Freedom of speech is not absolute, says apex court of India

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: May 15, 2015 7:03 am

Freedom of speech and expression has to be given a broad canvas, but it has to have inherent limitations, said SC.

The Supreme Court held on Thursday that freedom of speech had “constitutional limitation attached to it” and this right cannot be exercised to attribute obscene expletives to “historically respected personality” such as Mahatma Gandhi.

A bench of Justices Dipak Misra and P C Pant said the fundamental right to speech and expression, as envisaged under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution cannot be given absolute.

“We accept the proposition that there should not be narrow or condensed interpretation of freedom of speech and expression, but that does not mean that there cannot be any limit. Constriction is permissible under Article 19(2) of the Constitution… this right cannot be put in the compartment of absoluteness. There is constitutional limitation attached to it,” said the bench.

The SC underlined the “contemporary community standards test” as the yardstick for a court to judge obscenity under the provisions of the Indian Penal Code. “Contemporary community standards test is the main criterion and it has to be appreciated on the foundation of modern perception, regard being had to the criterion that develops the literature. There can neither be stagnation of ideas nor there can be staticity of ideals,” it added.

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