Updated: Apr 25, 2020
Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution embodies the idea of Freedom of speech and expression. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution guarantees its citizens the “Liberty of speech, expression, belief, worship” etc. Freedom of expression is a broad term which also includes the Freedom of Press. In Romesh Thapar v/s State of Madras, 1950 AIR 124, Patanjali Shastri,CJ, observed that:- “Freedom of speech & of the press lies at the foundation of all democratic organization, for without free political discussion no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the process of popular government, is possible.”
This fundamental right is not an absolute right. Such speech will be restricted by reasonable limits prescribed under Article 19(2). The concept of Freedom of speech is rather misconceived. People usually get tangled up by the idea of how and till which limit to express themselves. In this modern tech savvy and educated world, everybody has an opinion about everything. People have the desire to express their opinion to others. They feel a need to have a voice which could convey their opinion and bring about a change or contribute to a certain event.
But drunk in this proclivity for expressing themselves, people usually speak derogatory words and take harsh steps. They violate the sanctity of Article 19(1)(a) and turn disdainful. When the Government takes action against such people, they turn into rebels and defy them. Many citizens and tabloids have criticised and trolled our respected Prime Minister; they have formulated bold and untrue opinions on various incidents like that of Jamia Milia situation, Coronavirus pandemic, CAA etc. being the recent events. Such fallacious comments veil the face of truth and keeps the reality camouflaged.
The idea of free speech is so embedded in Amartya Sen’s 2005 book: The Argumentative Indian, which makes it relevant even today. According to him “Press freedom can be most effective only when that freedom is utilised by the media fully, rather than in a biased or slanted way.” Today’s world is dominated by social and print media which are given excessive power to homogenize the opinions of people by presenting a story in an untrue manner. There is a rarity of true journalism left.
People and media are taking advantage of Article 19(1)(a) to express their perspective. They believe that they have free rein to speak or write whatever they want and when challenged upon, take the defence of Article 19(1)(a) as their Fundamental Right. In a democratic nation like India, freedom to speech is vital and an important aspect because ultimately a democratic government is “Of the people, For the people and By the people”. But, people should not misuse this freedom to become a maverick. They should express their opinions but acting within the reasonable impositions under Article 19(2).