In today’s digital age, the influence of freedom of speech on media, right to privacy, and data privacy has become a topic of utmost importance. The advent of the internet and social media platforms has given rise to a plethora of opportunities for individuals to express their opinions and share information. However, this has also raised concerns about the balance between freedom of speech and the protection of personal privacy. This article delves into the complexities surrounding this issue and explores the challenges faced when attempting to limit public intervention into one’s private life.

The right to privacy and data privacy is a must for all as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The attainment of the right to privacy and data privacy comes with the confinement of Freedom of Speech and Expression. A violation of one may be both the cause and the outcome of another violation. The article focuses on the serious implications of monitoring civil liberties and certain measures to be taken by the Government as well as online platforms that are used by the public.

Freedom Of Speech And Expression:

Freedom of speech and expression is of the opinion that every person has the substantive right, without interference of censorship and without fear of retaliation, such as threats and persecution, to freely express themselves, through every media, in accordance with Article 19(1)(a) and Article 21 of the Indian constitution.

Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India also confers on the citizens of India the proper freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of speech and expression means the right to specific one’s opinions freely by word of mouth, writing, printing, pictures, or the opposite mode. It also includes the correct to propagate or publish people’s views.

Article 19(1)(a) [2] of the Constitution of India declares that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression which is not an absolute right and is subject to reasonable restrictions imposed by law in relation to contempt of Court, defamation, or incitement to offense. Freedom of media flows from Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The main objective of our founding fathers to advance such freedom to media was to protect the purveying of information.

The Evolution of Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right that has evolved significantly over time. It is enshrined in various international and national legal frameworks, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The purpose of this right is to safeguard the ability of individuals to express their thoughts, opinions, and ideas without fear of censorship or retribution.

The Role of Media in Society

Media plays a pivotal role in shaping public opinion and facilitating the free flow of information. It serves as a watchdog, holding those in power accountable and ensuring transparency in governance. However, the widespread availability of information through media channels also raises concerns about the invasion of privacy.

The Right to Privacy and Data Privacy

The right to privacy is recognized as a fundamental human right, protecting individuals from unwarranted intrusion into their personal lives. It encompasses various aspects, including the protection of personal information and the ability to control the dissemination of one’s private data. In the digital era, the concept of data privacy has gained prominence, as individuals’ personal information is increasingly collected, stored, and analyzed by organizations.

The Dilemma: Balancing Freedom of Speech and Privacy

The intersection between freedom of speech, media, and privacy gives rise to a complex dilemma. On one hand, the right to freedom of speech enables individuals to express themselves openly, fostering public discourse and accountability. On the other hand, the protection of privacy ensures individuals’ autonomy and safeguards them from undue intrusion. Striking the right balance between these two rights is crucial to maintain a democratic and just society.

Reasonable Restrictions: Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution places some restrictions on one of the world’s greatest democracies, India. The fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression is protected in India under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution, how
ever it is subject to justifiable legal constraints. The First and Sixteenth Amendments of the Constitution were respectively abolished in 1951 and 1963. Additionally, Clause 2 was changed to allow the government to place some limitations on freedom of speech and expression.

The Indian Constitution places restrictions on a few variables. The state has the ability to impose reasonable limits on the following grounds under Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution:

State-wide security

In accordance with Article 19(2), certain reasonable restrictions on the right to free speech and expression may be put in place for the sake of national security. Due to its significance, the government is able to impose restrictions on behavior that endangers the security of the nation. Freedom of speech and expression with respect to a person, for instance, if he encourages or promotes the commission of a crime, raises issues that could endanger the security of the State. Restrictions may apply to this person.

In P.U.C.L v. Union of India, PUCL filed a PIL under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution about phone tapping. In this instance, Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act’s validity was contested. The prerequisites that must be met for the application of the article in the interest of public security are outlined in Section 5(2). The government is not permitted to use its jurisdiction granted by the aforementioned section if any of these two conditions is not satisfied. Until and unless it is permitted by Article 19(2)’s restrictions, telephone tapping violates Article 19(1) of the Indian Constitution.

During Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s administration, the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) was initially passed in 1967. The federal government was given authority to deal with actions that threatened India’s sovereignty and integrity under the UAPA as it was written in 1967. changed since its start to make it easier to use. It fulfills the Act’s primary objective. The changes gave the parliament the power to put limitations on fundamental freedoms like the right to free expression, the right to peaceful assembly, and the ability to join coalitions. The only reason these restrictions had to be upheld is to safeguard India’s security, sovereignty, and integrity.

The term “terrorist” was recently amended to encompass individuals covered by Sections 35 and 36 of the Act. It does not put up with the opposition. Simply put, it criminalizes political protests and ideologies that generate unrest in the nation. Thus, it violates the right of organizations and unions to freely propagate their ideas as well as the right of individuals to express themselves, both of which are protected by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Additionally, two petitions were recently submitted to question the legitimacy of the 2019 amendments to Sections 35 and 36 of the UAPA.

India’s Honesty and Sovereignty

This ground is added to Article 19 (2) of the Constitution (16th Amendment) Act of 1963 because India’s principal duty is to protect its sovereignty and integrity. This restricts the right to free speech and expression and makes it impossible for anyone to question India’s sovereignty. It prohibits anyone from saying anything that could endanger the integrity and sovereignty of India.

The Supreme Court declared in Kedarnath Singh v. State of Bihar[8] that speech that violates Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code constitutes sedition since it will undermine the legitimacy of the government and undermine national sovereignty. Therefore, it is up to the government to make sure they are under control in order to prevent disorder.

The security of the state may be at risk when such attempts to overthrow the government are made. Therefore, such eventualities must be kept to a minimum for the sake of state security. The incitement of violence through speech, placards, remarks, and other means should be outlawed. Sedition is not directly covered by reasonable limitations under Article 19(2), however, it is not possible to simultaneously exercise freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1) and sedition under Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code. Sedition so legitimately limits free speech.

Amiable ties with foreign countries

If it endangers friendly relations with other states, a state may put restrictions on the right to free speech and expression. It was added to the Indian Constitution in 1951 by the (1st Amendment) Act. It should be underlined that this clause is unique and found nowhere else in the world’s constitutions.

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Public peace

Along with other limitations, the First Amendment of the Constitution Act of 1951 also added the premise of Public Order, which resulted from a Supreme Court decision. In the case of Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras, the Supreme Court determined that public order is distinct from law and order and state security. Peace, safety, and harmony in the public sphere are expressed through public order. Therefore, in this case, the Supreme Court issued a decision, and Article 19(2) was amended to add the phrase “public order” to impose some limitations on freedom of speech and expression.

The amendment ensured that laws that restrict speech in a way that could potentially affect public order as well as speech that directly threatens it would be protected to the fullest extent possible. As a result, the government may set restrictions on the goal of preserving public order.

Morality and decency

Sections 292 to 294 of the Indian Penal Code provide definitions of morality and decency. These parts impose restrictions on speech by punitive measures, the dissemination or sale of pornographic literature, etc. in public and uphold a level of decency within the state. Although the law frequently performs the duty of propelling society up to new degrees of advancement, Victorian morality has always hampered Indian civilization’s evolution in establishing a more mature sense of morality. Gay partnerships were decriminalized as a result of the well-known Navtej Sigh Johar v. Union of India decision, which was a significant advance for Indian culture and morals.

In KA Abbas v. Union of India, the Supreme Court declared that “censorship is a limiting tool utilized for the improvement of society. Any kind of art can spread a message to the general audience, and literature and art have a profound effect on individuals. The state must ensure that any words, signs, or other forms of expression that, if exposed to persons who are vulnerable to their effects, would corrupt such minds, be prohibited.

According to Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000, “anyone who uploaded or sent ‘grossly offensive’, inconvenient, harmful,’menacing’ information, or insulting in nature using a computer resource or communication device may be held liable and imprisoned for up to three years for such an offense.” The law’s two categories—online and offline expression—were separated before 2015. Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, a landmark decision by a two-judge bench of the Apex Court in 2015 on the subject of digital speech and intermediary liability in India, was overturned for violating the fundamental right to free speech and expression and was deemed unconstitutional.

In this case, the Supreme Court strengthened the existing Safe-harbor protection, or the legal protection provided to Internet companies for content posted by their users, by exempting content-hosting platforms, such as search engines and social media sites, from the requirement to continuously monitor to prevent illegal content. “Only authorized government entities and the judiciary can lawfully require Internet companies to remove material,” the Court stated. This was a landmark event in India’s online free speech legislation since content-hosting sites serve as the protectors of digital expression. The ability to express oneself freely and without hindrance is referred to as having a right to free expression.

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