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Report No. 101

5.6. Corporation's rights in U.S.A.-First Amendment.-

The Supreme Court of the U.S.A.1 had, in a fairly recent case from Massachusetts, occasion to deal with a Massachusetts statute which made it a crime for banks and business corporations to spend money to influence a vote on referendum, unless the laws "materially affected" the interests of the corporation concerned. The Supreme Court held the statute to be void, as violating the First Amendment. In this case, two banks and three companies wanted to publicise their view that the Massachusetts Constitution should not be amended to permit graduated personal income tax.

The Massachusetts statute in question would have had the effect of prohibiting corporate spending on such publicity. The banks and companies argued that the statute violated the First Amendment. The contention was upheld by the Supreme Court. The Majority judgment of the Supreme Court was delivered by Powell, J. whose exposition of the law will be set out later2. Burger, C.J., concurring, said, "the First Amendment does not belong to any definable categories of person or entities, it belongs to all who exercise the freedom."3 The dictum of the Chief Justice unmistakably equates all non-natural persons with natural persons, for the purpose of the First Amendment.

1. First National Bank v. Bellotti, (1978) S Ct 1407: 55 L Ed 707: 435 US 765; re-hearing 57 L Ed 2d 1150.

2. Para. 5.9, infra.

3. For detailed discussion, see Archibald Cox Freedom of Expression in the Burger Court, (1980) 94 Harvard Law Review 193; and Archibald Cox Freedom of Expression, (1981), pp. 78-83.

Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Constitution - Recommendation to Extend it to Indian Corporations Back

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