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Freedom Of Speech

According to the Indian Constitution, everyone has the right to freedom of speech and expression, and it is a fundamental right of every Indian citizen.

Freedom of speech or expression is a fundamental right guaranteed to all Indian citizens under the Constitution of India. The Constitution does not guarantee an absolute right to freedom of speech. Instead, it puts reasonable restrictions on it.

Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution states that “every citizen of India has the right to freedom of expression and speech”. The opinion in this article is in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution, where a solemn resolve is only for the security of Indian citizens.

The Indian Constitution gives the right to freedom, which guarantees the individual rights of every citizen that are considered vital by the framers.

Some laws restrict the freedom of speech, such as laws punishing sedition and hate speech, and these laws derive their legitimacy from Article 19(2).

Let’s move further and study the main elements of freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech and expression

The salient features of the right to freedom of speech and expression are as follows:

  1. The right is solely for Indian citizens and not for any foreign nationals. 
  2. The freedom of speech in Article 19(1) (a) also includes the right to express views and opinions at any point through any medium, e.g., by saying or narrating, writing, etc.
  3. This right is not absolute and allows the government to frame laws to impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of the integrity of India, security, friendly relations with states, public etiquette, morality, contempt of court, defamation, etc.
  4. The restriction on the freedom of speech and expression of any citizen may be imposed as much by an action of the State as by its inaction.
  5. If the State fails to guarantee the freedom of rights and expression to all its citizens, it is constituted as a violation of Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution.

The grounds on which freedom of speech can be restricted

The Indian constitution can impose certain restrictions on free speech based on: 

  • Security of the State

Multiple restrictions are imposed on the freedom of speech in the interest of the State’s security. The term “security of the State” has been differentiated from “public order”. For the security of the State, the restriction is put on serious and aggravated forms of public disorder, for example, rebellion, insurrection, etc.

  • Friendly relations with foreign States

The Constitution of India added this restriction by the Act of 1951. Any State can impose restrictions on the freedom of speech if it controls or harms the friendly relations of India with other States.

  • Defamation

Clause (2) of Article 19 stops any person from making any statement that demeans the reputation of anyone. Defamation is illegal in India and is present in Sections 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code. It does not mean freedom to hurt one’s reputation; it comes under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The truth is considered protection or retaliation against defamation; it will help the people’s welfare.

  • Incitement to an offence

The Constitution Act of 1951 also added this restriction. The Constitution prohibits a person from making any statement that pushes people to commit offences.

  • Sovereignty and Integrity of India

The Sixteenth Amendment Act of 1963 subsequently added this restriction. It aimed to prohibit anyone from making harsh statements that can directly or indirectly challenge the integrity and sovereignty of India.

  • Contempt of court

The Constitutional right to freedom of speech cannot allow anyone to contempt the courts. The Contempt of Court has arrived in Section 2 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971. The term “contempt of court” means civil or criminal contempt under the Act.


The right to freedom of speech is an essential fundamental right of any Indian citizen. The scope is broad to include freedom of the press, right to information including commercial information, right to silence, etc. However, the right is entirely subjective to reasonable restrictions under Article 19(2).

The Indian government provides one of the most fundamental rights, i.e. freedom of speech and expression. The Indian courts have defined the meaning and content of Article 19(1)(a) widely, making it subjective only to the limitations which are allowed under Article 19(2). After the favour, there also exists some criticism about applying this freedom of expression.

We thoroughly discussed and studied all the necessary information about the freedom of speech and its key elements. We also learn about some reasonable restrictions that can restrict freedom of speech according to the Indian Constitution.


Frequently asked questions

Get answers to the most common queries related to the UPSC Examination Preparation.

What is hate speech?

Ans. Hate speech does not have a legal definition. This term is a speech that demeans or insults a person or a group...Read full

What can restrict freedom of speech?

Ans. There are multiple grounds on which freedom of speech can be restricted. Some are given below:  ...Read full

What is defamation?

Ans. Clause no. 2 of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution prevents any individual from making any statement that in...Read full

Why is freedom of speech or expression important for an Indian citizen?

Ans. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right of an Indian citizen, which is to protect the rights of all Indian cit...Read full