Supreme Court Constitution Bench to examine freedom of speech of Minister

The Hindu

Write Comment     |     E-Mail To a Friend     |     Facebook     |     Twitter     |     Print

Supreme Court Constitution Bench to examine if greater restrictions can be imposed on freedom of speech of Ministers

To frame general guidelines in “thin air” to restrict government Ministers, MPs, MLA or public leaders, including political party presidents, from making unguarded, derogatory and hurtful statements in public may prove “difficult”, a Constitution Bench prima facie said.

The oral observation came from a Constitution Bench led by Justice S. Abdul Nazeer while hearing a reference on the question whether the right to free speech and expression of high public functionaries require “greater restrictions”.

“Can we lay down some central guidelines without examining the factual background? We cannot decide this question in thin air. We need to decide this on a case-to-case basis,” Justice Nazeer said.

Justice B.V. Nagarathna said “reasonable restrictions” on the right to free speech under Article 19(1)(a) were already there under Article 19(2) of the Constitution. The judge asked whether it was right on the part of the court to impose a further law on free speech over and above the restrictions already imposed under Article 19(2). There are other remedies already available like civil/criminal injunctions, torts, general laws, etc.

Advocate Kaleeswaram Raj, for petitioner Joseph Shine, who has moved against comments made by Kerala minister M.M. Mani, agreed that such a judicially-imposed restriction over and above Article 19(2) may not be impermissible.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta accepted that a public functionary should be more guarded in speech than an ordinary person. “But judicially demarcating the threshold may likely prove difficult,” he said.

Justice B.R. Gavai, on the Bench, agreed, saying that such restrictions should be considered only on the individual facts of each case. The court decided to examine the question on November 15.

The reference to a Constitution Bench was made two years ago in April 2017. It sprouted from a petition filed by the family members of the Bulandshahr rape case victim against a former Minister’s public statements that the rape case was part of a political conspiracy against the then Akhilesh Yadav government.

The Minister subsequently apologised unconditionally in the apex court. But the court had decided to examine the question of imposing curbs on the free speech of public functionaries in sensitive matters.

Attorney General K.K. Venugopal had at the time flagged issues which the Constitution Bench ought to consider, including whether reasonable restrictions under Article19(2) should be expanded or not.

The Attorney General had said the Bench should further answer whether private persons and corporations could be held liable for violating Article 21.

The case had initially been taken up by another Constitution Bench, but the hearing was left incomplete. Justice Arun Mishra (now retired), who had led the earlier Constitution Bench, had, in a hearing in 2019, said both free speech and right to life were equally important.

Write your Comments on this Article
Your Name
Native Place / Place of Residence
Your E-mail
Your Comment   You have characters left.
Security Validation
Enter the characters in the image above
Disclaimer: Please write your correct name and email address. Kindly do not post any personal, abusive, defamatory, infringing, obscene, indecent, discriminatory or unlawful or similar comments. will not be responsible for any defamatory message posted under this article.
Please note that under 66A of the IT Act, sending offensive or menacing messages through electronic communication service and sending false messages to cheat, mislead or deceive people or to cause annoyance to them is punishable. It is obligatory on to provide the IP address and other details of senders of such comments, to the authority concerned upon request. Hence, sending offensive comments using will be purely at your own risk, and in no way will be held responsible.
Similarly, reserves the right to edit / block / delete the messages without notice any content received from readers.

Udupi: Traffic congestion and dangers to pedestria
View More

Manipal Marathon on 12th Feb 2023Manipal Marathon on 12th Feb 2023
Annual Day of Carmel English Medium School | LIVE from KemmannuAnnual Day of Carmel English Medium School | LIVE from Kemmannu
Final Journey of Edwin D’souza (74 years) | LIVE from KallianpurFinal Journey of Edwin D’souza (74 years) | LIVE from Kallianpur
Milarchi Lara Bulletin - Monthi Fest Issue, September 2022Milarchi Lara Bulletin - Monthi Fest Issue, September 2022
Sites for Sale in Santhekatte, Thottam, Alevoor and many other places, Please contact...Sites for Sale in Santhekatte, Thottam, Alevoor and many other places, Please contact...
Land/Houses for Sale in Kaup, Manipal, Kallianpur, Santhekatte, Uppor, Nejar, Kemmannu, Malpe, Ambalpady.Land/Houses  for Sale in Kaup, Manipal, Kallianpur, Santhekatte, Uppor, Nejar, Kemmannu, Malpe, Ambalpady.
Focus Studio, Near Hotel Kidiyoor, UdupiFocus Studio, Near Hotel Kidiyoor, Udupi