This article is written by Nidhi Bajaj, and has further been updated by Sakshi Raje. The article presents a brief study of Article 19 of the Constitution of India covering various dimensions and scope of the provision with the help of various landmark judgements on the same. 

In the era where Human Rights are becoming top priority of any nation, the Indian Constitution, one of the largest Constitutions of the world, has provided its citizens with certain Fundamental rights and liberties to safeguard their own as well as others rights. As such, the Constitution of India is drawn from various sources but its uniqueness lies in its precious articulation, thoughtful thinking and very well structuring and arrangements of Articles.  

Part III of the Constitution contains ‘Fundamental Rights’ (Article 12 to 35) entailing its citizens with various basic rights which acts as a shield from any undue interference by the State authorities in the personal and professional life of individuals. One such Article of Fundamental Right is Article 19 of the Indian Constitution which provides protection of certain rights regarding freedom of speech, etc. which guarantees its citizens the right to express their thoughts in a free and liberal environment. The right provided to an individual not only empowers its citizen to speak freely in a socio-political environment, but also gives its citizen the power to raise its voice against the wrong in governance without the fear of getting punished. However, this freedom also comes with certain exceptions. Article 19 not only provides its citizens the right to speech and expression but also entails its citizens with various other rights like the right to assemble, freedom to move freely, freedom to reside in any party of the country, freedom to profess any profession. In order to run the society in democratic manner, these fundamental rights play a very essential role by allowing its citizens to engage in the activities of the nation more freely.

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While framing the Constitution of India, it was thought to provide the individuals the right to protect and safeguard their personal rights like that of speech, assembly, etc. It was this thought that appeared in the draft of the Constitution and finally in the original Constitution. However, restrictions made during the drafting of this article were a major point of discussion, as according to some, these restrictions were so wide that they are making no difference than that of the colonial era. The idea behind enacting Article 19 in the Constitution is to realise the importance of an individual’s view, to express one’s thoughts and to form associations. These rights are therefore necessary to form a developing society which is participatory and vibrant, a society where they can easily form and share thoughts, express them without any fear and are able to contribute positively to the society.

Article 19 of the Indian Constitution sets forth several rights for its citizens, which are subject to certain reasonable restrictions in order to protect the integrity and sovereignty of its people, and also to maintain friendly relations, security, decency, morality, public order, and prevent defamation or any kind of encouragement to crime. 

Article 19(1) of the Constitution of India guarantees six fundamental freedoms to every citizen of India, namely-

  1. Freedom of speech and expression (Article 19(1)(a));
  2. Freedom to assemble peacefully and without arms (Article 19(1)(b));
  3. Freedom to form associations, unions or co-operative societies (Article 19(1)(c));
  4. Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India (Article 19(1)(d));
  5. Freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India (Article 19(1)(e)), and
  6. Freedom to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business (Article 19(1)(g)). 

Article 19 is one of the most important pillars of Indian democracy, which guarantees its citizens essential freedom that an individual and society would require for better functioning. These guaranteed rights not only helps individuals to grow but also encourages exchange of ideas, fostering social and public engagements and most importantly, it encourages individuals to take active participation in democratic process. By protecting the very essence of the mentioned liberties, Article 19 has empowered the citizens of the country with the democratic principles i.e. equality, fairness and justice.

Freedom of speech and expression [Article 19(1)(a) and 19(2)] of the Indian Constitution

Article 19(1)(a) guarantees the freedom of speech and expression to all citizens. Freedom of speech and expression is the foundation of a democratic society and is one of the most cherished rights of a citizen. It empowers the individual to express their views and thoughts without any fear or censorship, and thereby, contributes positively towards the development of the nation. Various mediums are also provided to the citizens like that of media, newspapers, article writing or any other means of communication to express and share opinions. However, it is also to be noted that such a right comes with certain reasonable restrictions in order to protect other rights including misuse of rights guaranteed under this right.

Meaning of freedom of speech and expression

Freedom of speech and expression means the right to speak, and the right to express oneself through any medium. Every citizen has a right to hold an opinion and to be able to express it, including the right to receive and impart information. The expression ‘freedom of speech and expression’ has a wide connotation. It includes the freedom of the propagation of ideas, their publication and circulation, among others.

The ideology behind this right is to protect individuals from unnecessary restrictions from the government. However, such a right is not absolute. They can impose restrictions like restrictions that involve threats to the integrity and sovereignty of India, foreign relations and many more as mentioned in Article 19(2) in order to protect or balance the rights of others.

Scope of freedom of speech and expression

There are various facets of the freedom of speech and expression which have been recognised by the courts. Some of those facets or rights that constitute the freedom of speech and expression are mentioned below:

  1. Freedom of the press: Freedom of the press is perhaps the most important freedom under the right to free speech and expression, and is also being recognised as the “fourth pillar of the Indian Constitution”. Freedom of the press does not find an explicit mention in the Constitution. However, in the case of Brij Bhushan and anr. vs. The State of Delhi (1950) it has been indisputably held to be an important aspect of the freedom of speech and expression and is implied under Article 19(1)(a). Freedom of press means:
  1. There can be no pre-censorship in the press;
  2. No-pre stoppage of publication in newspapers of articles or matters of public importance;
  3. Freedom of circulation;
  4. No excessive taxes on the press, etc.

However, restrictions can be imposed in the interests of justice, but those restrictions must withstand the test of Article 19(2).

In the landmark case of Romesh Thappar v. The State Of Madras (1950), the Supreme Court observed that, “freedom of speech and of the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organisations, for without free political discussion, no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the processes of popular government, is possible”. The Court in this case held that the freedom of circulation is as important as the freedom of publication.

In Bennett Coleman & Co v. Union of India (1972), the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the freedom of the press embodies the right of the people to free speech and expression. It was held that “Freedom of the press is both qualitative and quantitative. Freedom lies both in circulation and in content.” Thereby, this landmark judgement so delivered highlights the urgent need to prioritise the prevention imposed unjustifiably on the press, as non prevention would lead to hamper its effective working.

  1. Right to know and to obtain information: This is one of the important rights as it enables transparency by allowing citizens with the right to ask the government, further empowers the authorities to have a look at activities of the government, which further gives the citizens the right to participate effectively in the democracy. It is a basic postulate of a democracy that every citizen must have a right to know about what the government is doing. It is only when the public is aware of the acts of government that transparency and accountability in governance can prevail. In India, we have the Right to Information Act, 2005 which provides for the right of a citizen to secure access to information which is under the control of public authorities. 

In the State of U.P. v. Raj Narain (1975), the Supreme Court observed that the right to know is derived from the concept of freedom of speech. The Court further held that the people of this country have the right to gather information regarding every act, or any modification so far done by the authorities within their role to serve the general public. 

However, this right is not in entirety and has certain restrictions as mentioned in section 8(1)(a) i.e. “information, disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the State, relation with foreign State or lead to incitement of an offence”. These restrictions are imposed in such a manner that the balance can be drawn to fulfil the aim of the right to information and also to safeguard national interest as provided under Section 8 of the Act of 2005.

  1. Right to know the antecedents of the candidates at election: In Union of India v. Association For Democratic Reforms (2002), the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the voters have a fundamental right to know the antecedents of the candidate contesting election including his/her criminal past. Further, to maintain transparency in the election processes, it was held in the case of Brajesh Singh vs. Sunil Arora (2021) that candidates with criminal antecedents mandatorily have to publish details within 48 hours of the selection of the candidate or within 2 weeks before filing the first nomination. This case thereby, highlights the importance of Article 19 which provides its citizens freedom to speech and expression along with various other rights. 

Furthermore, in the recent case of Lourembam Sanjit Singh vs Thounaojam Shyamkumar & 3 Others, (2022), the concern was raised against the non-disclosure of past history of criminal record of the respondent which resulted in his disqualification from the election. It was therefore held that, where right to vote is an important part of a voter’s fundamental right, it is equally important for the voters to know their candidates antecedents which also includes criminal history.  

  1. Right to reply: The Right to reply is the concept which provides medium to individual to acknowledge misrepresentation or defamation or any infringement of their privacy through the same media where original content was published or presented. This is one of the important rights as it helps media houses in reporting fairness, transparency, accuracy and also provides individuals and legal entities, opportunity in addressing any allegations or criticism made against such individuals.  

In LIC v. Prof. Manubhai D. Shah (1992), the Supreme Court ruled that the right to reply, including the right to get that reply published in the same news media in which something was published against or in relation to a citizen, is protected under Article 19(1)(a).

  1. Right to silence: Right to speak includes the right not to speak or the right to remain silent. In Bijoe Emmanuel v. State of Kerala (1986), the Supreme Court upheld the right to silence of three children who were expelled from school because they refused to sing the National Anthem. The Court held that no person can be compelled to sing the National Anthem if he has genuine conscientious objections based on his religious belief. Hence, the right to speak and the right to express includes the right not to express and to be silent.
  2. Right to fly the national flag: In the case of Union of India v. Naveen Jindal (2004), the Supreme Court held that flying the National Flag with respect and dignity is an expression and manifestation of one’s allegiance and feelings and sentiments of pride for the nation and therefore, is a fundamental right protected under Article 19(1)(a). However, the flying of the National Flag cannot be for commercial purposes or otherwise and can be subject to reasonable restrictions.
  3. Sedition Laws: The concept of this law refers to the action or use of language that incites the violent behaviour against the government or governmental authority which can lead to disruption of peace in the society. In India this law has got its mention in Indian Penal Code under section 124A as per which “Whoever, by words, either spoken or written, or by signs, or by visible representation, or otherwise, brings or attempts to bring into hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards, the Government estab­lished by law in India, shall be punished with im­prisonment for life, to which fine may be added, or with impris­onment which may extend to three years, to which fine may be added, or with fine

However, in recent times this law has been in discussion after the concern was raised against the constitutional validity of the law in the case of S.G. Vombatkere vs Union Of India (2022), wherein 2 journalists were arrested for their criticism against government, the petition was filed challenging the constitutional validity of the law, thereafter considering the the scenario and the large scope of section 124A, it was thought to refer the case to 5 Judge bench in order to examine the years old sedition law to make required amendment to the same.

This case furthermore, highlights the need for the examination of the sedition law from a different perspective, in order to ensure that the same aligns with the constitutional promises. The judgement of this case is thereby considered to be one of the important judgement in order to uphold the freedom of speech and expression, emphasising the need for protecting individuals rights within legal framework.  

Overall, this case seems to be important in safeguarding the fundamental right of free speech and expression as mentioned under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, and also ensures the need of the hour that sections like 124A do not have any overriding effect over such essential fundamental right. 

Reasonable restrictions on the right to free speech and expression 

The right to free speech and expression is not an absolute right and is subject to reasonable restrictions. As per Article 19(2), restrictions can be imposed on the freedom of speech and expression in the interests of:

  1. sovereignty and integrity of India,
  2. the security of the State, 
  3. friendly relations with foreign States, 
  4. public order, decency or morality, 
  5. in relation to contempt of court, 
  6. defamation, 
  7. incitement to an offence.

Freedom to assemble [Article 19(1)(b) and 19(3)] of the Indian Constitution

This right guarantees every citizen the freedom to assemble peacefully without arms, including the right to hold public meetings, demonstrations, and processions. However, there are specific provisions and restrictions associated with this right that have been elucidated through various landmark case laws.

One of the most cherished rights, the fundamental right to assemble, empowers its citizens to peacefully convene, devoid of arms, and articulate their beliefs and opinions through public gatherings, processions, and demonstrations. The same is also mentioned under various instruments like that of Article 21 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights mentioning the right to assemble peacefully and various others, as an integral part of democratic societies. Hence, the right to assemble is a necessary corollary of the right to free speech and expression. Article 19(1)(b) provides for the right to assemble peaceably and without arms. This includes the right to hold public meetings, hunger strike, and the right to take out processions. In the significant case of T. K. Rangarajan vs. Government of Tamil Nadu (2003), the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India dealt with the issue of the right to strike by government employees, wherein it was held that the government employees do not have such fundamental right to strike, as such actions might cause undue-hardship to the general public and also disrupt the peace peace and functioning of the society.

It is pertinent to note that there is no right to hold an assembly on government premises or private property belonging to others. However, this right is not absolute and has certain restrictions associated with the same. 

Reasonable restrictions on right to freedom of assembly

According to Article 19(3), the right to freedom of assembly could be restricted on the following grounds:

  1. In the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, or
  2. In the interests of public order. 

Landmark judgements 

In the Kameshwar Prasad v. State of Bihar (1962), government employees were prohibited from participating in any kinds of public demonstrations. It was rightly upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India that the government employees do not lose their fundamental right to assemble, and any prohibition on the same will amount to violation of Article 19(1)(b). 

In Himmat Lal v. Police Commissioner, Bombay (1972), the Supreme Court struck down a rule that empowered the police commissioner to impose a total ban on all public meetings and processions. It was held that the State could enact regulations in order to support the right to assemble and could impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order but no rule could be prescribed prohibiting the meetings or processions altogether. 

It was determined that the State could enact regulations to support citizens’ right to assemble and could impose reasonable restrictions to maintain public order. However, it was ruled out that any regulation prohibiting meetings or processions entirely could be prescribed.

In Kishori Mohan v. West Bengal (1972), the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court has held that it is unconstitutional to blindly impose ban on any kind of procession or assembly without having background knowledge of the circumstances. Such a ban would be a threat on public order and thereby it was emphasised that authoritative discretion should be exercised while regulating such assemblies. 

In Ramlila Maidan Incident (2012), the importance of the right to assemble peacefully was emphasised by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. In this case, people assembled peacefully to protest but were dragged by the police force leading to death of several individuals, it was thereby ruled that the use of force was arbitrary and was in violation of the fundamental rights including the right to assemble peacefully of the individual (protestors) .      

In another landmark judgement of, Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India (2020), the Hon’ble Supreme Court dealt with the issue of internet shutdown, wherein the petitioner the Executive Editor of Kashmir Times, raised the concern on restrictions so imposed on internet and communication services, the was imposed during the times of abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir i.e. in August 2019. It was argued that such restriction was in violation of fundamental right to practise any profession and freedom of speech and expression. It was thereby observed that the internet is an important tool for the practising one’s fundamental right and putting restrictions on the same is not permissible in law. 

This judgement was therefore important as it lays the guidelines, that the balance must be maintained between the exercise of fundamental right and public order, emphasising more on the fact that the restrictions so imposed must be necessary and proportionate to achieve the lawful aim. Therefore, the restrictions imposed must be reasonable and not excessive.

Freedom to form associations, unions or co-operative societies [Article 19(1)(c) and 19(4)] of the Indian Constitution

Article 19(1)(c) mentions freedom to form association, union or co-operative society as guaranteed by Indian Constitution. It is one of the important rights which allows its citizens to join hands together and form unions or associations formally or informally to achieve common goals. 

An “association” can be defined as a group of persons who come together to achieve a certain objective which may be for the benefit of the members or for the welfare of the general public or for a scientific, charitable or any other purpose. This right is considered as the lifeblood of Indian democracy, as it helps in fostering democracy and influencing public opinion, however, it is pertinent to note that such functioning should operate within the boundaries of societal norms and legal framework. 

The right to form associations and unions includes the right to form companies, societies, trade unions, partnership firms and clubs, etc. The right is not confined to the mere formation of an association but includes its establishment, administration and functioning as well. 

Some of the facets of the right to form associations are as follows: 

  1. The right to form associations means the right to be a member of an association voluntarily. It also includes the right to continue to be or not to be a member of the association.

In Damyanti v. Union of India (1971), the Supreme Court upheld the right of the members of an association to continue the association with its composition as voluntarily agreed upon by the persons forming the association. 

  1. The right to form an association includes the right not to be a member of an association.
  2. The right under Article 19(1)(c) does not prohibit the State from making reservations or nominating weaker sections into the cooperative societies and their managing committees.
  3. No prior restraint can be imposed on the right to form an association.
  4. There is no fundamental right of recognition of the association or union by the government.
  5. The right to form an association includes no right to achieve the objects of the association.

Reasonable restrictions on right to form association

Criminal litigation

According to Article 19(4), reasonable restrictions can be imposed on the right to form associations, unions and co-operative societies, etc. on the following grounds:

  1. In the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, or 
  2. In the interests of public order or morality.

Landmark judgements 

In Bangalore Medical Trust v. B.S. Muddappa (1991), the Hon’ble Supreme Court emphasised to maintain balance between government responsibilities to promote social welfare and urban development and rights of individuals more specifically, rights to form associations. In the present case, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has recognised the rights of doctors and healthcare professionals to collectively form cooperatives societies in order to manage medical facilities and provide services. 

In Society for Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan v. Union of India (2012), the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that it is lawful for the unaided private educational institution to form association in order to promote the common interest. This case strikes at the justice between the right of private institutions to take control of their decision and governmental obligation to ensure that educational facilities can effectively be achieved by all individuals, specifically the disadvantaged ones. Thereby, it was held that associations so formed play a crucial role in bringing the desired result of striking balance.

Freedom of movement and residence [Article 19(1)(d), 19(1)(e) and 19(5)] of the Indian Constitution

Article 19(1)(d) and Article 19(1)(e) are complementary to each other and confer a right upon the citizens to move freely or/and to reside and settle in any part of the country, without any hindrance, however, such rights are subject to certain reasonable restrictions. 

Freedom of movement

Article 19(1)(d) provides for the right to move freely throughout the territory of India. This means the right to locomotion, i.e., the right to move as per one’s own choice. This right includes the right to use roads and highways. As was held in the case of Kharak Singh v. State of UP (1963) by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that the right to travel allows individuals to travel wherever they want and through any medium. 

In Chambara Soy v. Union of India (2007), some unscrupulous elements had blocked the road due to which the petitioner was delayed in taking his ailing son to the hospital and his son died on arrival at the hospital. The High Court held that the right of the petitioner to move freely under Article 19(1)(d) has been violated due to the road blockage. The Hon’ble Orissa High Court held that the State is liable to pay the compensation for the death of the petitioner’s son due to the inaction on the part of the State authorities in removing the aforesaid blockage. 

Freedom of residence

Article 19(1)(e) states that it is the fundamental right of every citizen to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India, however there are certain reasonable restrictions that can be imposed, as was highlighted in the case of Dr. N.B. Khare v. The State of Delhi (1950), where the petition was filed against the order made on the grounds of East Punjab Public Safety Act, 1949 where the petitioner was ordered to move out of the boundaries of Delhi, and to remain outside for the three months.Also, it was said that the order so made was vague and also no sufficient grounds were provided to him. The Hon’ble Supreme Court here took the stance that, in the matter where security is involved, the state can restrain individuals from entering the boundaries of the district. This case thereby highlights the importance of principles regarding establishing the necessity for restrictions to be reasonable, non arbitrary and in compliance with individual liberty. 

In the case of U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Parishad v. Friends Co-op. Housing Society Ltd.(1995), it was held by the Supreme Court that the right to residence under Article 19(1)(e) includes the right to shelter and to construct houses for that purpose. 

Reasonable restrictions on right to freedom of movement and residence

As per Article 19(5), the right to freedom of movement and residence could be restricted on the following grounds:

  1. In the interests of the general public, 
  2. For the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe.

Freedom of profession, occupation, trade or business [Article 19(1)(g) and 19(6)] of the Indian Constitution

Article 19(1)(g) provides for the fundamental right of the citizens to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business. This right basically allows its citizens and individuals the freedom to participate in economic activities, however the same is subject to certain reasonable restrictions as mentioned under Article 19(6).

Scope: What’s included and what’s not

  1. The right to carry on a business also includes the right to shut down the business. In Excel Wear v. Union of India (1978), the Supreme Court declared Section 25-O of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, which required an employer to take prior permission from the government for closure of his industrial undertaking, as unconstitutional and invalid on the ground that it violated Article 19(1)(g). 
  2. There is no right to hold a particular job of one’s choice. For example, in the case of closure of an establishment, a man who has lost his job cannot say that his fundamental right to carry on an occupation is violated. 
  3. There is no right to carry on any dangerous activity or any antisocial or criminal activity.
  4. No one can claim a right to carry on business with the government.
  5. The right to trade does not include the right of protection from competition in trade. Thus, loss of income on account of competition does not violate the right to trade under Article 19(1)(g).

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997) has observed that the sexual harassment of working women in workplaces also violates the fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g). In this case, comprehensive guidelines and binding directions were issued by the court to prevent the incidents of sexual harassment of women at workplaces in both public and private sectors.

Reasonable restrictions on freedom of profession, occupation, trade or business

Article 19(6) provides that the fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) can be restricted on the following grounds:

  1. By imposing reasonable restrictions in the interest of the general public, or
  2. By State monopoly: Sub-clause (ii) of Article 19(6) enables the State to make laws for creating State monopolies either partially or completely in respect of any trade or business or industry or service. The right of a citizen to carry on trade is subordinated to the right of the State to create a monopoly in its favour. 

Also, Sub-clause (i) of Article 19(6) empowers the State to lay down, by law, “the professional or technical qualifications necessary for practising any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business”. 

In State of Gujarat v. Mirzapur Moti Kureshi Kasab Jamat (2005), the Supreme Court has held that the expression ‘in the interest of general public’ in Article 19(6) is of wide import comprehending public order, public health, public security, morals, economic welfare of the community and the objects mentioned in Part IV of the Indian Constitution.

Removal of Article 19(1)(f) of Indian Constitution

Another fundamental right which was provided to individuals was under the Article 19(1)(f) which gave its citizens the right to hold, acquire or dispose of the property, i.e. the individual can manage their property as their fundamental right earlier. However, this right was later removed by the virtue of 44th Amendment in 1978 and was added as a Constitutional Right under Article 300A. This shift has a major impact upon the nature of Article 19(1)(f).  

The primary object for such major change was to prohibit the misuse of this fundamental right and also to prohibit possession of excessive lands in the hands of few people and to implement the land ceiling laws. This right thereby gives the government the right to hold property and also to use the same for public welfare.  

In the case of the State of West Bengal vs. Haresh C. Banerjee (2006), it was also highlighted that even if right to property is no longer considered to be Fundamental Right due to its removal by the virtue of 44th Amendment of the Constitution, it was still to be considered as a part of Constitution, as mentioned under Article 300A of the Constitution.    

The Fundamental rights provided by the Constitution of India, contains various rights including the right to Freedom of speech and expression, freedom to assemble, movement, practice profession and residence. However, as mentioned above, these rights are not absolute and are subject to reasonable restrictions which might be imposed by authorities (State) in order to protect public interest, morality, security or sovereignty.

As mentioned under Article 19(2) to 19(6), the State authorities have the power to impose restrictions on the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 19. However, such restrictions must be imposed by the “authority of law” and must also be “reasonable”. Further, it is also necessary that such restrictions should also be in conformity with the principle of natural justice, proportionality and fairness.

Test of Restrictions under Article 19(2) to 19(6) of the Indian Constitution

The restrictions to be imposed on the fundamental freedoms under Article 19(2) to Article 19(6) must satisfy the following tests:

  1. The restriction must be imposed by or under the authority of a law duly enacted by the appropriate legislature. The law authorising the restriction must be reasonable, as was also emphasised in Romesh Thappar vs. The State of Madras (1950);
  2. The restriction imposed must be for a particular purpose or object envisaged in the specific clauses, i.e., Article 19(2) to 19(6). There has to be a reasonable nexus between the restriction imposed and the objects mentioned in the respective clause. The same was mentioned under Bangalore Medical Trust v. B.S. Muddappa (1991). It was also highlighted that the restrictions so imposed by law should be in order to build a balance between individual rights and social welfare in urban development schemes.
  3. The restriction must be reasonable, as was highlighted in Maneka Gandhi vs. Union of India (1978), where the focus was on the inter-connection between fundamental rights and on expanding the scope of personal liberty. Further, the case rightly highlighted the importance of reasoning, principles of natural justice and fairness in the methods that can have the possibility of affecting the personal liberty of the individuals. This case, thereby, highlighted the role of judiciary in examining administrative actions to safeguard the rights of individuals.

Principle of rational nexus 

Article 19 of the Indian Constitution provides many rights and privileges to its citizens, however, such rights are not absolute and comes with certain restrictions, these restrictions are governed by one of the important principle i.e. “Principle of Rational Nexus”.

Any restrictions imposed on the fundamental right mentioned under Article 19 has to pass the test of “Principle of Rational Nexus”, as it plays a crucial role in validating such restrictions. This rightly mentions that the restriction if imposed on Article 19 must have valid justification, which shall include the interest of sovereignty, the security of the country, decency, morality or integrity of India, i.e. such imposition of restriction must be in line with that of the motive sought and must not be disproportionate. 

Importance of the Principle

  • This principle further upholds the principle of equality before law by mandating the logical and justifiable connection between the restrictions imposed and governmental interest and thus, protects against the abuse of power, as was highlighted in the case of State of West Bengal vs. Anwar All Sarkarhabib Mohamed (1952), where the West Bengal Special Courts empowered the State Government in order to expedite the trial of certain categories of cases to set up special court, the concern was raised against this order as such order violates Article 14 of fundamental rights, thereby the Hon’ble Supreme Court was also of the view that such order was in violation of Article 14, and hence unconstitutional. 
  • This principle is important as it sets out safeguard against the discriminatory and arbitrary actions of government authorities by imposing unjustifiable restrictions, as was stressed by the court in the case of RK Garg and Ors vs. Union of India (1981).

Certain landmark judgements

  • In the case of State of Madras vs. V.G. Row (1952), the Hon’ble Supreme Court set out the test of reasonableness, wherein the question was raised about the balance between fundamental right and social control in order to decide the validity of restrictions imposed on fundamental rights. It was thus, emphasised that the restrictions so imposed must be on only those grounds as specified under Article 19(2).  
  • In the case of Saghir Ahmad vs. State of U.P. (1955), it was emphasised that the restrictions so imposed on fundamental rights under Article 19(1)(g), must be justified and not arbitrary. This case highlighted the importance of rational nexus between the objectives sought and restrictions imposed, as in this case relief was sought against the restrictions imposed on the private operators from running their transport services on routes that were managed by state, and thereby it was argued that such restrictions are in violation of their fundamental rights, and thus it was held that such act amounted to the deprivation of individuals right to carry on any profession.  

Romesh Thappar vs. The State of Madras (1950)

Facts of the case

In this case, Mr. Thappar, was the editor and publisher of an English weekly journal namely “Cross Roads”, who raised the concerns against the government of Madras, alleging the ban on entry and circulation of his journal under Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1949. The government in reply to the same justified that such ban was made in the interest of public safety and order.   

Issue Raised

Whether the government order under Section 9(1-A) of Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1949 is in violation of Mr. Thappar’s fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a)? 

Judgement of the case

The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the order of government authorities upon such restrictions was unconstitutional and unlawful as it was ambiguous and unjustified, and further emphasised that restriction on freedom of speech and expression can only be exercised in a narrow and justifiable manner and that too in certain specific circumstances. Thereby, the Court’s decision in this case sets out very crucial precedent in order to protect the fundamental right of speech and also uplift these rights even in the face of public safety. 

State of Madras vs. V.G. Row (1952) 

Facts of the case 

In this case, the Government of Madras had declared the People’s Education Society as an unlawful association, alleging that the society was disturbing administration and maintenance of law and order and further responsible for causing danger to societal peace. Such ban was imposed under Section 16 of the Indian Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1908. However, it is pertinent to note that no official copy was served to the respondent in this regard.

Issues raised 

Whether such declaration of the association (People’s Education Society) as unlawful violates the rights of respondent under Article 19(1)(c) of the Indian Constitution? 

Judgement of the case

The Hon’ble Supreme Court was of the view that such declaration of ‘People’s Education Society’ as unlawful without even serving a copy of such order was wrong on the part of authorities and is in violation of fundamental right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(c) of the Indian Constitution. It was thereby emphasised that the individuals should be allowed to challenge the orders through judicial inquiry in order to ensure the test of reasonableness of restrictions on fundamental rights. This judgement, therefore, highlighted the need for transparency and set process in the matters relating to the exercise of fundamental rights. 

Ebrahim Vazir Mavat vs. The State of Bombay and Ors. (1954)

Facts of the case

This case was related to the Indian citizen who entered the boundaries of India without valid permit and was convicted and later ordered to return back. The petitioner thereby challenged the constitutional validity of Influx from Pakistan (Control) Act, 1949 under section 7, which allowed the government authorities to send back the person from India, if they do not have valid permit. 

Issue raised

The issue was whether such an order infringes the right of appellate under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India, which guarantees the right to freedom of movement and residence? 

Judgement of the case

The Hon’ble Supreme Court has declared the Section 7 of the Act (Influx from Pakistan (Control) Act, 1949) to be void as the application of the same is in violation with the fundamental right of the citizens of India under Article 19(1)(e) i.e. the right to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India. Further, it was found that the provision of the Act comes under the ambit of reasonable restrictions that can be imposed by the government in the interest of general public welfare as guaranteed under the Article 19(1)(d) and (e) of the Indian Constitution. 

This case thereby highlighted the importance of Article 19(1)(a) which tends to protect the right of its citizens including the right to freedom of residence and movement. Furthermore, it also highlighted the judicial power to strike out the legislation that is in violation of fundamental rights. 

Bijoe Emmanuel vs. State of Kerala [(1986)]

Facts of the case

This case involved three children, who were Jehovah’s witnesses (a religious denomination) who  abstained from saluting the national flag and refusing to sing the national anthem due to their religious beliefs. The children (petitioners) were students in a school of Kerala, who refused to sing the national anthem during assembly. Post which the Commission was appointed to enquire into the matter and thereby, it was reported that all the three children were law abiding citizens and no disrespect was shown to the National Anthem, however, following the instructions from Deputy Inspector of School, the students were expelled from school.

Issue Raised

The issue highlighted in the case was whether the expulsion of children from school was justified under Article 19 for refusing to sing the National Anthem? 

Judgement of the case

The judgement of the case was based on the Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution, wherein it was held that refusing to sing National Anthem does not amount to disrespect of the Nation as such act was not done to disrespect the nation but to respect one’s religion and hence their expulsion from school amounts to violation of their Fundamental Rights under Article 25 r/w Article 19(1)(a). 

Kaushal Kishor vs. State of UP (2017)

Facts of the case

In the present case, the family white travelling from Noida to Shahjahanpur on National Highway 91, met with incident where attacked by gang who snatched their jewellery and cash and also it was reported that the petitioner’s wife and young daughter were gang raped. While the petitioner filed FIR, Minister for Urban Development of the Government of U.P. made some derogatory statement and also termed the incident as “political conspiracy” against the Government, fearing that there would be no fair investigation, the petitioner filed the appeal.  

Issues raised

Whether the reasonable restrictions mentioned under Article 19(2) are to be considered as exhaustive or restrictions can be imposed on some other grounds using other Fundamental Rights?

Judgement of the case

The Hon’ble Supreme Court emphasised on balancing the fundamental rights, mentioning that where two or more fundamental rights are in conflict courts can either draw balance or can prioritise the one over another. Since the restrictions mentioned under Article 19(2) are exhaustive and cannot be amended, therefore, it was held that the right to freedom of speech of the Minister (public authority) cannot be curtailed in order to protect individuals’ right to live with dignity.

The vast expanse of India’s constitutional spectrum depicts Article 19 as a lighthouse of freedoms that throws open the floodgates to citizens to exercise their fundamental rights. It is imperative to take notice that these range of freedoms not only to authorise an individual to contribute actively to societal discourse but also create a barricade against the State authority impinging upon the liberty of innocent people.

The crux of Article 19, lies in granting individuals liberty so that they can make their own choices and to ensure the involvement of people in a democratic process. Moreover, the voice of people should be cautiously heard and exercised without any barriers. Article 19 epitomises the pinnacle of a vibrant democracy in which the government is responsible for its actions, and citizen’s contribution is substantial from time to time or constantly. 

However, such freedoms are not absolute but curtailed by the restrictions that are reasonable to the national order, norms, security, or on various other grounds. The judiciary assumes the primary prerogative of interpreting this thin line between individual freedoms and common good. This involves adjudicating whether an act of restriction is legal, acceptable, and indispensable in nature. This sentiment can be epitomised through decisions of the supreme court as discussed above. The verdicts culminate in the apex courts’ firm conviction to guard the fundamental rights and freedom for all citizens.

In the end, it can be said that Article 19 stands as India’s one of the strongest commitments towards democracy and individual freedom. It enables voices from all the sides to come together and shape the nation, ensuring that the ideal of democracy, justice, equality remains untouched.

What is Article 19 of the Indian Constitution?

Article 19 of Indian Constitution entails its citizens with various fundamental rights which are related to freedom of speech and expression, freedom to form association, freedom to assemble, freedom to reside and profess any profession. 

Are these rights absolute or are there any restrictions?

No, Article 19 is not an absolute right, and has reasonable restrictions attached to it as imposed by the State in order to protect integrity and sovereignty of the State. 

Can Article 19 be amended?

Yes, Fundamental Rights can be amended and Article 19 has been amended several times, however, such amendments can not hamper the basic structure of Article 19 and are subject to judicial review.

Does the protection of some rights, such as freedom of speech, etc., under Article 19 also apply to non-citizens?

No, Article 19 specifically is not applicable on non-citizens, however, there are certain other fundamental rights like that of Article 14 (Equality before law), Article 21 (Protection of life and personal liberty) which are applicable to non-citizens.

What are the remedies available in case of any breach of the fundamental rights?

In case of any breach of Fundamental Rights, the individual has the right to file a writ petition directly before the Supreme Court under Article 32 or the High Court under Article 226 and thereby has the right to restore rights that have been violated. The court has the power to issue various types of writs such as Habeas Corpus, Quo Warranto, Mandamus, Certiorari and Prohibition. 


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