Freedom of Press Essay

In a landmark judgment of the case Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India,[2] the Supreme Court held that the freedom of speech and expression has no geographical limitation and it carries with it the right of a citizen to gather information and to exchange thought with others not only in India but abroad also. The constitution of India does not specifically mention the freedom of press. Freedom of press is implied from the Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Thus the press is subject to the restrictions that are provide under the Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

Before Independence, there was no constitutional or statutory provision to protect the freedom of press. As observed by the Privy Council in Channing Arnold v. King Emperor:[3] “The freedom of the journalist is an ordinary part of the freedom of the subject and to whatever length, the subject in general may go, so also may the journalist, but apart from statute law his privilege is no other and no higher. The range of his assertions, his criticisms or his comments is as wide as, and no wider than that of any other subject”.

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The Preamble of the Indian Constitution ensures to all its citizens the liberty of expression. Freedom of the press has been included as part of freedom of speech and expression under the Article 19 of the UDHR. The heart of the Article 19 says: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. ” In Romesh Thapar v.

State of Madras,[4] Patanjali Shastri, CJ observed: “ Freedom of speech and of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organisations, for without free political discussion no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the process of popular government, is possible. ” The Supreme Court observed in Union of India v. Assn. for Democratic Reforms:[5] “Onesided information, disinformation, misinformation and non information, all equally create an uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce. Freedom of speech and expression includes right to impart and receive information which includes freedom to hold opinions”.

In Indian Express v. Union of India,[6] it has been held that the press plays a very significant role in the democratic machinery. The courts have duty to uphold the freedom of press and invalidate all laws and administrative actions that abridge that freedom. Freedom of press has three essential elements. They are:1. freedom of access to all sources of information,[7] 2. freedom of publication, and 3. freedom of circulation. [4] In India, the press has not been able to exercise its freedom to express the popular views. In Sakal Papers Ltd. v.

Union of India,[8] the Daily Newspapers (Price and Page) Order, 1960, which fixed the number of pages and size which a newspaper could publish at a price was held to be violative of freedom of press and not a reasonable restriction under the Article 19(2). Similarly, in Bennet Coleman and Co. v. Union of India,[9] the validity of the Newsprint Control Order, which fixed the maximum number of pages, was struck down by the Court holding it to be violative of provision of Article 19(1)(a) and not to be reasonable restriction under Article 19(2).

The Court struck down the plea of the Government that it would help small newspapers to grow. In Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras (1950 SCR 594, 607; AIR 1950 SC 124), entry and circulation of the English journal “Cross Road”, printed and published in Bombay, was banned by the Government of Madras. The same was held to be violative of the freedom of speech and expression, as “without liberty of circulation, publication would be of little value”. In Prabha Dutt v. Union of India ((1982) 1 SCC 1; AIR 1982 SC 6. , the Supreme Court directed the Superintendent of Tihar Jail to allow representatives of a few newspapers to interview Ranga and Billa, the death sentence convicts, as they wanted to be interviewed. There are instances when the freedom of press has been suppressed by the legislature. The authority of the government, in such circumstances, has been under the scanner of judiciary. In the case of Brij Bhushan v. State of Delhi (AIR 1950 SC 129), the validity of censorship previous to the publication of an English Weekly of Delhi, the Organiser was questioned.

The court struck down the Section 7 of the East Punjab Safety Act, 1949, which directed the editor and publisher of a newspaper “to submit for scrutiny, in duplicate, before the publication, till the further orders , all communal matters all the matters and news and views about Pakistan, including photographs, and cartoons”, on the ground that it was a restriction on the liberty of the press. Similarly, prohibiting newspaper from publishing its own views or views of correspondents about a topic has been held to be a serious encroachment on the freedom of speech and expressio n. [10] [edit]Restrictions

The freedom of speech and of the press does not confer an absolute right to express without any responsibility. Lord Denning, in his famous book Road to Justice, observed that press is the watchdog to see that every trial is conducted fairly, openly and above board, but the watchdog may sometimes break loose and has to be punished for misbehaviour. [11] With the same token Clause (2) of Article 19 of the Indian constitution enables the legislature to impose reasonable restrictions on free speech under following heads: I. security of the State, II. friendly relations with foreign States, III. public order, IV. ecency and morality, V. contempt of court, VI. defamation, VII. incitement to an offence, and VIII. sovereignty and integrity of India. Reasonable restrictions on these grounds can be imposed only by a duly enacted law and not by executive action. [12] Security of the State: Reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the freedom of speech and expression, in the interest of the security of the State. All the utterances intended to endanger the security of the State by crimes of violence intended to overthrow the government, waging of war and rebellion against the government, external aggression or war, etc. may be restrained in the interest of the security of the State. [13] It does not refer to the ordinary breaches of public order which do not involve any danger to the State. [4] Friendly relations with foreign States: This ground was added by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act of 1951. The State can impose reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression, if it tends to jeopardise the friendly relations of India with other State.

Public order: This ground was added by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951 in order to meet the situation arising from the Supreme Court’s decision in Romesh Thapar, s case (AIR 1950 SC 124). The expression ‘public order’ connotes the sense of public peace, safety and tranquillity. In Kishori Mohan v. State of West Bengal, the Supreme Court explained the differences between three concepts: law and order, public order, security of State. Anything that disturbs public peace or public tranquillity disturbs public order. [14] But mere criticism of the government does not necessarily disturb public order. 15] A law punishing the utterances deliberately tending to hurt the religious feelings of any class has been held to be valid as it is a reasonable restriction aimed to maintaining the public order. [16] It is also necessary that there must be a reasonable nexus between the restriction imposed and the achievement of public order. In Superintendent, Central Prison v. Ram Manohar Lohiya (AIR 1960 SC 633), the Court held the Section 3 of U. P. Special Powers Act, 1932, which punished a person if he incited a single person not to pay or defer the payment of Government dues, as there was no reasonable nexus between the speech and public order.

Similarly, the court upheld the validity of the provision empowering a Magistrate to issue directions to protect the public order or tranquillity. [17] Decency and morality: The word ‘obscenity’ is identical with the word ‘indecency’ of the Indian Constitution. In an English case of R. v. Hicklin,[18] the test was laid down according to which it is seen ‘whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscene tend to deprave and corrupt the minds which are open to such immoral influences’. This test was upheld by the Supreme Court in Ranjit D. Udeshi v.

State of Maharashtra (AIR 1965 SC 881). In this case the Court upheld the conviction of a book seller who was prosecuted under Section 292 , I. P. C. , for selling and keeping the book The Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The standard of morality varies from time to time and from place to place. Contempt of court: The constitutional right to freedom of speech would not allow a person to contempt the courts. The expression Contempt of Court has been defined Section 2 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The term contempt of court refers to civil contempt or criminal contempt under the Act.

But judges do not have any general immunity from criticism of their judicial conduct, provided that it is made in good faith and is genuine criticism, and not any attempt to impair the administration of justice. In In re Arundhati Roy ((2002) 3 SCC 343), the Supreme Court of India followed the view taken in the American Supreme Court (Frankfurter, J. ) in Pennekamp v. Florida (328 US 331 : 90 L Ed 1295 (1946)) in which the United States Supreme Court observed: “If men, including judges and journalists, were angels, there would be no problem of contempt of court.

Angelic judges would be undisturbed by extraneous influences and angelic journalists would not seek to influence them. The power to punish for contempt, as a means of safeguarding judges in deciding on behalf of the community as impartially as is given to the lot of men to decide, is not a privilege accorded to judges. The power to punish for contempt of court is a safeguard not for judges as persons but for the function which they exercise”. In E. M. S. Namboodripad v. T. N.

Nambiar ((1970) 2 SCC 325; AIR 1970 SC 2015), the Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the High Court, holding Mr. Namboodripad guilty of contempt of court. In M. R. Parashar v. Farooq Abdullah ((1984) 2 SCC 343; AIR 1984 SC 615. ), contempt proceedings were initiated against the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir. But the Court dismissed the petition for want of proof. Defamation: The clause (2) of Article 19 prevents any person from making any statement that injures the reputation of another.

With the same view, defamation has been criminalised in India by inserting it into Section 499 of the I. P. C. Incitement to an offence: This ground was also added by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. The Constitution also prohibits a person from making any statement that incites people to commit offence. Sovereignty and integrity of India: This ground was also added subsequently by the Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act, 1963. This is aimed to prohibit anyone from making the statements that challenge the integrity and sovereignty of India.


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