February 28, 2023

Article 19 of the Indian Constitution

This article is written by George Philip, a Second Year LL.B student of Nari Gursahani Law College, Mumbai


The Constitution of India guaranteed certain rights which no person, including the Government, can take away. These rights, called the Fundamental Rights were insured in Part III of the Constitution of India. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution lists 6 Fundamental Freedoms. All these Freedoms have certain reasonable restrictions imposed on them. Also, such Freedoms can be deprived of citizens during Nation Emergency. Except for Article 20 and 21, all Fundamental Rights can be curtailed with the proclamation of a National Emergency,

Right to Freedom is a Fundamental Right guaranteed exclusively to the citizens by the Constitution of India. Foreigners don’t enjoy these Freedoms. Article 19(1) guarantees 6 Freedoms. Initially, the Constitution guaranteed seven Freedoms including the Right to hold and dispose of property. However, this right was subsequently moved as a Constitutional Right. It states –

“(1) All citizens shall have the right—

      (a) to freedom of speech and expression;

      (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;

      (c) to form associations, unions or co-operative societies;

      (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;

      (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India;

      (g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.”

Reasonable Restrictions on Fundamental Freedoms:

One person’s right to enjoy Freedom is another’s duty. Hence, certain reasonable restrictions are imposed on Freedoms. These restrictions include:

Freedom of speech and expressionReasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India,] the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.
Assemble peaceably and without arms Reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order
Form associations, unions or co-operative societiesReasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order or morality
Move freely throughout the territory of IndiaReasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right in the interests of the general public or for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe
Reside and settle in any part of the territory of India
Practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or businessReasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right in the interests of the general public and hence the State can impose
      (i) the professional or technical qualifications necessary for practising any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business, or         (ii) the carrying on by the State, or by a corporation owned or controlled by the State, of any trade, business, industry or service, whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise.

Test of Reasonableness:

The restrictions to be imposed on the fundamental freedoms must satisfy the following tests:

  1. The restriction must be imposed by or under the authority of a law duly enacted by the appropriate legislature. The law authorising the restriction must be reasonable.
  2. The restriction imposed must be for the particular purpose or object. There has to be a reasonable nexus between the restriction imposed and the objects mentioned in the restrictions mentioned under Article 19 (2) to 19 (6).
  3. The restriction must be reasonable. 

Various Rights under the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression:

  1. Right to Freedom of Press:

Although the Right to Freedom of Press is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution of India, it is implicit in the Freedom of Speech and Expression. Freedom of press means:

  • There can be no pre-censorship in the press;
  • Freedom of circulation;
  • No excessive taxes on the press, etc.;
  1. Right to know, Right to Information: 

Supreme Court held that Citizen’s Right to know is essential to enjoy his Freedom of Speech and Expression. This paved the way for the Right to Information Act.

  1. Right to Silence: 

Right to be silent is also an essential part of Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. In Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala (1986), the Supreme Court upheld the right to silence of three children who were expelled from school because they refused to sing the National Anthem. The Court held that no person can be compelled to sing the National Anthem if he has genuine conscientious objections based on his religious belief. 

  1. Right to know the Antecedents of Candidates contesting Elections: In Union of India v. Association For Democratic Reforms (2002), the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the voters have a fundamental right to know the antecedents of the candidate contesting election including his/her criminal past. Hence, all Political Parties are now compelled to declare the Criminal antecedents of their candidates and reasons for choosing them in their Website and inform the Voters.

These Freedoms are essential for securing development of citizens and for furthering the progress of the State. In absence of such rights, it wouldn’t be possible for people to express their opinion and participate in decision making of the Government. Transportation facilities are important for securing the Right to Movement. It brings about Uniformity in Development all over the Country. Cooperative Societies boosted Indian Economy in all major sectors especially by bringing the Milk Revolution. These cooperative societies help the marginalized section of Society, women in particular to be self-reliant and contribute in the development of our economy. 

Inspite of having the Freedom of Speech guaranteed in our Constitution, India is ranked 150th among 180 countries by the Reporters without Borders in its World Press Freedom Index. There are instances of journalists being harassed by the Government machinery for reporting on sensitive issues. On the other side, media trial has become rampant today. Many Media Houses for increasing their viewership resort to Judgemental Debates and accusations. Supreme Court in India has warned such Media Trials as being counterproductive and has labelled such media as Kangaroo Courts.

The Right to Freedom is hence fundamental for smooth running of a Democracy and Citizens have a duty to exercise Freedoms responsibly. It must become a tool for social reform rather than becoming an instrument for oppression.


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