Freedom: A Boon or A Bane For Society And Individual

By- Atharva Kulshrestha

“If freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”-

George Washington


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."

Preamble of our Indian Constitution secures many rights to the citizens of India. These rights are essential for all the citizens, not only for their personal development in all aspects of life but also to ensure the harmony and security in the society and for the growth of the country. As these are most necessary rights and fundamental in nature thus they are called ‘Fundamental Rights’. These are enshrined in Part III (Articles 12 to 35) of the Constitution of India. These fundamental rights are irrespective of any discrimination and are universally applicable and are protected by judiciary.

Among the several rights that are ensured to us, one of them is Right to freedom which vests from Article 19 to Article 22. In the original Constitution, there were 7 freedoms in Art. 19(1), but one of them namely, ‘the right to acquire, hold and dispose of property’ was disposed of by the Constitution (44th Amendment) Act, 1978, leaving only 6 freedoms in this Article. Articles 19(2) to 19(6) contain ‘reasonable restrictions’ on the rights enshrined under Article 19(1).


Article 19 (1) 1 of the Constitution, guarantees certain fundamental rights, subject to the power of the State to impose restrictions on the exercise of those rights. The Article was thus intended to protect these rights against State action other than in the legitimate exercise of its power to regulate private rights in the public interest.


Expression is a matter of liberty and right. The liberty of thought and right to know are the sources of expression. Free Speech is live wire of the democracy. Freedom of expression is integral to the expansion and fulfillment of individual personality. Freedom of expression is more essential in a democratic setup of State where people are the Sovereign rulers. Iver Jennings said, without freedom of speech, the appeal to reason which is the basis of democracy cannot be made. Milton in his Aeropagitica says that without this freedom there can be no health in the moral and intellectual life of either the individual or the nation.

According to Justice Krishna Iyer, "This freedom is essential because the censorial power lies in the people over and against the Government and not in the Government over and against the people."

The freedom of speech and expression is required to fulfill the following

Objectives :

a) To discover truth

b) Non Self- fulfillment

c) Democratic value

d) To ensure pluralism

The people of India gave to themselves, the Constitution of India, with a view of make it Sovereign, Democratic, Socialistic, Secular and Republic. In our democratic society, pride to place has been provided to freedom of speech and expression, which is the mother of all liberties. One of the main objectives of the Indian Constitution as envisages in the Preamble, is to secure LIBERTY OF THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION to all the citizens. Freedom of Expression is among the foremost of human rights. It is the communication and practical application of individual freedom of thought. Irrespective of the system of administration, various constitutions make a mention of the freedom of expression.

In Bennett Coleman & co. v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that newspaper should be left free to determine their pages and their circulation. This case arouse out of a constitutional challenge to the validity of the Newspaper (Price & Page) Act, 1956 which empowered the Government to regulate the allocation of space for advertisement matter. The court held that the curtailment of advertisements would fall foul of Article 19(1)(a), since it would have a direct impact on the circulation of newspapers. The court held that any restriction leading to a loss of advertising revenue would affect circulation and thereby impinge on the freedom of speech.

In Indian Express Newspapers v. Union of India, a challenge to the imposition of customs duty on import of newsprint was allowed and the impugned levy struck down. The Supreme Court held that the expression freedom of the press though not expressly used in Article 19 was comprehended within Article 19(1) (a) and meant freedom from interference from authority which would have the effect of interference with the content & the circulation of newspapers.

In Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v. Cricket Association, Bengal, the Supreme Court held that broadcasting is a means of communication and a medium of speech and expression within the framework of Article 19(1)(a). This case involved the rights of a cricket association to grant telecast rights to an agency of its choice. It was held that the right to entertain and to be entertained, in this case, through the broadcasting media are an integral part of the freedom under Article 19(l)(a).

Article 19 (1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees to all its citizens including media "the right to freedom of speech and expression". Clause (2) of Article 19, at the same time provides: "nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interest of:-

a) Sovereignty and Integrity of India.

b) The Security of the State.

c) Friendly relations with foreign states.

d) Public order.

e) Decency or Morality.

f) Contempt of Court.

g) Defamation.

h) Incitement to an offence.


The freedom to assemble is of special interest within the realm of constitutional law, since it is enabled and restricted by an intersection of the constitutional text and the criminal procedure code. While the constitution provides for it as a right, the procedural provisions radically restrict this freedom, by empowering the state to regulate its expression and peremptorily curtail it exercise. This rather contradictory approach is a refection of a colonial legacy and the unquestioning adoption of most of the provisions of the 1872 Code of Criminal Procedure by the contemporary Indian State. It is logical that the colonial state maintained a legal framework that enabled a quick breakup of any sort of organising, meeting, association or assembly that could threaten it. It is unfortunate that the modern India continues this legacy, both in the context of assembly and association rights. In Himat Lal K. Shah v. Commissioner of Police, the Supreme Court considered the question as to whether the requirement that prior permission in writing from the police before holding a public meeting on a public street violated the Petitioners Article 19 ( 1) rights? Here the rule in question enabled the Commissioner or an officer designated by her to refuse permission for such a meeting.

Chief Justice Sikri writing for the majority distinguished between a statutory provision that enabled the regulation of conduct of persons in assemblies and processions and a rule that enabled the refusal of permission to hold public meetings on public streets without guidelines being prescribed for the officer responsible. He found no fault with the prior permission requirement, as according to him "the right which flows from Art. 19 (1) (b) is not a right to hold a meeting at any place and time. It is a right which can be regulated." He invalidated the arbitrary powers conferred on the officer authorised by the Commissioner of Police.

In Kameshwar Prasad v State of Bihar, a rule that prohibited any form of demonstrations by government employees was examined. The court reasons that a government servant, did not lose her fundamental rights, and that the rule by prohibiting both orderly or disorderly demonstrations violates Article 19 (1) (b). The Court did not take issue with the notion that governmental employees as a class could have their rights or freedoms burdened. The apex court explains that "by accepting the contention that the freedoms guaranteed by Part Ill and in particular those in Article 19 (1) (a) apply to the servants of Government we should not be taken to imply that in relation to this class of citizens the responsibility arising from the official position would not by itself impose some limitations on the exercise of their rights as citizens"


Article 19 (3) of the Constitution provides that nothing in the right to assemble peaceably shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevents the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of that right. The restrictions pertaining to sovereignty and intergrity were added after the adoption of the Constitution.


Article 19(1 )(c) of the Constitution of India guarantees to all its citizens the right "to form associations and unions or cooperative societies" Under clause (4) of Article 19, the state may by law impose reasonable restrictions on this right in the interest of public order or morality or the sovereignty and integrity of India. The right to form associations or unions or cooperative societies has a very wide and varied scope including all sorts of associations viz., political parties, clubs, societies, companies, organizations, entrepreneurships, trade unions etc.

The right to form trade unions should not lead to the conclusion that trade unions have a guaranteed right to an effective collective bargaining or to strike as a part of collective bargaining or otherwise. The right to strike or to declare a lock-out may be controlled or restricted by various industrial legislations such as Industrial Dispute Act or Trade Unions Act.

Right to form association does not carry the right to recognition Right to form association does not carry the right to strike Right to form association does not carry the right to inform rival union


In O.K Ghosh v. E.X.Joseph, the respondent, a government servant was the secretary of the civil accounts association. The appellant was the accountant general of Maharashtra. A memo was served on the respondent intimating him that it was proposed to hold an enquiry against him for having deliberately contravened the provisions of Rule 4-A of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1955 in so far as he participated actively in various demonstrations organized in connection with the strike of the central government employees and had taken active part in the preparations made for the strike. The respondent filed a writ