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India

The Supreme Court has ruled that additional restrictions cannot be placed on the free speech of public officials.

Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the freedom of speech and expression granted by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution cannot be restricted for any reason other than those already specified in Article 19(1). (2).

The lawsuit stems from remarks made by the then-minister of Uttar Pradesh against Azam Khan in the context of rape in the state’s Bulandshahr. Khan had stated that it was a political conspiracy, and a petition was filed with the supreme court in response to his comments. The supreme court decided to investigate the scope of free speech available to public officials and submitted the case to a Constitution Bench in the process of its consideration.

On Tuesday, a five-judge Constitution Bench comprised of Justice S Abdul Nazeer, Justice B R Gavai, Justice A S Bopanna, Justice V Ramasubramanian, and Justice B V Nagarathna, rendered a decision on the subject.

“Article 19(2) contains exhaustive grounds for curtailing freedom of expression. Additional constraints not specified in Article 19(2) cannot be placed on the exercise of the right granted by Article 19(1)(a), the five-judge Constitution Bench ruled.

Four of the five judges on the bench—Justice Nazeer, Justice Gavai, Justice Bopanna, and Justice Ramasubramanian—also stated, “A minister’s statement, even if it relates to state affairs or is intended to protect the government, cannot be attributed vicariously to the government on the basis of the principle of collective responsibility.”

However, in a separate ruling, Justice Nagarthna stated that while the government cannot be held vicariously liable for a minister’s personal remarks, such liability would exist if the minister’s statement also reflected the government’s views.

“A minister may make statements in his personal capacity and in his official one as a government delegate. Regarding the former, the government itself cannot be held vicariously responsible. The latter kind of remarks may pertain to any matter of the state or be made to safeguard the government, according to Justice Nagarathna’s opinion.

“If such statements are disparaging or derogatory and not only represent the personal views of the minister making them, but also embody the views of the government, then such statements can be attributed vicariously to the government itself, particularly in light of the principle of collective responsibility… “However, if such utterances are the stray opinions of an individual minister and are inconsistent with the government’s position, then they will be attributed to the minister and not the government,” she added.

“A basic right under Articles 19, 21 may be enforced even against parties other than the state or its agents,” held the majority. It further stated, “A simple statement made by a minister that is inconsistent with the rights of a citizen under section 3 of the constitution does not constitute a violation of constitutional rights and cannot be brought as a constitutional tort.” But if, as a result of such a remark, an officer commits an act of omission or conduct that causes harm or loss to a person or citizen, then that act may be punishable as a constitutional tort.”

However, Justice Nagarathna stated, “It is not advisable to characterise every instance in which a public official’s comment causes harm or loss to a person or citizen as a constitutional tort. In every instance, consideration must be given to the nature of the resulting harm or loss.

“It is up to Parliament in its wisdom to enact a law..to prevent citizens in general and public functionaries in particular from making disparaging or vitriolic remarks against fellow citizens, bearing in mind the distinct and strict parameters of Article 19(2) and the freedom under Article 19(1)(a),” she added.

“It is also the responsibility of political parties to regulate and control the conduct and expression of their officials and members. This could be accomplished by enacting a code of conduct that specifies the limits of acceptable discourse by officials and members of the various political parties.

 

Delhi Supreme Court

 

 

Nisha

Hi, my name is Nisha and I'm an educational journalist based in India. I've always been passionate about the power of education to transform lives, and that's what led me to pursue a career in journalism focused on this area. I completed my Bachelor's degree in English from Hindu College in Delhi in 2013 and then went on to earn my Master's in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication in 2017. During my studies, I also completed several short-term courses on Education in India, Sociology, and other related subjects to deepen my knowledge in this field. I'm particularly interested in improving access to quality education in rural areas, where students often face significant challenges. I've worked on a number of initiatives to address this issue, including advocating for better policies, resources, and practices that can make a difference. As an educational journalist, I'm passionate about using my platform to highlight important issues in the education space. I've covered a wide range of topics, including the impact of technology in the classroom, innovative approaches to teaching and learning, and the challenges facing students from marginalized communities. One of the things I love most about my work is the opportunity to constantly learn and grow. I'm an avid reader and believe that reading is key to expanding one's knowledge and perspective. I'm always seeking out new ideas and insights to help me better understand the world around me. In summary, as an educational journalist, I'm dedicated to using my skills and expertise to make a positive impact in the field of education. I'm committed to improving access to quality education for all students and to using my platform to raise awareness about important issues in this area.

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