Freedom has myriad definitions. Moreover, from history to present contemporary world, most of the nation wants to suppress the ideology of ‘Freedom’. On the contrary, faces of freedom such as liberty, equality, justice, speech, etc. are ensuring its triumph from thousands of years. As in the words of Iver Jennings, it is truly said that “Without freedom of speech, the appeal to the reason which is the basis of democracy cannot be made.”
Any movement in the world occurred because a man was free to think critically. Freedom is not just a word; it is the mode of one’s willingness to express the ideas which come out of the thought process of a common man.
Almost every nation bifurcated freedom of speech and expression in two parts, first to give powers and rights to its citizens and second, it restricts them in the name sovereignty and integrity of the state. Article 19 (1) (a) gives Indian citizens the right of free speech and expression. However, Article 19(2) defines reasonable restrictions on Article 19 (1) (a) which protects it whenever a threat is posed on the enjoyment of freedom of people.
Before freedom of speech, an individual must have the freedom to think because the development of thought process will give the truthful wisdom to use the right sense of freedom of speech and expression
Constitutional scope of freedom of speech and expression
Notably in India, freedom is not just a means of communication of ideas; in essence, it is much more than that. Since, the Chief Architect of our Constitution, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar knew the magnitude of freedom required for the functioning of a healthy democratic State, which in turn gave him the basis to craft Article 19.
The ideology of freedom of speech and expression is not to build up hatred against each other which we are witnessing today. Moreover, we all are also misusing and molding the true ideology of freedom of speech and expression for our sake. Article 19(1) (a) defines the range but its scope is meaningless without reading it with article 19(2). Moreover, Article 19 is among one of the most essential fundamental rights conferred by the Indian Constitution and the Judiciary and the Government must thrive to protect it whenever a threat is posed on it. After the ruling in the case of Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras, the word ‘public order’ was inserted in Article 19(2) which meant that the scope of Article 19(1) was now limited to a certain extent. It is to be noted that, in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, it was specifically mentioned by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that any of the fundamental right other than Article 19 cannot be affected in the name of ‘reasonable restrictions’.
Contemporary Indian scenario
Currently, freedom of speech and expression has lost its essence because of so many slanderous and defamatory statements recorded in the public sphere. It is often used to misguide the common people. Freedom of speech and expression is overwhelmingly the most important right after Article 21. However, at present, it can be said that the legitimacy of Article 21 depends on free speech.
Roland Barthes once said that language can never be treated as innocent,and nowadays social media platform is showing it. It is good to put one’s opinion and criticize the other but the line of human dignity and respect should not be crossed in propagating one’s ideas.
At the moment, the model of free speech is in question. What is free in free speech? Is free is really free in the current scenario? If Speech is really free then is it the State who will decide what does a free speech constitutes of or is it the citizens who’ll decide the same? These questions are pertinent because beginning from declaring Emergency to death of Rohit Vemula; from slogans in JNU campus to death of free thinkers and journalists like Gauri Lankesh shows that one’s having an obligation to defend free speech are the prime defaulter of it. Furthermore, they are using it constantly as a tool to hide its loopholes and anybody who condemns the work will be called as ‘Anti-National’. The power structure is misusing the concept of free speech and expression in the name of “Threat to Nationalism”.
Notably, the biggest lawbreaker of misusing freedom of speech and expression is the state. As any freedom of speech and expression is against the Government; Government congested it in the name of public order, decency, morality, and security of the state. At the same time, there are some evil elements in the society which misuse freedom of speech and expression for the communal violence but this cannot be used on the entire innocent who expresses their thought freely.
Is judiciary a protector or victim of free speech?
The cause of raising the misuse of freedom of speech and expression is because of delay in justice and secondly not having the hype of judicial decision in the public domain through media and social platform. There are many cases of the defamatory statement where judges lash out on the person who uses such abuses language. A recent Judgment by Dipak Mishra in Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar, case; justice Dipak Misra tries to clarify that the Constitution of India provides different Fundamental Rights to all the citizens but above all, it provides ones to protect its self-esteem and respect. Moreover, it is the responsibility of every individual to respect that. Secondly, at present, the judiciary is too facing the crisis of freedom of speech and expression and as the consequences, for the first time, four senior-most judges have to come in front of the Media houses to put their point of views and shows the serious concern of independence of the functioning of the judiciary.
Importance of the fourth pillar in the regulation of free speech
After the judiciary, legislator & executive, media plays a very key role in the functioning of a fair democratic society. Currently, the working of media houses is in question. Whether the functioning of media houses is free? Whether they are fulfilling their essence?
Media can be termed as the fourth pillar of any democracy and it always plays the role of a safety wall for protecting democracy. Additionally, it is believed that if all the above institution fails to provide justice to the vulnerable section of the society than media is there to censure and pressurize the above institution for effective working.
The principal loss in all these matters is of the common people who are misguided of this process. On contrary to it, the news which is relevant and is shown by some media groups loses its essence. If the freedom of speech and expression is used, it should be used in the most precise manner to promote and motivate others to think critically and then the philosophy of Freedom of Speech and Expression should be used.
Freedom of speech and expression is a shadow of a common man that follows it from birth. It can also be termed as a birthright of any individual. Since childhood, we are taught as to what to speak and what not in front of others. Then this base was further cemented in school and by the people, we meet in our life. Freedom to speak is free is only a myth; it is just a thought process which is developed by our surroundings and only in which manner we are behaving without thinking over it. It should be asked that whether freedom of speech and expression is decided by the one who speaks or the ones who listen because if any anybody says something it will affect the sentiments of some or the other individual or group.
There is always a tussle between the freedom of speech and expression and its restriction and this is a set narrative used from centuries. It is to be noted that, free speech means to speak and show one’s willingness after thinking critically over the issue; it should not be just that a person is speaking without any knowledge over the importance of the issue.
 Jennings I, Cabinet Government (Cambridge University Press 1959).
 Romesh Thapar v State of Madras  SCR, AIR (SCR).
 Maneka Gandhi v Union of India  SCR, 2 AIR (SCR).
 Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar vs State Of Maharashtra & Ors, criminal appeal no. 1179 of 2010  SC.
BA LLB (2nd year)
Institute of Law, Nirma university