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  • 14 January, 2023

  • 6 Min Read

Supreme Court Extends the Goals of Article 19

Supreme Court Extends the Goals of Article 19

Recently the Supreme Court ruled, that a citizen can seek enforcement of the fundamental right to freedom of speech not just against the state but also extended the ground for seeking these rights against other citizens.

  • A fundamental right under Article 19 or 21 can be enforced even against persons other than the State or its instrumentalities,” said the 4-1 majority ruling by the Constitution Bench.
  • The court adopted this stance when declaring that the freedom of speech and expression protected by Article 19(1)(a) cannot be restricted for any reasons beyond those already stated in Article 19. (2).
  • The court, extending free speech against private citizens, opens up a range of possibilities in Constitutional law.

Rights Enforcement Against Private Entities:

  • According to this understanding, the state has a responsibility to make sure that private organizations adhere to constitutional standards as well.
  • In terms of constitutional law, it opens up a wide variety of possibilities, including enabling the enforcement of privacy rights against a private doctor or the right to free expression against a private social media company.
  • The Court also referred to several foreign jurisdictions, contrasting the American approach with the European Courts.
  • Referring to the landmark New York Times vs. Sullivan, in which the US Supreme Court found that defamation law, as applied by the state against The New York Times, was inconsistent with the Constitutional guarantee of the freedom of speech and expression, the SC noted a shift in US law from a “purely vertical approach” to a “horizontal approach.”
  • Note :(A vertical application of rights would mean it can be enforced only against the state while a horizontal approach would mean it is enforceable against other citizens.)
  • For example, a horizontal application of the right to life would enable a citizen to bring a case against a private entity for causing pollution, which would be a violation of the right to a clean environment.
  • “No jurisdiction in the world appears to be adopting, at least as of date, a purely vertical approach or a wholly horizontal approach.
  • A vertical approach provides weightage to individual autonomy, choice and privacy, while the horizontal approach seeks to imbibe constitutional values in all individuals.
  • These approaches which appear to be bipolar opposites, raise the age-old question of ‘individual vs. society’,” the Court said.

Earlier court rulings regarding Article 19:

  • The Court cited the Puttaswamy decision from 2017, in which a nine-judge bench unanimously established privacy as a basic right.

Article 19: What is it?

  • The right to freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed by Article 19 of the Indian Constitution, and it is frequently used to challenge the government.

Article 19(1) in The Constitution Of India, All citizens shall have the right:

  • to freedom of speech and expression;
  • to assemble peaceably and without arms;
  • to form associations or unions;
  • to move freely throughout the territory of India;
  • to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India; and
  • omitted
  • to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

Article 19(2) in The Constitution of India

Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause

  • in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India,
  • the security of the State,
  • friendly relations with foreign States,
  • public order, decency or morality or
  • in relation to contempt of court,
  • defamation or incitement to an offense.

Some fundamental rights, such as those prohibiting untouchability, trafficking, and bonded labor, are explicitly against both the state and other individuals.

Source: The Indian Express

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