Status of Freedom of Press in India
In Romesh Thapar v/s State of Madras,4 Patanjali Shastri,CJ, observed that “Freedom of speech & of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organization, for without free political discussion no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the process of popular government, is possible.”
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed in Union of India v/s Association for Democratic Reforms , “One-sided information, disinformation, misinformation and non information, all equally create an uninformed citizenry which makes democracy a farce. Freedom of speech and expression includes right to impart and receive information which includes freedom to hold opinions”. In Indian Express Newspapers v/s Union of India, it has been held that the press plays a very significant role in the democratic machinery. The courts have duty to uphold the freedom of press and invalidate all laws and administrative actions that abridge that freedom. Freedom of press has three essential elements. They are:
1. freedom of access to all sources of information,
2. Freedom of publication, and
3. Freedom of circulation.
There are many instances when the freedom of press has been suppressed by the legislature. In Sakal Papers v/s Union of India, the Daily Newspapers (Price and Page) Order, 1960, which fixed the number of pages and size which a newspaper could publish at a price was held to be violative of freedom of press and not a reasonable restriction under the Article 19(2).
The freedom of press comes within the ambit of freedom of speech & expression and is subject to following restrictions:
2) Security of the State
3) Friendly relations with Foreign States
4) Public Order
5) Decency or Morality
6) Contempt of Court
Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code deals with the offence of sedition. It lays down that,” Whoever by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government established by law in India, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with imprisonment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine”. But Explanation 3 says “Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section”.
Q1. Choose the correct statement.
I. Freedom of press is absolute in nature.
II. Freedom of speech includes freedom to hold opinions.
a. Only I
b. Only II
c. Both I and II
d. None of the above
Q2. Which of the following can be attributed to the above paragraph?
a. Sedition is a restriction on the exercise of freedom of press.
b. The law of sedition is archaic in nature.
c. Political discussion is extremely important in a democracy but not essential for the proper functioning of the process of popular government.
d. Both a and c
Q3. A newspaper criticized the government policy on Jammu and Kashmir for its being against the interest of people. An individual, named X, from Kashmir read the news and got furious. Few days later, he joined the movement for freedom of Kashmir from India. Choose the correct answer?
a. The newspaper should be charged with sedition for criticizing the policy on sensitive issue like Kashmir.
b. The newspaper should be charged with sedition since its actions led to X joining movement for freedom of Kashmir from India.
c. Restriction on freedom of press can be imposed to protect the sovereignty of India.
d. The newspaper should not be charged with sedition since it merely criticized the government’s policy.
Comments expressing disapprobation of the administrative or other action of the Government without exciting or attempting to excite hatred, contempt or disaffection, do not constitute an offence under this section.
Q4. The government passed a notification stating that newspapers cannot criticize the new Citizenship Amendment Act affecting million of Indians otherwise it may lead to chaos and riot in India. Decide the constitutionality of the notification?
a. The notification does not violate freedom of press since it tries to prevent chaos and riot in India.
b. The notification does not violate freedom of press since it tries to protect the sovereignty and integrity of India.
c. The notification does not violate freedom of press since it tries to protect the security of the state.
d. The notification violates freedom of press.
Q5. A news article criticized the ayodhya judgment being biased towards the Muslim and asked the Muslim community to disobey the judgment by building mosque on disputed land. Decide the correct proposition?
a. The article should not be taken down as writing news article amounts to exercising freedom of speech and expression.
b. The news article should not be taken down since it can make all the citizens aware regarding a judgment affecting them.
c. The news article can be taken down since reasonable restrictions can be imposed on freedom of press on the ground of contempt of court.
d. Both a and b