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Home > Know Your Rights > Right to freedom of Speech and Expression
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Q1.  What is meant by right to freedom of speech and expression?

A1.  Constitution of India has provided to all citizens the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of Speech and expression means the right to express one's opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. It simply means that every citizen of India has the freedom to express his thoughts, either orally, or in writing or in the form of pictures. It thus includes the expression of one's idea through any communicable medium or visible representation, such as gesture, signs, and the like.


Q2.  Speech is a gift of God given to humans. Why was it necessary to give people the freedom of speech and expression through Constitution?

A2.  Speech is a gift of God, but in today’s world, it has to be safeguarded.  Freedom of speech and expression gives us the right to express our opinions freely even if it is about the government. But in some countries where dictatorial government is there, people are not free to say anything about the government. India is a democratic nation. Freedom of speech and expression is the backbone of a democracy because it is the opinions of the people that forms the government in a democracy. Therefore, it is important that this right is secured by incorporating it as a Fundamental Right in the Constitution.


Q3.  How is adding freedom of speech and expression as a Fundamental Right helpful to me?

A3.  Freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right. This means that if there is a violation of this right, you can directly approach the Supreme Court of India or any of the High Courts. If a right is added to the list of Fundamental Rights, it gives the citizens the option to approach the highest court in the country i.e. the Supreme Court, in case of the violation.


Q4.  Does Freedom of speech and expression give me the right to criticize anyone?

A4.  Freedom of speech and expression gives you the right to express your views freely. You are free to criticize anyone, however, this right has certain restrictions. You cannot exercise your freedom of speech to defame or insult anyone because that will violate his/her right of respect. Freedom of speech and expression is not an absolute right and certain restrictions can be imposed on it.


Q5.  What are the grounds of restrictions on my right to freedom of speech and expression?

A5.  The freedom of speech and expression can be subject to reasonable state restriction in the interest of decency or morality. Following are the grounds of reasonable restrictions on this right :


·  Sovereignty and Integrity of India

·  Security of the state

·  Friendly relations with the foreign states

·  Maintenance of public order

·  Decency and morality

·  Contempt of Court

·  Defamation

·  Incitement of an offence

·  Sedition


Q6.  How can my right to speech be detrimental to sovereignty and security of India and how can it amount to sedition?

A6.  Freedom of speech does not mean that you can say anything to anyone about any situation. The restriction on this right in the interest of security and sovereignty of India aims to prohibit anyone from saying things that might endanger the security of the nation. Sedition embraces all the practices whether by word or writing which are calculated to disturb the tranquility of the State and lead an ignorant person to disobey the Government. Mere criticism of the government does not amount to sedition, if it was not calculated to undermine the respect for the government in such a way so as to make people cease to obey it and so that only anarchy follows. Hence, such types of restrictions are necessary to maintain the sovereignty and security of the nation.


Q7.  What is meant by restrictions on grounds of contempt of court, defamation and incitement of offence?

A7.  This involves prohibition from saying things that insult others. The constitutional right to freedom of speech would not allow a person to contempt the courts. You cannot say or do anything that undermines the respect of the courts of law. Also, you cannot make any statement that injures the reputation of another person. The Constitution also prohibits a person from making any statement that incites people to commit offence. You cannot use your freedom of speech and expression to brain-wash others to commit some illegal activities.


Q8.  What is meant by restrictions on grounds of decency and morality?

A8.  Anything that is obscene, vulgar, filthy and lewd is considered offensive to decency and morality of the society. If the words or publication have the ability to corrupt the minds of people which may prove to be detrimental to the morality and decency of the society, than such restriction applies.


Q9.  Does freedom of speech and expression also include freedom of press?

A9.  Yes, press and media are all about speaking and writing. Freedom of press is a natural extension of freedom of speech and expression. It includes free propagation and circulation of ideas and news through mass media such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television. The freedom of speech and expression includes liberty to propagate not one's views only. It also includes the right to propagate or publish the views of other people; otherwise this freedom would not include the freedom of press.


Q10.  What is the importance of right to freedom of speech and expression to a common person?

A10.  The right to freedom of speech and expression gives the common man the power to speak up. It helps an individual to attain self-fulfillment. It makes him capable of discovering the truth. It strengthens the capacity of an individual in participating in decision-making process in the country. It provides an atmosphere where all members of society would be able to form their own beliefs and communicate them freely to others.

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