Posted on: August 15, 2020 Posted by: admin Comments: 0

Author : Punyasha Panda, Student at UPES Dehradun


The press often described as the fourth estate plays an important role in a society. When enunciating about freedom of press in a democracy one may inquire: which came first? Press came into India and whole world much before democracy came into existence. Press is considered far-reaching instrument for transparency in a system, it is voice of people, it is voice of the voiceless.[1]

A Democracy derives its powers from the people, people elect their representative, for that the people won’t be to choose the right representative till they know the real face. Democracy cannot be perfectly powerful without media; free press plays an important role to maintain the basic essence of the democracy. The media is as a bridge between the government and the people connecting both as it informs people about the functions performed by the government and its officials. This is not only one way; it also helps the government to know what the people want. Hence, the democratic system like India is absolutely potent when the state and the people possess a free press, though there is no separate article in the Indian constitution like the United States.

Because freedom of the press means freedom from the authority’s interference which would have the effect of trying to meddle with the newspaper content and circulation. Yet under freedom of speech it is inferred that the press has the right to inform and educate people, not just newspapers but all kinds of media.

The free press is a term used for media which the government does not regulate or censor to spread political agendas or ideological issues among the public. The 3rd May is celebrated as a World Press Day or a World Press Freedom Day[2]. India, the world’s largest democracy, has dropped two points on the list of the world press freedom index compiled by borderless reporters. In the 180 countries ranked India 140. It measures the level of freedom bestowed on a country’s journalists.[3]

A free press is one of many institutions that oversees government activities and acts as a source of information, education and entertainment. This guarantees right to learn and right to knowledge for individuals. The most valued ideals are freedom of the press and freedom of speech

The main questions considered in this study are; what is the meaning of the work ‘press freedom’ actually? Does Indian Press enjoy freedom? What all of the laws are we needed to protect press freedom? If Journalism is being attacked? There are security steps to protect press freedoms?


Freedom implies no interference or limitation with the powers. Accordingly, the term ‘press freedom’ means the right to print and publish without interference from the state or any public authority except as authorized by constitutional and constitutional law.[4] There is no constitutional or legal privilege to do so, and freedom to write, print, investigate, and express anything within the constraints of constitutional laws.[5]

Press freedom is one of the leading institutions for expressing one’s speech and expression. Therefore, the freedom of the press fulfils very vital social functions. Media freedom is considered the foundation of democracy. They are the most important features of the freedom of the press. The Democracy exists because of the freedom of the press. Democracy means the people ‘s government, by the people and for the people. The Press helps the government to learn the people’s moods and needs. Around the same time, the press communicates the government’s purpose, strategies and initiatives to the whole community.

The press helps to develop, shape and change public opinion. For this purpose, the press is regarded as an agent of reform. The press plays the position of public vigilance and serves as effective checks on malpractice and corruption, not only on the officers of government but also on the person. Today’s press is often known as a tool for educational delivery. Last but not least, the press and the media serve as the society’s eye opener.


Before Independence in India there was no constitutional or legislative guarantee of an individual’s or media / press freedom.[6] The journalist’s freedom is an ordinary part of the subject ‘s freedom, and to whatever length the subject may go in general, so may the journalist, but apart from statutory law his privilege is no other and no greater. The range of his statements, criticisms or comments is as broad as, and no larger than, any other subject.

With artifacts and beliefs, the Indian Constitution Preamble guarantees freedom of thinking, speech, belief, religion, and worship amongst other things for all people. The constitutional significance of freedom of speech is contained in the Preamble to the Constitution and is transformed into freedom of speech and expression as fundamental and human right in Article 19(1)(a).[7]

The Constitution of India begins with the preamble. The preamble is considered the substance and spirit of the Constitution, and is thus regarded as a very important part of the Constitution.[8] Through preamble to the Indian Constitution, the individual is granted freedom of speech. This states the individual has freedom of thought, speech, belief, faith and adoration. The freedom of thought and speech covers the right of free press. The right to free press is expressly included within the scope of freedom of thought and speech. The concept of human rights is seen as the cardinal principle of human life; hence rights occupies a special position in the Constitution.

It may be noticed under art 19 (1) (a), the constitution does not specifically guarantee freedom of press. Though there is no specific provision regarding the freedom of press in the Indian Constitution like United State but even in the earliest judgements in India held that freedom of speech and expressions include freedom of press. Supreme court reffering to freedom of press said:

“Being only a right flowing from the freedom of speech and expression, the liberty of the Press in India stands on no higher footing than the freedom of speech and expression of a citizen and that no privilege attaches to the Press as such, that is to say, as distinct from the freedom of the citizen. In short, as regards citizens running a newspaper the position under our Constitution is the same as it was when the Judicial Committee decided the case of Arnold v. The King Emperor (4) and as regards non-citizens the position may even be worse.”

Thereafter, Supreme Court of India has consistently held that freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of press. This position is constant till this day.

Chairman of the Drafting committee Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar strongly argued that “The press is merely another way of stating an individual or a citizen. The press has no special rights which are not to be given or which are not to be given or which are not to be exercised by the citizen in his individual capacity. The editors of press or the manager are all citizens and therefore when they choose to write in newspaper, they are merely exercising their right of freedom of speech and expression and in my judgment therefore no special mention is necessary of the freedom of press at all.”

It is true that the Indian constitution does not include separate protection for the press. Yet it’s not the case that the media and the press are not having any rights. On the contrary, different press rights are not only acknowledged but are also protected. It is the judiciary which through its numerous reasoned decisions protects the freedom of the press and the media. The judiciary has consistently upheld media freedom of speech from the state’s unconstitutional acts which have sought to curb press freedom by taking on numerous defences.


There is no question that freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right embodied in Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution; but it has been established and adapted by the justice system. Most times, the free press is considered a thorn in the Government’s throat. The government is also actively preparing to clip the press wings by various directives and laws. It is this judiciary that will serve as the guardian of the free press, and protect it from the government’s arbitrary action. Yet often it also happens that the press exceeds its boundaries of freedom in its zeal and enthusiasm; therefore, the judiciary always needs to keep the press within its defined scope of freedom. Therefore, the judiciary plays a crucial role in defending and restricting the right to free speech. With the help of some of the seminal judicial precedents, this dimension was expanded.

The Supreme Court took it for granted in Romesh Thapper v State of Madras[9] and Brij Bhushan v State of Delhi[10] that freedom of the press was an integral part of the right to freedom of speech and expression. This was observed by Sastri J Patanjali. In the case of Romesh Thapper, freedom of speech and expression involved the dissemination of ideas and freedom of movement. It is clear that the right to freedom of speech and expression brings with full freedom the right to publish and share one’s thoughts, opinions and other views, and to resort to all available means of dissemination.

In the case of  Romesh Thappar, Patanjali Sastri J with majority opinion observed: “The Constitution put in a separate category these crimes against public order aimed at undermining or threatening the protection of the State, and made their avoidance the sole reason for the statutory abbreviation of the freedom of speech and expression, that is, nothing less than endangering or threatening the foundations of the State.”[11]

The Supreme Court held in Naresh Mirajkar v State of Maharashtra that a court order banning the publication of facts in the newspapers is not an infringement of the constitutional right to freedom of the press.

The Supreme Court held that a law attempting to limit the freedom of speech and expression for the preservation of public order or subsequent public protection could not be regarded as legitimate inasmuch as it allegedly imposed restrictions for a wider and more extensive reason than those provided for in the constitutional provisions specifying the domain of legislative abbreviation by where The Court therefore made it clear that only the extreme and exacerbated forms of public disorder were calculated to jeopardize state security and not the comparatively minor violation of peace of strictly local significance to which freedom of speech and expression could be limited.

In the earlier case the Supreme Court took a wider view when reviewing the laws with the issue of public order. In the case of Ramji Lai Modi, the Supreme Court interpreted the terms ‘in the interest of public order’ as wider than ‘for the preservation of public order,’ and therefore a law is appropriate to curb activities that appear to cause public disorder.[12]

Therefore, the Constitutional situation is visited with a fragile lack of clarification where, on the one hand, there is emphasis in the case of Ramji Lal Modi[13] on a broader definition of the term ‘in the interest of public order’ but the same was not pursued in the case of Virendra.  On the other hand, the case of Lohia suggested that some criteria exist for testing the validity of State action. These test evaluations are politically appropriate because sedition has an historical past. But such cases are rare and the apex court has largely backed the government’s plea for nearly a blanket power to deal with such situations.

In the case of Express Newspaper, Bhagavati J. developed a new “direct and inevitable effect test” approach, in order to test the validity of a law that imposes restrictions on press freedom. The Court opined that

“All the consequences which have been visualized in this regard by the petitioners viz. the tendency to curtail circulation and thereby narrow the dissemination of information fetters the petitioners freedom to choose the means of exercising the right, likelihood of independence of the press being undermine by having to seek alternative media etc. would be remote and depend on various factors which may or may not come into picture. Unless these were the direct and inevitable consequences of the measures enacted in the impugned Act, it would not be possible to strike down the legislation as having that effect and operation.”[14]

It appears that the Court decided to apply the ‘absolute and inevitable effect’ test in such a way that if the violation was triggered by the probable occurrence of any related social , cultural , political or other event than the one explicitly specified in the statute, the impact may not be immediate and inevitable because that event may or may not occur, even though it is likely to occur.

This ‘simple and unavoidable impact’ test was followed in Case of Sakal Newspaper. Rejecting the State’s plea that the circulation was merely an indirect consequence and that the reasonableness of the restriction was to be taken into account under Article 19(1)(g) and (6) and not Article 19(2), the Supreme Court observed that,

“The fixation of minimum price for the number of pages which a newspaper is entitled to publish is obviously not for ensuring a reasonable price to the buyers but for expressly cutting down the circulation. The restraint on the freedom to publish any number of pages unless the price of a newspaper is raised along with the curtailment of advertisement, forcing the hike in the price of newspapers, is no remote but the direct consequence of the impugned order. The direct and immediate effect of the said order is bringing down the circulation. And when a law is intended to bring about that result, it is a direct interference with the freedom of speech and expression.”

Since, India, „freedom of expression‟, is guaranteed by Art. 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and it has been held by Supreme Court[15] the freedom of the „press‟ is included wider guarantee, it is unnecessary to plead for the freedom of press in this country. Nevertheless, the principles that lie at the background of press freedom and its limitations are relevant to all press laws. Since in India, constitutionality may be challenged; it would be not only useful but also necessary to hold the fundamental and historic principles on which the demand for freedom of the press is based before one’s mind. This has become especially relevant in India where, for the time being, zeal for creating a welfare state is capable of regulating all individual rights to the context.


Finally, it can be concluded that, in the Indian Constitution, The Freedom of the Press is nowhere stated. Article 19 of the Indian Constitution provides for the right to freedom of speech and of expression. Freedom of speech and of expression is believed to include freedom of the press in Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. Freedom of speech helps one to share both one’s own opinions and those of others. But freedom of the press must be subject to those restrictions that apply to freedom of expression and speech. Media freedom status is similar with that of a regular citizen. The press cannot claim any immunity from taxation, is subject to the same laws regulating industrial relations, and press employees are subject to the same laws regulating industrial employment. The judiciary being the guardian of the fundamental right of the citizens has tried to protect them zealously. Sometimes it also happens that in its over enthusiasm, the press goes beyond its prescribed arena and then the judiciary has to reprimand it, not to overstep its limitations. A humble attempt has been made to give a brief account of the judicial activism related to the freedom of speech and expression inclusive of freedom of press.





[4] Bhatiya Sita, “Freedom of press” Rawat Publications, Jaipur and New Delhi, 1997 pg 34.

[5] Mr. Sharma v. Srikrishna

[6] K.D. Gaur, Journal of the Indian Law Institute, Vol. 36, No. 4 (October-December 1994), pp. 429-454

[7] Art 19, Constitution of India, 2950.

[8] Dr. C.S. SOMASHEK HARAPPA, “THE UNIQUENES OF PREAMBLE OF INDIAN CONSTITUTION” Indian Journal of Research, Volume : 5, Issue : 10, October 2016

[9] A.I.R. 1950, S.C. 124.

[10] A.I.R. 1950, S.C. 129; 1950, S.C.R 605.

[11] Romesh Thapper V. State of Madras, A.I.R. 1950, S C, 124 at p. 128.

[12] Ramji Lai Modi V. State of U.P. A.I.R. 1957, S.C. 620

[13] A.I.R, 1957, 620, 1957, SCR 860.

[14] Express Newspapers V. Union of India A.I.R. 1958, S.C. 578 at p. 620.

[15] Express News Paper v. Union of India, 1958, S.C. 578 (614)

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