The Constitution of India provides the right of freedom, given in articles 19, 20, 21 and 22, with the view of guaranteeing individual rights that were considered vital by the framers of the constitution.

The primary purpose of Article 19 is to protect certain rights regarding freedom of speech.

Every citizen has the right to freedom of speech and expression; assemble peacefully (without arms); form associations or unions; move freely throughout the country; reside and settle in any part of India; and practise any profession, or carry on any occupation.

In the interests of the sovereignty, integrity, and security of India, the states can enact any law that imposes “reasonable restrictions” on the exercise of the rights mentioned in Article 19. Moreover, the Defamation clause under this Article prevents any citizen from making any statement that injures the reputation of another. It is to be noted that the privileges under this article remain suspended during the proclamation of emergency.

Although the Constitution of India does not specifically mention the freedom of press, it is implicitly defined under the Article 19 (1a). It has been included as part of freedom of speech and expression. Therefore, the press is also subject to restrictions that are provided under the Article 19 (2).

In fact, the Right to Information (RTI) emerges as a fundamental right under this Article as the prerequisite for enjoying the freedom of speech and expression is access to knowledge and information. Therefore, RTI becomes a constitutional right and an important aspect of the right to free speech and expression. Access to information also helps the citizens perform their fundamental duties mentioned in Article 51A.

Violation of Article 19

Recently, there have been instances of individuals being arrested under section 66A of the Information Technology (IT) Act for posting ‘objectionable comments and caricatures’ of political figures on social media. This has led to a furore among the citizens of the country who have claimed that Section 66A curbs freedom of speech and expression and violates Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution.

Another form of violation of Article 19 that’s rampant in India is the hate speeches that we often get to hear from the political leaders. These hate speeches come with malicious intention of “outraging the religious feelings” and hence they incite communal violence and endanger public tranquility, which is against the principle of Article 19.

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