Freedom of speech and expression in India

In any democratic setup, it is essential to empower the people, media institutions, and intellectuals to express views and opinions on the issues of public or national importance. Because, support and guidance of public opinion is indispensable to strengthen the fabric of democracy. Otherwise, totalitarian tendencies might gain momentum in the disguise of “rule of people”. So, let’s discuss the much debated issue, “Freedom of speech and expression in India”.

“Definition of freedom of speech and expression”

“Freedom of speech and expression” is vital democratic principle widely embedded in the notable constitutions of the democratic world. As per this principle, individual or institution living in the system should have the right to express his or her opinions, views, or grievances on the issues or actions either taken by any institutions or governing agencies. In other words, it is an effective means and mechanism to safeguard the interests of common people against people in power.

Constitutional provisions about “freedom of speech and expression” in India

Forefathers of nation rightly considered and included “freedom of speech and expression” as the basic fundamental right in the article 19(1) (a) of part three of the constitution.

It states that freedom of speech and expression is the fundamental rights by which citizens can express their views and opinions on issues or actions affecting their interests through any medium such as words of mouth, film, printing, writing etc.  But, it is available only for citizens, and not for foreigners.

“Most importantly, the nature of this right isn’t absolute but subject to reasonable restrictions by law. And, this is the main point of debate and discussion as the domain of reasonable restrictions is too vague to consider”.

So far, in India, the heated debates and frictions were noticed about “freedom of press, as well as religious beliefs”. Let it be the crime against the frontline journalists, or any idea challenging religious beliefs, the issue of freedom of speech and expression becomes the subject of discussion.

In this blog, my genuine attempt is to delineate the boundaries of freedom of speech and expression weather this principle is used to address real public grivences or advance personal or group’s interest on the name of common people.

The honourable Supreme Court and high court have been delivered many important judgments regarding the ambit of freedom of speech and expression along reasonable restrictions in the last seven decades. Undoubtedly, these judgements are vital in determining the course of freedom of speech and expression in India in future.

“Freedom of press” and misuse of freedom of speech and expression by media”

In India, since many decades, media has been at the centre place regarding this principle. The unfortunate incidents of crimes by entities in question against the frontline journalists have been considerably increasing. Besides, arrest of important media persons with the help of fabricated charges to suppress criticism against people in power is notable regular manoeuvring in many countries, including India.

“In the global press freedom index, India is placed in the 142nd position out of 180 nations is a matter of great concern for the largest democracy in the world”.

This is the reason why many media person or institutions prefer to walk with party in power to avoid loss of property and lives. This is very shocking thing happening in country when it is widely advocated to empower the people to be more vocal against anything illegal.

“Questions over the nexus between media and people in power”

The second story of freedom of speech and expression or “press freedom” is the questionable link between the two pillars of democracy. In the democratic system, media and government is placed to scrutinize the objectionable actions of each other by themselves. It is utmost important to thrive for healthy functioning of system to safeguard public interests.

But, what would happen when such institutions work to advance their respective interests at the cost of justice?

Truly, many a times, party in power empowers the leading media houses to publicize or propagate the party agenda and decisions to form favourable public opinions or criticize opponents. This is the beginning of vendetta politics of arrests, sanctions and so on.

The recent incident of arrest of editor-in-chief of a particular channel is the better example of worst nexus and vendetta politics. It looks like that the fourth pillar of democracy is going to be an issue of public debate and scrutiny for which it was designed.

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