Freedom of speech and expression: the first condition of liberty

Human’ s got certain rights due to their very nature of Human being and these rights have been treated from long ago as the natural rights of Human being. In his natural rights, the  right to live life with all possible protection and reasonable restrictions, with certain freedoms and liberties and certain other rights which the human beings are highly required to have if he or she is to live as civilized being, are included. One can say the concept of Human rights and ‘freedom of speech and expression’ in it was evolved with the development in the human’s development and revolution. As a part of human history, when they were civilized they came up with the need of certain rights and even though they were naturally having certain human rights, but due to their non- recognition such rights were not in existence. And more particularly, in relation to the ‘freedom of speech and expression’, this is also one of the important fundamental- human rights of the individuals amongst the other rights.

The Freedom of Speech and expression in its general and common meaning is a right permitting the individuals to enjoy liberty in their developing thoughts, ideas, and knowledge and in sharing them with others. For living life freely without any one’s pressure or oppression an individual should have freedom of speech and expression. It is also one of the Human rights as discussed hereinabove and also as the humans are installed naturally with the mind and thus they can think and develop ideas which will be very much helpful in protecting civilization, developing and strengthening humans relations and for the overall development of human beings and their surrounding conditions of life. And though humans can thing and develop ideas but all such ideas need not necessarily be of same nature, thus every such ideas should be shared to each other for making a theme of same ideas and thoughts so that a new policy can be brought into existence based on it. And for all these purposes, this right to enjoy freedom of speech and expression is the basic need, where such thought generating population will be protected against their sharing ideas and thoughts. However, in enjoying such right, the policy is that one should not hurt the others rights and should not also hurt the respect and dignity of system in which he is living and also certain other restrictions are there which should simultaneously observed while enjoying this right.

In India after independence, this right was provided under the Constitution of India. A series of rights and freedoms are contemplated and explained under Articles 19, 20, 21 and 22 of Constitution and this is for guaranteeing the individual rights of vital importance. Article 19 of the Constitution of India guarantees Indians in all 6 freedoms and the right to freedom of speech and expression is one of them. Notably, the freedom of press, as now being the very significant and well know right is also implied from the concerned Freedom of speech and expression as covered under the wordings of the Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, even though the right to freedom of Press is not mentioned in the Constitution of India, specifically. And as discussed herein above in the last paragraph, every such human or fundamental rights are always subject to the certain restriction, the Indian grundnorm itself is also providing for these restrictions under its Article 19(2). In the early independence history of the concept of the concerned freedom, it is notable that there was no constitutional or statutory provision to protect such freedom specifically.

As already mentioned in the earlier paragraph, that the concerned freedom of speech and expression and also other rights and freedoms being human rights or fundamental rights to the Human beings were not basically or from very initial provided by any system or ruler or otherwise by any person. However, it is a concept which was evolved with the development of the humans and also of the civilization. And in its development the different scholars of time and courts had played vital role and as a result of all the concerned freedom of speech and expression was given international and world wide recognition by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, where this Freedom is specifically wrote under its Article 19.

From the time of its incorporation in the Indian Constitution, the present concerned liberty was always considered and discussed by the honourable judiciary in India and this is for considering its scope and enlarging the same with need of time. In its other landmark judgements the one is of Maneka Gandhi Vs. Union of India, AIR 1978 SC 597, where the honourable Supreme Court of India has observed that there is no geographical limitation in connection with the said freedom of speech and expression and the same is a first liberty which carries with it the other rights like right to gather information, exchange thoughts with others inside or outside India.

As to the aforesaid restrictions, the Apex judicial organ in India has considered the issue in the case of A. K. Gopalan, where the then justice, Patanjali Shastri has observed that every human being as a rational beings necessarily to have desires of doing many things, but in a civil society such desires will have to be controlled with the exercise of similar desires by other individuals. In its restrictions the Article 19 clause (2) of the Constitution of India is enabling the legislature to impose certain restrictions on freedom of speech and such restrictions includes the security issues of the State, public order, contempt of court, friendly relations with the foreign States, decency and morality, defamation, incitement to an offence and sovereignty and integrity of nation.

Thus, the concept of right to freedom of speech and expression being the first liberty condition is very vital one and has now attained the modern shape as the same is now including expressing the view through one’s writings, audiovisual instrumentalities, through advertisements, communication channel, etc. And notably the scope of this liberty is also extended to cover the right to information, freedom of press, etc. as such, the Courts in India have specifically played the significant role in interpreting it and also the reasonable restrictions.

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