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Free Speech: The Bulwark Of a Democratic State

Author: Aniket Pandey

Designation: Student

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One sided information, disinformation, mis-information and non-information creates a homogeneous citizenry making a travesty of democracy.[1] In order to circumvallate a democracy, not only right to free speech is essential but freedom to express oneself is imperative. Our Freedom fighters who brought independence to our country strongly believed that the ultimate end of the state was to provide people with liberty in order to develop their faculties. Further, they also believed freedom to be the secret of courage and courage to be the secret of freedom. It can thus be concluded that individual’s freedom to think and liberty to speak are elements indispensable for the spread of political truth in a society. This liberty is imperative for the overall proper functioning of the democratic process. We as a country are blessed as, each one of us are gifted with the liberty to free speech and expression by the Constitution. Therefore, this piece is dedicated to the discussion as to how free speech is a bulwark of a democratic state.

Fundamental Rights are essential for the overall preservation of human dignity

In the last few centuries, man’s thinking has been swerving round to the theory that human beings have certain fundamental, inalienable and basic rights. Further it is the function of the state to preserve human dignity and promote personality development in order to effectuate a social and democratic environment. Now, this is only possible if man’s rights are recognized and the same is allowed a free play. In a country like ours, where the society is fragmented into numerous religious, cultural and linguistic groups, it became imperative upon the framers of our constitution to hold a positive outlook towards these rights and freedom. The need to have basic fundamental rights was thus overwhelmingly accepted on all hands, so much that the point whether or not to incorporate such rights was not even considered in the constituent assembly.

Features and the Background of the basic Fundamental Rights available to the citizens

Fundamental rights have two features, firstly, they act as a shackle on absolute legislative powers, and secondly, they provide an atmosphere for complete development of citizens protecting their individual dignity.[2] The incorporation of Fundamental rights in the Constitution is because of reasons like, consciousness of the huge minority issues in India, memories of the prolonged scuffle against the despotic British and the tyrant Islamic rule, acknowledgement of the ideals given by several freedom fighters and national heroes, and lastly, the climate of global opinion and the noteworthy American experience.

Underlining the significance of free speech in a democracy vis a vis apex court’s judgement

Bhagwati J, in the landmark case of Maneka Gandhi v. UOI[3] laid stress upon the importance of free speech and expression by saying that democracy is essentially a ground for free discourse and debate. For that is the only corrective of government action in a democracy. He further held that, if democracy is a government for the people and by the people, then it is certain to have citizen’s participation in the democratic procedure. This would enable him freely exercise his right to make choice by participating in general discourse of public importance. Our Supreme Court since the 1950s has emphasis upon the fact that for the protection of individual’s life and liberty, it is essential to uphold individual’s freedom to speech and expression. In a democracy like ours, freedom to speak and express oneself opens up channels of liberal discourse of issues. Under the Article 19 (1), sub-clause (a), the right defined is not merely a right to speech and expression but a right to freedom of speech and expression. Free speech plays a pivotal role in the creation of public opinion on matters dealing with political, social and economic importance.

Role of Article 21 in providing additional strength to individual’s free speech

The expression, ‘personal liberty’ used in Article 21 is of the broadest amplitude and covers a variety of rights constituting the personal liberty of an individual and some of them have been uplifted to the rank of distinct Fundamental Rights with additional protection under Article 19. Individual’s right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under the Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution is one such fundamental right with additional security under Article 21. However, one’s liberty is to be balance with his duties as a citizen towards the state and his fellow citizens.


Right to Freedom of speech and expression has been regarded as the primary condition of liberty. It occupies a favourable position in the pecking order of liberties providing security to all other liberties. It has been truly referred as the mother of all other liberties. Playing a crucial role in the creation of public opinion on various matters, it has been granted additional protection under Article 21 of the Constitution.

[1] UOI v Association for Democratic Reforms, JT 2002(4) SC 501. [2] Society for Unaided Private Schools for Rajasthan v. UOI, 2012 6 SCC 1 (32). [3] Maneka Gandhi v. UOI, AIR 1978 SC 597.






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