Freedom of Speech – Defamation, Sedition, etc.

Freedom of Speech the ‘Bulwark’ of Democracy: Andhra HC


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Right to Assemble, Article 19

Mains level: Read the attached story

Central Idea: The Andhra Pradesh High Court has overturned a Government Order (GO) issued by the state government that aimed to regulate public meetings, processions, and assemblies on roads.

Key takeaways of the ruling

  • The court held that the right to assemble, protest peacefully, and express one’s opinion freely was a precious freedom.
  • It emphasized that this freedom should not be curtailed based on unproven assertions made by government officials.
  • The court reiterated that freedom of speech was considered the foremost among liberties and was crucial for democracy.
  • It stated that such a precious freedom should not be left to the unrestricted discretion of any individual.

AP move regulating Public Assembly

  • The GO sought to regulate public meetings and assemblies on roads, roadsides, and margins.
  • The state government argued that the regulations were necessary to address fatal accidents and ensure smooth traffic flow.
  • Sections 30, 30A, and 31 of the Police Act, 1861 were cited as the basis for the directions under the GO.

High Court’s decision and reasoning

  • The court set aside the GO, ruling that it imposed a ban on all meetings on public highways and roads.
  • It stated that accidents or incidents at specific locations should not result in a total restriction on the right to assemble or conduct processions on other roads.
  • The court suggested studying the causes of incidents and issuing guidelines to prevent their recurrence rather than imposing broad restrictions.

Upholding the Right to Assembly

  • The court asserted that the right to assemble, protest peacefully, and express opinions freely is a fundamental freedom that cannot be curtailed arbitrarily.
  • Freedom of speech is regarded as a crucial pillar of democracy and must not be subject to unfettered discretion.
  • The court deemed the power conferred by the GO as excessive, arbitrary, and failing the test of proportionality.

Reference: 2018 SC Ruling on Peaceful Assembly

  • The court referred to the guidelines laid down in the Supreme Court’s ruling in “Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan v Union of India (2018).”
  • The guidelines regulate protests and demonstrations, recognizing the right to peaceful assembly while allowing reasonable restrictions.
  • The ruling includes provisions on the number of participants, minimum distances from important locations, and restrictions during visits by foreign dignitaries.

Back2Basics: Right to Assemble

  • The right to assemble in India refers to the fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(b) of the Constitution of India.
  • It grants individuals the freedom to peacefully assemble, protest, and hold public meetings or processions.
  • This right allows citizens to come together to express their views, opinions, and grievances collectively in a public setting.
  • It is an essential aspect of democracy, enabling citizens to engage in peaceful activism, raise awareness about social issues, and participate in public discourse.
  • However, reasonable restrictions can be imposed on this right in the interest of public order, morality, and the sovereignty and integrity of India.



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