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Report No. 200

Constitution of India: Rights of suspects and accused and freedom of speech:

Our Constitution does not separately refer to the freedom of the press or of the electronic media in Part III but these rights are treated by the law as part of the 'Freedom of speech and expression' guaranteed by Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The guarantee is subject to 'reasonable restrictions' which can be made by legislation to the extent permitted by Article 19(2). The Article reads thus:

"Article 19(1): All citizens shall have the right

(a) to freedom of speech and expression;

(b) ... ... ...


(2) 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 interest 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 offence".

'Contempt of Court law' deals with non-interference with the "administration of justice" and that is how the "due course of justice" that is required for a fair trial, can require imposition of limitations on the freedom of speech and expression.

Article 20, clause (1) of the Constitution states that no person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of the law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence and not be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence. Art 20, clause (2) states that no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once. Art 20, clause (3) is important and it deals with the right against self-incrimination. It states:

"Art 20(3): No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself."

Trial by Media free speech and fair trial under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 Back

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