or opinions. In Gopal Dass v. D.M[13] the SC held that printing of editor’s views is also a right given to the press. Further, in Sharma v. Srikrishna[14], SC stated not only the editor’s view but the views of the third party under the directions of the editor also matter. Not only printing but also circulation of views are a matter of fact as per  Romesh Thappar, v. State of Madras.[15] Another aspect of the right to press includes the correct to analyze public affairs as was held by the SC in Bennett Coleman v. State of J. & K.[16] Criticizing the public policies is also a right provided under the freedom of press.[17] In Prabha v. Union of India[18], the SC held that information which is provided would be meaningless if the source of that information is not guaranteed as well as reliable.

Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution impliedly included the right of press because the liberty of press flows from the freedom of speech and expression which is enjoyed by every citizen. [19]

Arguments which stated that the term freedom of press is not defined in the Constitution. 

Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India guarantees the freedom of speech and expression but not expressly includes the freedom of press. Unlike the American Constitution[20], Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution doesn’t specifically or separately provide for the liberty of the press.[21]

The Double Murder Story[22] which has seen media trial, in an elongated, unrestricted and unyielding with Rajesh Talwar, father of the victim was held in jail for more than 50 days on the ground of suspicion, whereas he was already held guilty in the media without any strong evidence.

PRIVATE DEFENCE- PROTECTION AGAINST BODY OR PROPERTY

In Saibal v. B.K. Sen[23] the Supreme Court said: “It would be mischievous for a newspaper to systematically conduct an independent investigation into a criminal offence that an individual has been arrested and to publish the results of that investigation. This is often actually because, trial by newspapers, when an attempt by one of the regular tribunals of the country goes on, must be prevented. The premise for this view is that such action on the part of a newspaper tends to interfere with the course of justice.”

They’re going to point fingers at anyone which they’ll cast aspersions on any institution within the name of the fundamental right granted to them. The basic rights of the accused in an exceedingly case pending before the courts are merely thrown to dogs and spitted upon. The ‘doctrine of innocence until proven guilty’ is openly flouted and thus the elemental right of the accused ‘to have an honest trial’ is put to dust. One’s fundamental right mustn’t be used as a tool to transgress upon those of others.[24]

Conclusion

As from the above arguments, it is clear that freedom of press is not defined in the Constitution expressly. But if we interpret the Constitution then we find that there is a right given to a press. There are various arguments and various court judgments which agree that there is a freedom of press and some judgments stated that there is no term like freedom of press. There should be freedom of press, but the press should not misuse their rights. There should also be some reasonable restrictions on the rights of the press so that they don’t misuse it. As the media is considered the fourth pillar of society, there should be some rights given to the press. Media provides fruitful information to society which helps society to get knowledge of everything which is necessary for them. As the media provided information from all over the world. So, there should be a guaranteed right for the press.

 

References

[1] Mark M. Hager, Bodies Politics: The Progressive History of Organizational ‘Real Entity’ Theory, 50 U. Pitt. L. Rev. 575.

[2] State of Bombay vs. R.M.D. Chamarbaugwalla 1957 AIR 699.

[3] Bennett Coleman & Company & Others v. Union of India and Others 1973 AIR 106.

[4] Ibid.

[5] The Law Commission of India ( Hundred and First Law Report) on Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Constitution: Recommendation to extend it to Indian Corporations, Available at www.lawcommissionofindia.nic.in/101-169/Report 101.pdf (Accessed on 10th September 2013).

[6] Ibid.

[7] Delhi Cloth and General Mills v. Union of India AIR 1983 SC 937.

[8]https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/173762/9/09_chapter%202.pdf.

[9] Manoj Kumar Sadual, Freedom of Press in Indian Constitution: A Brief Analysis, International Journal of Applied Research 2015; 1(8): 194 -198.

[10] Constituent Assembly Debates, Vol. VII p 780 (2nd December 1948).

[11] Re Daily Zemmedar AIR 1947 Lah 340.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Gopal Dass v. D.M AIR 1974 SC 213.

[14] Sharma v. Srikrishna AIR 1959 SC 395.

[15] Romesh Thappar, v. State of Madras (1950) SCR 594.

[16] Bennett Coleman v. State of J. & K (1975) Cr LJ 211.

[17] Baumgartner v. O.S., (1944) 322 US (673-74)s.

[18] Prabha v. Union of India AIR 1982 SC 6.

[19] Sakal papers v. Union of India 1962 AIR 305, 1962 SCR (3) 842.

[20]https://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/102441/9/09_chapter-2.pdf.

[21] The omission was explained by Dr B.R. Ambedkar when he observed that the press has no special rights which are not to be given or which are not to be exercised by the citizen in his individual capacity. The editor of a press or the manager is merely exercising the right of the expression, and, therefore, no special mention is necessary of the freedom of the press.

[22] The Arushi Murder case; Nupur Talwar v. Central Bureau of Investigation and Another, AIR 2012 SC 1921. 

[23] Saibal v. B.K. Sen AIR 1961 SC 633.  

[24]http://docs.manupatra.in/newsline/articles/Upload/0158AEEE-1A16-473C-A41A-DB93A66000EB.pdf

BY- Nidhi Garg | Geeta Institute of Law, Delhi NCR

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