“Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.

-John Milton

Freedom of Speech and Expression as enshrined in Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution, grants individuals the right to express opinions through various mediums without fear of repercussion. However, Article 19(2) outlines reasonable restrictions on this freedom. This right is foundational to democracy, fostering open discourse and societal progress. It is safeguarded by both national & international laws, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as it is vital liberty essential for the development of modern societies and thriving democracies.

Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees Indian Citizens the right to Freedom of Speech & Expression, Subject to reasonable restrictions outlined in Article 19(2). This right encompasses freedom of communication and publication but does not permit irresponsible allegations against the judiciary. Recognized as essential for a healthy democracy, Freedom of Speech grants citizens the ability to participate fully in social & political processes. However, it is not absolute; the government may impose reasonable restrictions to protect national interests and public order. In the landmark case of Romesh Thapar Vs. State of Madras, the Supreme Court affirmed that freedom of expression includes the freedom to propagate ideas and circulate publications. This broad interpretation encompasses various forms of expression, including press freedom and commercial speech. However, it has also been noted that a reasonable restriction should be imposed in such a way that others’ rights should not be affected or hindered in any manner, like in the case of Maneka Gandhi Vs. Union of India.

Individuals and corporations in India can invoke Freedom of Speech arguments against the State through Writ Petition under Article 226 or Article 32 of the Constitution. Significant cases like Bennet and Coleman & Co Vs. Union of India highlights the judiciary’s role in safeguarding these fundamental rights against governmental overreach. The constitution of India outlines essential elements of freedom of speech and expression, Including-

  1. Exclusivity to Indian Citizens: Article 19(1)(a) restricts this right to Indian Citizens, excluding foreign nationals.
  2. Broad Scope of Expression: Individuals have the liberty to express opinions on various topics through diverse mediums like writing, speech, printing, or film.
  3. Reasonable restrictions: While not absolute, the government can impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of sovereignty, public order, morality, and other specified circumstances.
  4. Government Accountability: the state must actively uphold this right, and its failure to do so constitutes a violation of Article 19(1)(a).

These elements form the foundation of Freedom of Speech & Expression in India, ensuring a balance between individual liberties & social interests.


Freedom of Speech & Expression, integral to democracy, is upheld by constitutional provisions in India. Historical examples like the evolution of women’s suffrage, demonstrate its power to eradicate such social evils. These right fuels the democratic process by fostering open disclosure and facilitating public opinion formation. It encircles not only the right to express one’s views but also the right to receive information freely. Print media, a potent tool for disseminating information, must be accessible to all citizens to ensure the fulfillment of this right. Any deprivation of access constitutes a violation of constitutional obligations. The protection of freedom of speech is crucial for several reasons such as

  • For the discovery of truth, open discussion facilitates the discovery of truth by preventing the suppression of accurate facts & valuable opinions.
  • It fosters individual self-fulfillment & development by allowing for the expression of beliefs & political ideologies.
  • Promotes active participation in democracy by enabling citizens to actively engage in the democratic process, contributing to informed decision-making.

The judiciary plays a vital role in safeguarding this right. In Union of India Vs. Naveen Jindal & Another (2004), the High Court reaffirmed that the restrictions of displaying the national flag must align with constitutional provisions to preserve citizens’ pride and enthusiasm for their country. Therefore, it can be well said that the Freedom of Speech is essential for the functioning & strengthening of democracy in India.


The grounds on which freedom of speech & expression can be restricted are defined under clause (2) of Article 19 of the constitution of India. Many grounds are contained under this clause, that restrict freedom of speech & expression up to some reasonable restriction by the state, these grounds are as follows-

  1. Security of the State: restrictions can be imposed to safeguard against actions threatening national security, such as waging war or rebellion.
  2. Friendly relation with Foreign State: restrictions may be imposed to maintain positive relations with other countries.
  3. Public Order: measures can be taken to preserve public peace, tranquility, and safety, including preventing actions that disturb religious sentiments.
  4. Democracy & Morality: Restricts exist to uphold standards of decency & morality, prohibiting the distribution of obscene content.
  5. Contempt of court: freedom of speech does not extend to contempt of court, defined under the Contempt of Court Act 1971.
  6. Defamation: making statements that harm another’s reputation is prohibited, as defined under sections 499 & 500 of the Indian Penal Code.
  7. Incitement to an offense: restrictions apply to statements that incite or encourage others to commit offenses.
  8. Sovereignty & integrity of India: any statement directly challenging the integrity & sovereignty of the nation is prohibited.

These restrictions are vital for maintaining order and protecting the interests of the state and its citizens.


It is often seen that expression through the form of speech is one of the basic guarantees that are provided by civil society. However, we can say that in this modern world the Right to Freedom of Speech & expression is not limited to not only expressing one’s view through words, but this right also involves the circulation of those individual’s views in many forms such as writing, audiovisual, advertisements, and many other communication channels. The right to freedom of speech & expression also includes the right to information as well as the right to press and is therefore said to be a right to express & self-realization.

The two biggest democratic nations of this world- India & America, have thoroughly protected the right to freedom of speech & expression. As per the Indian context, this important right to freedom of speech and expression falls under the category of Fundamental right in the Indian Constitution and is mentioned under the ambit of Article (19)(1)(a), and Indian courts have many times expressed that this right is only subjective to restrictions permissible under Article 19(2) of the constitution.

Hence, it can rightly be concluded that the concept of freedom of speech & expression is an integral part of the democratic process, and it is also very much essential for the proper functioning of a democratic state.

By- Esha Gandhi (intern)

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