Personal liberty is regarded as one of the most important of all fundamental rights. The famous Supreme Court lawyers often consider Article 19 as the rainbow of fundamental rights. Originally Article 19 contained 7 fundamental freedoms but with the 44th amendment to the Constitution of Indian right to property was deleted from Article 19 and is no longer a fundamental right.
Freedom of speech and expression is one of the broadest fundamental right guaranteed to an Indian citizen under Article 19. Famous lawyers in India are of the opinion that the suppression of speech in its most painful consequence would be mental sterilization. Freedom of speech and expression is a comprehensive right and includes freedom of expression concerning both public and private affairs.
The Constitution of Indian has tried to maintain a balance between rights and liabilities. The rights guaranteed under Article 19 are not absolute rights. The restrictions imposed on freedom of speech and expression was done with an object to differentiate between the concept of liberty and anarchy. Restrictions on freedom of speech and expression may be imposed on the following grounds:
- Sovereignty and integrity of India
- Security of state
- Friendly relations with foreign states
- Public order
- Morality or
- Contempt of court.
- Incitement of an offence `
Most of the people and activists are of the opinion that the law of sedition is in violation of freedom of speech and expression. Lawyers in Delhi often give free legal advice on the law of sedition to educate people about their rights and also the limits of these rights.
Law of sedition is not in violation of freedom of speech and expression and it is a settled position of law. Sedition is regarded as those statements and acts which involve an intention or tendency to create disorder and disturbance of law and order or incitement of an offence. Seditious acts tend to limit the freedom of speech and expression and the same has even been recognized as a valid restriction under International law. The object of imposing a restriction on freedom of speech and expression with regards to seditious acts is to ensure the protection of national security. However, it is important to note that the freedom of speech and expression can be restricted only with regards to a serious threat to national security as it is well known to all that the freedom of speech and expression is fundamental to a flourishing democracy. Law of sedition cannot be given a broad interpretation and has to be interpreted having regard to freedom of speech and expression and the purpose of restriction. Top lawyers in India while arguing cases pertaining to the conflict between freedom of speech and expression and seditious laws say that the exercise of freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) cannot be restricted and made punishable merely because the exercise of the freedom might jeopardize the national security.
The rights guaranteed under Article 19 are those basic rights which are recognized as the natural rights which are inherent in the status of a citizen. Freedom of speech and expression means a right to express one’s convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. This right also includes the right to propagate or publish the views of others as this right includes the freedom of the press also the press, is now regarded as the fourth estate.
The Supreme Court of India has given a broad interpretation to the freedom of speech and expression and has even included the freedom of silence in this right.