Freedom of Speech & Expression: All You Need To Know


The fundamental requirement of liberty is the freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of expression is often referred to as the mother of all other liberties since it holds a prominent and significant position in the hierarchy of rights. Freedom of speech is now largely acknowledged as being essential to society and as such, must always be protected. An unrestricted exchange of ideas in a public arena is the foundational tenet of a free society. The unrestricted expression of ideas and opinions, especially without concern for repercussions, is essential to the growth of any given community and, eventually, the state. One of the most significant fundamental liberties protected from official repression is freedom of speech & expression.

Meaning of Freedom of Speech

The essence of freedom of speech and expression is the ability to freely express one's ideas, thoughts, and opinions through writing, printing, pictures, gestures, spoken words, or any other manner. It entails the dissemination of one's thoughts by audible sounds, gestures, signs, and other forms of the communicable medium. It also involves the freedom to spread one's ideas via print media or any other form of communication.

This means that press freedom belongs to this group as well. The necessary goal is the free dissemination of ideas, which can be accomplished through the media or any other venue. Both of these freedoms—freedom of speech and freedom of expression—have unique qualifications.

The freedom to seek, receive, and communicate information and all kinds of ideas without regard to boundaries, whether orally or in writing, print, art, or through any other media of their choice, is included in the right to freedom of speech and expression, according to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution

Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, which is only available to Indian citizens and not to foreign people, grants freedom of speech and expression in India. According to Article 19(1)(a), one has the freedom to express their opinions in any way, including through writing, speaking, gesturing or any other form of expression. The rights to communicate and to spread or publish one's opinions are also included. It enables citizens to actively engage in the social and political life of a nation, the right listed above, granted by our constitution, is regarded as one of the most fundamental components of a healthy democracy.

Why should we protect Freedom of Speech and Expression?

Freedom of speech allows people to communicate their feelings to others, but this is not the sole reason to safeguard that right. There may be further justifications for preserving these fundamental privileges. These four key justifications for a free speech include:

To Discover Truth

The best defense of the free speech principle throughout history has been the contribution of open discourse to the pursuit of knowledge. It is clear from Pedicles' famous funeral speech that Athenians, back in 431 BC, did not view the public discussion as merely something to be put up with; rather, they thought that a thorough discussion of the topic before the assembly could not serve the city's interests. 


According to a second main theory of free speech, the right to free speech is an essential component of each person's right to self-actualization and fulfillment. Restrictions prevent our personality from developing. The reflective mind, aware of choices and opportunities for development, sets humans apart from other species. The other essential freedoms are intimately related to the freedom of expression. Thus, freedom of speech and expression is crucial for the full-fledged development of individuality.

Democratic Value

The foundation of democratic administration is free speech. This independence is necessary for the democratic process to run smoothly. It is recognized as the foundational requirement for liberty. It holds a favored place in the hierarchy of rights, supporting and defending all other rights. It is true what is said that this liberty is the mother of all others.

Freedom of speech and expression create forums for discussing concerns in democracies. In concerns of social, political, and economic policy, freedom of expression is crucial in forming public opinion.

To ensure Pluralism

By guaranteeing that diverse types of lives are valued and boosting the self-esteem of those who follow a specific lifestyle, freedom of speech reflects and reinforces plurality. The free speech rights of media corporations may be restricted to protect the constitutional value of pluralism, according to decisions by the Italian Constitutional Court and the French Council Constitutional Court.

Therefore, it may be inferred that freedom of speech promotes the search for the truth, is essential to the operation of a democratic Constitution, and is a component of human autonomy or self-fulfillment. The audience's interest in hearing ideas and information is that of the speaker.

Elements of Freedom of Speech and Expression

The following are the main components of the right to freedom of speech and expression:

  • Only an Indian citizen has access to this right; other nations, i.e., foreigners, are not eligible.
  • According to Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, one has the freedom to express themselves verbally, in writing, on paper, orally, through gestures, etc.
  • This right is not absolute, so the government has the authority to enact laws and impose reasonable restrictions when doing so will protect India's sovereignty and integrity, friendly relations with other nations, its security, public order, and morality, and against defamation, court disobedience, and incitement to commit crimes.
  • Such a right ought to be carried out equally by the State's action and inaction. Thus, it would likewise be a violation of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution for the State to fail to ensure that all of its citizens had the right to freedom of expression.

Freedom of Press

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost” – Thomas Jefferson

People must have the freedom to communicate their thoughts and sentiments to the general public to maintain a democratic way of life. As long as there are no unreasonable constraints placed on it under Article 19(2) of the Indian constitution, one's right to free speech includes the dissemination of their opinions through print media or any other form of communication, such as radio and television.

Although Article 19 of the Indian Constitution does not specifically mention freedom of the press, judges of the Supreme Court have recognized it as a component of freedom of speech and expression in instances that they have resolved.

Elements of Freedom of Press

The following are the three components of freedom of press:

  • Access to any information sources without restriction.
  • Freedom of publication.
  • Circulation freedom 

Freedom of Commercial Speech

Commercial speech is now viewed by Indian courts as falling under the umbrella of free speech, subject to the reasonable limitations imposed or granted by Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution. 

Do we have the right to publicly advertise?

Every citizen in India has access to the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. The scope of freedom of speech and expression has expanded as a result of numerous legal decisions. The right to gather and disseminate information has now been included.

  • The freedom to express oneself through any medium, including speech, movies, and advertisements.
  • Right to an open and free debate.
  • Press freedom.
  • Freedom to be informed.
  • Right to remain silent

Right to Broadcast

Due to technological improvements, the idea of freedom of speech and expression has expanded to encompass all currently used forms of communication and expression. Broadcast media, electronic media, and numerous more forms of media are included in this.

Right to Information

One of the components of freedom of speech and expression is the right to knowledge or the ability to obtain it. According to numerous supreme court rulings, the right to free speech and expression includes the right to free information. The Right to Information Act of 2005 specifically addresses the citizens' right to request information from government employees.

Grounds of Restriction

In a democracy, the right to free speech and expression must be protected. Additionally, restrictions on this freedom are required to preserve social order since otherwise, certain people would abuse it. The freedom of speech and expression is subject to particular limitations under Clause (2) of Article 19 for specific reasons.

The following is the basis for restriction:

State-wide security

The freedom of speech and expression is subject to reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2) when doing so serves the interests of the state. Public order should not be confused with the security of the state because the security of the state also involves an intensified version of public order. Warfare against the state, rebellion, insurrection, etc. are a few examples. 

Having cordial ties with a foreign nation

Through the 1951 Constitutional First Amendment, this ground of restriction was added. The fundamental reason for adding this clause was to prevent unbridled, venomous propaganda against a state that is friendly to foreigners because it would endanger the preservation of good relations between India and that state. The government may apply a reasonable restriction if the freedom of speech and expression impedes or upsets India's good relations with other countries.

Public harmony

The Constitution's First Amendment of 1951 likewise included the addition of this cause for restriction. The Supreme Court had a predicament in the Romesh Thapar case, and to address that issue, this ground had been inserted into the constitution. The concept of public order is represented by the words "public safety," "public peace," and "community harmony."

Morality and decency

A decent word should be used to explain or say anything to win over the other person's heart and preserve societal morals. In light of this, this ground has been added to our Constitution after consideration of this viewpoint. Sections 292 to 294 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provide an example of a restriction on the freedom of speech and expression on the grounds of decency and morality. They are terms with varied content and no clear definition; alternatively, we may say that these are words with a broad definition. It varies from society to society and from time to time based on the moral standards that are prevalent in modern society. The concept of morality and decency has a wider definition than just sexual morality.

Contempt of Court

It is crucial to respect the institution and its authority in these situations because, in a democratic nation, we realize that the judiciary is crucial to the peaceful administration of the nation. What causes administrative law to suffer? What could impede justice? We are aware that judicial proceedings are subject to limitations, and anything that restricts their freedom jeopardizes the administration of justice as well as administrative law.

There are two types of contempt of court: civil and criminal contempt. Section 2(a) of the 1971 Contempt of Court Act defines contempt of court. Truth was originally not a defense under the contempt of court statute, but in 2006 it was added as a defense.

The following are the necessary components to prove contempt:

  • Creating an effective court order.
  • The responder ought to be familiar with that order.
  • The respondent must be capable of providing compliance.
  • Willfully or intentionally disobey the instruction.


Anyone who makes a comment that disparages the reputation of another person is prohibited by Article 19(2). Anyone who receives freedom of any kind should not abuse it to harm another person's reputation or standing. Typically, defamation occurs when a comment harms a man's reputation. Freedom of speech is unqualified. Since Article 21 of the Indian Constitution protects people's reputations, it is not intended to harm anyone's reputation.

Incitement to an Offence

The Constitutional First Amendment Act of 1951 likewise added this ground. It goes without saying that freedom of speech and expression does not include the right to encourage criminal behavior. Section 40 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 defines the term "offense."

Any offense can happen in one of two ways:

  • By the commission of an act.
  • By the omission of an act 

Sovereignty and Integrity of India

A government's primary responsibility is to safeguard a state's integrity and sovereignty. The Constitution (Sixteenth Amendment) Act of 1963 added this ground.

According to the analysis above, all of the reasons listed in Article 19(2) are related to the national interest or the interests of society.


One of the most fundamental rights that citizens have is the freedom of speech, which is provided by civil society. After putting everything together, we can say that the freedom of speech and expression is a crucial fundamental right, whose scope has been expanded to include freedom of the press, the right to information, which includes commercial information, the right to remain silent, and the right to criticize.

The right to freedom of speech in the modern world now encompasses a variety of means of communication as well as the ability to express one's opinions verbally. Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution allows for appropriate restrictions on the freedom we discussed.