Article 19: Freedom Of Speech And Expression


‘Freedom of Speech and Expression’ is an elementary right in Asian countries and also takes a look at Constitutional regulations: “No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or proscribing the proper to speak, write or print freely on any subject whatever.” Speech is the gift of God to humanity, a person transmitting his ideas, sentiments, and feelings to others through speech and expression. Thus, freedom of speech and expression could be a fundamental right gained by a human being at birth. Therefore, it’s a fundamental right. Equality of expression and speech is taken into account as the primary condition of liberty. It holds a favored and necessary place in the hierarchy of language, it is honestly stated in terms of freedom of speech that it is the mother of all other freedoms. Freedom of speech and expression means the right, by word of mouth, writing, publishing, images, or some other medium, to freely express one’s views and opinions. It, therefore, requires the sharing of one’s thoughts, such as gestures, signs, and the like, by any communicable means or identifiable representation. It is generally acknowledged in modern times that the right to free expression is the cornerstone of a free society and must be protected in every regard. The first thought of a free society is the related degree of flow of words in an open forum. 

Article 19 of the Indian Constitution provides that :

(1) All Citizens will have the right of freedom of speech and expression and can profess any trade or occupation and they can move freely throughout the country without any permission but certain reasonable restrictions can be imposed upon it.     

(2) These freedoms will not restrain the government from making any laws to impose certain reasonable restrictions to protect the sovereignty and integrity of the nation and to promote friendly relations with other countries of the world.

Reasonable restriction

Article 19(1)(b) recognizes and guarantees the liberty of assembly. The right to assembly embodies the very idea of a democratic government. Article 19(1)(b) thus includes the right to hold meetings and to take out processions. However, this right is not absolute but restrictive in nature. The assembly must be non-violent and must not breach public peace. Disorderly and/or riotous assembly will not be protected under Article 19(1)(b) and clause 3 of article 19 would then come into picture. Chapter viii of the Indian Penal Code lays down that the conditions when an assembly becomes ‘unlawful’. However, it’s not an absolute right. It is important to note that a restriction on the freedom of speech of any citizen may be placed as much by an action of the State as by its inaction. Thus, failure on the part of the State to guarantee to all its citizens irrespective of their circumstances and the class to which they belong, the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression would constitute a violation of Article 19(1)(a). 


Babulal Parate v. State of Maharashtra[1] upheld the citizen’s right to require out procession or to carry demonstration or public conferences as a part of the freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms and right to maneuver freely anywhere within the territory of the Asian country. In this case, the court controlled that section 144 of Cr.P.C was constitutional, and also the jurist had the power to forestall such activities which might hinder the general public interest and peace. 

These six freedoms are, however, not absolute. Absolute individual rights cannot be guaranteed by any modern state. An organized society is a precondition of civil liberties. There cannot be any right which is injurious as a community as a whole. If people were given complete and absolute liberty without any social control the result would be ruined. Liberties have got to be limited to be effectively possessed. The guarantee of each right mentioned in Article 19 is therefore restricted by the Constitution itself by conferring upon the state a power to impose, by law, reasonable restrictions as may be necessary for the larger interest of the community. The restrictions of this freedom are provided in clauses 2 to 6 of Article 19 of the Constitution.

Importance of Freedom of expression

Freedom of speech and expression is the bulwark of democratic governance. This independence is required for the correct functioning of the democratic process. The primary state of democracy is taken into account by the equality of expression and speech.[2]Within the hierarchy of liberties, it occupies a favored position, offering succour and protection for all other liberties. Currently, being the mother of all other freedoms is the same. Equality of speech and expression in a very democracy disclose shops at no cost dialogue of issues. Within the development of vox populi on social , political and economic issues, freedom of expression plays a crucial role. Freedom of speech and expression, just as the Supreme Court right of the 1950s was quite widely defined by the equality clause and the protection of life and freedom.

 It has been described variously as a “simple human right”, a “natural right” and the like. Equality of speech and expression should not only require freedom to spread one’s views. It also includes the right to disseminate or make public the views of others,[3] otherwise the freedom of the press would not be included in this freedom.

Freedom of speech has four clear broad purposes to serve:

1- It encourages an individual to discover the truth and play its pivotal role in decision making of the nation.

2-It provides a mechanism by which it is possible to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change. All members of society should be able to form a faith of their own and communicate it freely to others.[4]

It has been held that freedom of speech and expression is central and indivisible to a democratic political system. It’s said to be the cornerstone of the functioning of democracy. It is the foundation of a democratic society. It is essential to the rule of law and liberty of citizens. In Romesh Thaper v. State of Madras,[5] Patanjali Sastri, C. J. observed:

 “Freedom of speech and of the press lie at the core of all democratic institutions, for while not free political discourse, no public education is possible, which is therefore necessary to the proper functioning of the common government process. A few of its degrading branches go away to their luxuriant growth at it’s greater than by pruning them away, to injure the vigor of these yielding the right fruits.  A freedom  of  such  amplitude  might  involve  risks  of  abuse.  However, the  framers  of the Constitution may have mirrored with Madison, who was the leading spirit within the preparation of the primary change of the Federal Constitution, what it’s higher to go away a few of  its degrading branches to their luxuriant growth than by pruning them away, to injure the vigor of these yielding the right fruits.”


Important Judgements-Case Study

  • Mahesh Bhatt v. Union of Asian country & Anr.[6] 

The  Supreme Court held that the liberty of speech and expression is one among the pillars of the Constitution of India and so sustains its democratic structure. The liberty of speech and expression is  a distinguished constituent of democracy. A healthy democracy is sustained by informing and creating aware voters of conflicting  and  differing  points of  read and any inroads  into  the freedom  of speech and expression, and any rules created within the style of imposing curbs on that would violate Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Such curbs aren’t saved by Article 19(2)[7] of the Constitution.

Freedom of speech and expression means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinion freely by words of mouth, writings, pictures or any other mode. It, thus, includes the expression of one’s ideas through any communicable medium or visible representation such as gesture, signs and the like in these categories. Free propagation of ideas is the necessary objective and this may be done on the platform or through the press. The freedom of propagation of ideas is secured by freedom of circulation. Liberty of publication indeed, without circulation the publication would be of little value. 

  • Indian Express Newspapers v. Union of India [8]

 In the present case, the Court observed that Article 19 of the Indian Constitution does not, in its words, use the word ‘freedom of the press’, but is found in Article 19(1)(a). In the name of the public interest, there should be no conflict with press freedom. The aim of the press is to extend the general public interest through the publication of facts and opinions, while not that it’s tough for a democratic citizen to create advised decisions.


  •  Bennet Coleman and Co. v. Union of India [9]

The validity of the paper management order was questioned during this case. The utmost variety of pages a newspaper might publish was set by the Order, and this was the same to be in violation of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. The government claimed that fixing the newsprint would assist within the development of little newspapers and avoid trade monopolies. The Court found that the newspaper policy was associate degree capricious limitation and acknowledged that the policy abbreviated the proper of the petitioner to freedom of speech and expression. The Court also observed that the two-fold consequence of setting a page limit would be: first, it might deprive the petitioners of their economic viability, and second, it would prohibit freedom of speech, as an obligatory reduction of the page limit would cause a decline in circulation and coverage of stories and opinions.



By reading all the points listed above, it can easily be said that the right to freedom of speech and expression is one of the most basic human rights. It involves circulating one’s thoughts through words or in writing or through audio-visual equipment, ads or some other communication medium. It also involves the right to information, freedom of the press, etc. This fundamental right thus has a wide reach. From the review of the case-law referred to above, it is clear that the Court has only provided a general understanding of the value and substance of Article 19(1)(a) and that it is only subjective to the limits permissible under Article 19(2). Intolerant authorities’ attempts to curb or choke this right have often been firmly repelled, more so when tyrannical tendencies have been betrayed by public authorities.


[1] 1961 SCR (3) 423.

[2] M. P. Jain, Indian Constitutional Law 1078    (LexisNexis Butterworths Wadhwa, 6th edn., 2012).

[3] AIR 1931 Mad 70.

[4] J. N. Pandey, The Constitutional Law of India 183 (Central Law Agency, 47th edn., 2010).

[5] AIR 1950 SC 124.

[6] 2008 (147) DLT 561.

[7] The Constitution of India, art. 19(2).

[8] 1985 2 SCC 434.

[9] AIR 1973 SC 106.


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