Ojaank IAS Academy

OJAANK IAS ACADEMY

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OJAANK IAS ACADEMY

Right to Free Speech in India

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In India, freedom of expression and hate speech have become synonymous. The most recent incident occurred at the Haridwar religious gathering, where a few speakers supported genocide against Muslims, and the usage of the Bulli Bai app to malign Muslim women. Such occurrences not only harm individuals who are the focus of hatred, but also demonstrate how the basic right to free speech and expression given by the Indian Constitution is abused in our society. The question now is whether this right is absolute, and if not, what makes it vulnerable to exploitation.

Right to free speech and the Indian Constitution-Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India declares that “all citizens shall enjoy the right to freedom of speech and expression”. The principle underlying this Article (basic right) is found in the Preamble of the Constitution, which aspires to ensure liberty of thought and expression to all of its citizens.

The Article guarantees citizens the freedom to express their ideas and opinions by words, writing, printing, drawings, or any other means. Thus, it encompasses the expression of one’s thought through any communicative media or visual representation, such as gesture, signs, and so on. The extent of this privilege has been expanded throughout time by the Indian judiciary’s intelligence, inventiveness, and artistry.

Because India is a democratic country, it encourages all citizens to actively participate in decision-making. To allow all citizens to engage in the process, a secured right to express one’s opinion and belief must be established. Thus, freedom of expression is critical to the proper operation of Indian democracy. Freedom of expression enables for discourse and debate, which aids in the discovery of truth.

It also allows residents to discourse on a variety of subjects, contributing in achieving a consensus and avoiding clashes. Freedom of expression also enables for self-actualization and growth in numerous spheres of life. It aids in the growth of an individual. If one is prevented from expressing oneself, it may impede one’s whole personality development and progress, hence impeding the overall growth of the nation.

Security of the state refers to significant and aggravated types of public unrest, such as revolt, war against the state [entire state or portion of the state], insurgency, and so on. The Indian Constitution provides for reasonable limits on freedom of speech and expression in the sake of state security.

The Indian Constitution enables the state to place reasonable limits on freedom of speech and expression if it jeopardises India’s cordial ties with another state or states. The term “public order” refers to public peace, safety, and calm. Anything that upsets public order destroys public peace, and so the State has the authority to impose reasonable limits in order to protect public order.

The right to free expression in India is limited by the Constitution on the basis of decency and morality. When obscene language are sold, distributed, or shown, the state has the authority to impose reasonable limits. Under Section 2 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, the phrase contempt of court refers to civil or criminal contempt.

In general, it refers to a legal offence committed by someone who disobeys a judge or a judgement or otherwise interrupts the legal process in court. The basic right to free expression does not permit any individual or entity to engage in conduct that might be considered contempt of court.

Although the right to free expression is accompanied by “reasonable constraints,” many Indians regard it as unlimited and inviolable. The notion of free speech as a non-negotiable requirement among Indian residents results in hate speech directed against other communities.

Hate speech is frequently directed towards minorities and disadvantaged members of society. Such hate speech inevitably leads to confrontations and hatred among our country’s many groups and communities. Several separatist and anti-state groups exploit this privilege as a free pass to promote their rebellious beliefs among the public and disrupt and interfere with the nation’s current state of affairs and regular functioning.

There is no universally agreed definition of fake news. It does, however, relate to material that may be viewed as news that has been purposefully manufactured and broadcast in order to deceive people or promote deception. Fake news has recently been a common occurrence in India. Minorities (who are falsely implicated in violent acts) and specific persons are the primary targets of fake news makers and spreaders (spreading false news to tarnish their credibility and reputation).

On the contrary, bogus news about prominent figures and their alleged heroism is distributed in order to boost their standing and affect political decisions. Such spectacular and polarising false news information frequently causes community and social tensions, significant injury to individuals (lynching), and public distrust. In this day and age of evolving ideas and society, it is difficult to recognise and categorise any information as obscene or filthy. Several entities in India, however, are leveraging the right to free expression to disseminate vulgarity.

Indecent vocabulary, language, and gestures have grown commonplace on social media. These not only propagate immorality in society, but they also have a harmful impact on children and young.

In India, governments at various levels have attempted to prohibit the abuse of the right to free expression in order to prevent societal discontent and unrest. However, governments frequently abuse the idea of “reasonable limitations” in the process. This is shown in the following acts:

Section 124-A of the Indian Penal Code makes it an offence to say, write, or graphically display anything that seeks to incite hate or contempt for, or stimulates or attempts to inspire disaffection for, the government constituted by law in [India].

Although this law was enacted under the British Raj in 1860 to prevent offences against the state, it was reimposed by the Government of India through the First Amendment in 1951 and strengthened by adding two expressions – “friendly relations with foreign state” and “public order” – as grounds for imposing “reasonable restrictions” on free speech.

There is a need to strike a balance between ‘too much’ and ‘too little’ freedom. This can be accomplished by eliminating ambiguity in these clauses (free speech and “reasonable limitations”). The judiciary can play a key role in this. It will not only assist India in ensuring its citizens’ freedom of thought and speech, but it will also prevent the State from using “reasonable limits” arbitrarily. Maintaining a perfect balance will go a long way toward assisting India in reaching the highly regarded goals of the Indian Constitution.


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