BY: Ayush Kumar
In India, we’ve got basic rights as citizens, and these are called fundamental rights which are enshrined within the Indian constitution under part 3. These rights are given to us right from birth and no state or person can remove the identical from us.
In particular, there are six fundamental rights but we are going to just take a more in-depth look at article 19 and in article 19 freedom of speech and expression will be our concern topic.
If we discuss its history, The concept of freedom of speech had originated an extended time ago. It had been first introduced by the Greeks. They used the term “Parrhesia” which implies free speech or to talk frankly. This term first appeared within in fifth-century B.C. Countries such as England and France have taken plenty of their time to adopt this freedom as a right. English people bill adopted freedom of speech as a constitutional right and it is still in effect. Similarly, at the time of the French revolution in 1789, the French had adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens.
If we take an example what poet says that” give me the liberty to grasp, to argue freely and to utter in step with conscience, above all liberties”.
The above sentence by Milton displays the essence of freedom of speech. He argued that without human freedom there would be no progress in science, law, or the other field. According to him, human freedom means free discussion of opinion and liberty of thought and expression.
In India, the liberty of speech and expression is granted by article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution, which is out there only to the citizens of India and to not foreign nationals. Freedom of speech under Article 19(1)(a) includes the proper to precise one’s views through any medium, which might be by way of writing, speaking, gesture, or in the other form. It also includes the rights of communication and also the right to propagate or publish one’s opinion.
This implies that freedom of the press is additionally included during this category. Free propagation of ideas is that the necessary objective and this might be done through the press or the other platform. These two freedoms i.e. freedom of speech and freedom of expression have their respective qualifications.
If I discuss today’s situation in India it’s critical because the very fundamental right of citizens has gotten harm. The second wave of coronavirus crisis in India continues to rage on. The “double mutant” COVID-19 variant b 1.617 that emerged within the second wave-exposed India’s paralyzed healthcare infrastructure, as hospitals run out of beds and even medical oxygen.
It is to be noted that India increased its oxygen exports by 734 percent in January 2021 and exported around 193 million doses of vaccines. This was claimed by our reputed and trusted source. However, at the top of April 24, the whole confirmed cases of coronavirus stood beyond 16 million with less than 2 percent of the population fully vaccinated. And additionally, if I add the death because of lack of bed and oxygen cylinder it was beyond imagination. Here many folks come out to grasp the situation and ask the authorities about the crisis but there has been no answer and once they tried to inform the citizen about it they were banned from their freedom of speech.
Even during this time it was directed Twitter and other social media platforms to get rid of over 100 posts and URLs criticizing India’s handling of its second nationwide COVID-19 wave. It forced social media companies, especially Twitter, to stifle expression which has become a hobby of the authorities as previous instances of social media censorship suggest. This may be understood as a variety of ‘digital authoritarianism’, within the face of the government’s threat of punishment if social media companies don’t obey.
One more incident you’ll see in Uttar Pradesh where higher authority warranted the use of the draconian National safety act, 1980 (NSA) against people spreading “rumours” about oxygen shortage within the state (incidentally, between 2018 and 2020, the Allahabad High Court has quashed 94 of the 120 detention orders filed under NSA).
Both these cases aren’t isolated instances, but merely the newest in what has become a deliberate policy design of the State within the previous few years.
Not only this freedom of speech is getting curtailed in many areas Earlier this year, the Supreme Court, within the matter of Himanshu Kishan Mehra v. State of Uttar Pradesh, refused to grant interim bail to the producers of Tandav, an internet series aired over the Amazon Prime Video platform, who were facing allegations of injuring religious sentiments. In such a situation, usually, Sections 153A [promoting enmity between classes] or 295A [insulting religion/religious beliefs] of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC), are invoked.
Last but not least, two Malayalam news channels were suspended for 48 hours by the Information and Broadcasting department under the Cable Television Network Rules, 1994 for reporting of the Delhi riots.
On the opposite hand, last year the Supreme Court refused to impose a pre-broadcast cease and desist order on the channel Sudarshan TV’s planned telecast of its ‘Bindas Bol’ program which was advertised as a “huge expose on conspiracy to infiltrate Muslims in government service”. The rationale offered by the Court was that it couldn’t make such an order based on a mere 49-second promo clip of the broadcast, which that advised that caution must be exercised in imposing a prior restraint on the publication or the airing of views
Is this approach by the higher authority is good? The solution to the present question should ideally be within the negative. The Supreme Court’s landmark judgment within the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India commendably expanded the scope of the freedom of expression by narrowly interpreting the grounds of reasonable restrictions thanks to the proper while noting that “[m]ere discussion or perhaps advocacy of a selected cause, howsoever unpopular, is at the heart” of the correct to free speech and expression.
This is getting worse and this must be corrected or as an alternative, it’ll raise a point to our democratic country in a democracy all citizens have right to ask and talk about the higher officials but as we will see it’s not working people don’t have any answer media has no power to point out what’s happening and if this continues many officials will start taking advantage and harm our constitution. Freedom of speech is a major right and that we can see it’s being harmed and in end, we the citizens will bear the loss.
Accordingly, the Supreme Court, within the case of Ramesh Thappar v. the State of Madras, held that public order considerations cannot be justified under the bottom of ‘security of the state’ under Article 19(2). The Court, while striking down the ban imposed by the-then Madras government on the weekly journal, Cross Roads (which was notably critical of Nehru’s policies), from entering the State, noted that such expansive restrictions were unconstitutional which only narrow restrictions on freedom of expression were permitted. Juristic analysis suggests that, on three of those grounds, viz., ‘the sovereignty and integrity of India’, ’the security of the State’, and ‘public order, the regulation of revolutionary speech is a crucial constitutional concern.
This is the time that we all should move together to fight against these and protect our democratic country and provide ourselves the right to speak freely. An Indian court has to come forward with us to help us from this crisis. It will help us as a citizen to know what is right and what is wrong.
In the end, I will say that The failure of the Indian State to handle the pandemic has made us bear the worst coronavirus surge within the world. However, rather than taking note of its citizens and bearing accountability for its lapses, the State is currently out to prohibiting people from even talking about it on social media. Such attacks on free speech end within the tipping away of balance from constitutional freedom; lately, the higher judiciary seems to be complicit during this absurd process.