Freedom of Press "Election Commission v. Vijay Bhaskar". HAS THIS EXPANDED THE FREEDOM?

By Radhika Goyal-

Introduction

Our country, i.e., India, is a democratic country, and the rights given by our Constitution are not an absolute right, and the government imposes some reasonable restrictions. However, the democracy of India does not survive without this right. Likewise, Freedom of the Press is also the right provided in our Constitution of India but is not an absolute right and not defined anywhere. It is defined in Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India. Freedom of the Press is enriched in "Freedom of Speech and Expression", and the Press is the fourth pillar of democracy, and this is because the Press is the one who provides all the information related to anything. Citizens receive information from a newspaper, electronic media. Freedom of the Press is like a freedom of communication that travels through electronic media and published paper. Hence this is why freedom of the Press is important.

History of Press

The concept of freedom of the Press originated from England, but they impose some restrictions. It means the Press has freedom of expression in England, but they could not publish those prohibited by law or an offence such as seditions, defamation, obscenity, etc.

In India, the battle of the Press started at the time of the British period. At that time, the British government enacted various legislation for controlling the Press. For example: - Indian Press Act, 1901 than in 1931-1932. Afterwards, while framing the Constitution, B.N. Rao, the legal advisor of the Constituent assembly, taking Press to the next level and granted Press also has the freedom and freedom of Press enriched in "Freedom of Speech and Expression". He also mentioned that the freedom of the Press is not an absolute right, and the Press has a right to expression. Therefore Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India states that "All citizens have the right to freedom of speech and expression and it includes the right to press also. [1]

Constitutional Provisions

Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India define "Freedom of speech & expression", and 19(2) deals with "Reasonable Restrictions".

In India, the status of the Press has started from the case of Romesh Thapper v. the State of Madras "the Court observe that Freedom of Speech and the press lay at the foundation of all democratic organizations, for without free political discussion, no public education, so essential for the proper functioning of the process of popular Government is possible". In this case

"crossroad ", the English magazine, was printed and published in Bombay but banned by the Madras High Court. The Court held that liberty of circulation is essential to that freedom as liberty of circulations. [2]

In Prabhu Dutt v. Union of India[3], the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that the right to know news and information regarding the administration of the government is included in the freedom of the Press. But right is not absolute, and restrictions are imposed for the interest of society.

19 (2) Reasonable Restriction on Freedom of Speech and Expression. As we know, no right is an absolute right, and the court has imposed some restrictions on the freedom of the Press. They are: -

  1. Contempt of Court

  2. Sovereignty and integrity of India

  3. Decency and Morality

  4. Public order

  5. Friendly relations with foreign states

  6. Defamation

  7. Incitement of an offence

  8. Security of the state[4]

Explain freedom of the Press in India

As we know that freedom of the Press is not separately given in article 19, but it is mentioned in freedom of speech and expression in Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India and Once Dr Ambedkar's debate in the constituent assembly and said that "the press has no special right which is not to be given or which are not to be exercised by the citizen in the individual capacity and every individual exercising the right of the expression and that is why no special mention is necessary of the freedom pf press".

In Indian Express Newspaper V. Union of India[5] held that "Freedom of the press" means freedom from interference from an authority that would affect interference with the content and circulation of the newspaper. There cannot be interference with that freedom in the name of public interest. The Press aims to advance the public interest by publishing facts and opinions without which a democratic electorate cannot make a responsible judgment. So, in this judgment Court come up that Freedom of speech and expression has 3 important elements

  1. Access to all sources of knowledge

  2. Publication

  3. Circulation [6]

Fixing minimum price and the number of pages of newspaper

In the case of Sakal Paper Ltd v. Union of India[7] (Price and Control) Order, 1960, in this case, petitioner challenged the fixing the pages of newspaper and price is unconstitutional on the ground that it infringed the liberty of the Press and violated the article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India.

Then again, in case Bennet Coleman and Co. v. Union of India,[8] the validity of the newsprint Control order fixed the number of pages and because of this newspaper challenged as violative of Fundamental rights that are guaranteed in Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution of India so, Supreme Court held that order is fixing the maximum number of pages which a newspaper can print in violation of freedom of speech and expression. Thus, freedom of the Press is both quantitative and qualitative. It lies in both circulation and content.

The Case of Hamdard Davakhana v. Union of India[9] held that advertisement is considered freedom of speech and expression. Still, the advertisement of prohibited drugs is not considered as freedom of the Press.

There are many instances where taking place and freedom were also given to the Press, but the court also has some restrictions, as mentioned above.

Then after many changes were taking place, some favour the Press, and some are not, and many rights and liberty are given to the Press with restrictions. One of them is that the media has the right to report Courtroom proceeding, i.e., Open Courts.

Role of Media in Open Courts

The concept of Open Court came in India for the Indian citizens to know every information about the court. But it doesn't mean that the media has all over to report the Court proceeding. The case is related to the matrimonial case, sexual harassment, child abuse case, and where parties want privacy, then in these situations Court cannot go for Open court proceedings.

An Open Court proceeding ensures the Judicial Process is for public scrutiny, and it is very important to maintain transparency and accountability. In addition, it is established as a democratic institution so that public faith is preserved.

In Mohammed Shahabuddin v. State of Bihar[10], the Court noted the opinion state that if any party doesn't want to admit in an Open court, then Court proceedings go in Open Court proceedings. Open Court proceedings are for people general public so that they can admit without any hesitation.

The second importance of Open Court proceedings that it serves the educational purposes as well. In the case of "3 benches of judges took the decision ", the Court recognizes that a court hearing enables the public to witness the dialogue between Advocates and Judiciary. Moreover, poverty, illiterate, not having awareness has stopped the person from presenting in the Court proceeding. Also, a litigant heard every proceeding from the advocates and lawyers. Others who are not litigant they get the news from newspaper and electronic media.

But the court also imposed certain exceptions because the Court's primary function is to give judgment and justice. Hence, while going on Open Court proceedings, some circumstances keep in mind. If the case related to matrimonial, child abuse, sexual harassment, privacy, etc. in these courts remains a vital principle for the functioning of democracy.

Then, later on, Open Court Proceeding was challenged by the Election Commission.

In the Case Election Commission v. Mr Vijay Bhaskar [11]

The respondent filed a writ petition and state that Election Commission was only responsible for the second wave of covid. Throughout this, media was present in the court, and it's an open courtroom proceeding. That is why Election Commission filed the petition and want to stop against media from reporting all the remarks of the case. Then the Apex court held that restraining the media from open courtroom proceedings is unconstitutional and against Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution of India. The Court also observed that the Election Commission struck down to the fundamental right, i.e., Fundamental principle guaranteed by the Constitution of India and second open courtroom proceeding.

Further, the Court also observes and states that the courts are for the general public to save freedom and rights are provided in the Constitution. The public also has the right they know each and everything about the court. The Bench of the Court has also highlighted the "transparency in the democratic institution" because they gather the public faith, scrutiny, and accountability. The Open court proceeding also ensures the judge's lawful manner. Moreover, the bench state that open court can help education and individuals know how the law work and laws framed by the Executive and Legislature.

Therefore, because of the circumstances mentioned above, the Supreme Court of India rejected the Election Commission's plea and held that we could not restrain the media for reporting the judicial proceeding and information is a right of the citizen, i.e. "Right to Information". And also, the election commission is an independent body that is why the judgment was delivered favouring the media.



Conclusion

Therefore, freedom of the Press is important because the government cannot function in a democracy unless the people are well informed and can participate in public issues by having a wide range of different answers to problems that arise. Because of different articles and publications in the newspaper press is the one who can talk about government flaws openly but into restrictions only. Therefore, the new concept opens proceeding benefits for all the people. Because general people also get to know how the proceedings are conducted and how arguments are done and how the laws are enacted. But the Press also has the duty they don't take any advantage of this. So, the rule of law must be followed by the Press. That is why reasonable restrictions are imposed.

References

[1] Rahul Deo, freedom of press-forth pillar of democracy, lawoctopus (Dec19,2014) https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/freedom-press-pillar-democracy/

[2] AIR 1950 SC 124

[3] 1982 AIR, 6 1982 SCR (1)1184

[4] Dr J.N. PANDEY.CONSTITUTION OF INDIA, (55thed.) 222

[5] AIR 1958 SC 481

[6] Manmeet Singh, Freedom of press Article 19 (1)(a), Legal service India, http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1847/Freedom-of-Press---Article-19(1)(a).html

[7] AIR 1962 SC 305

[8] AIR 1973 SC 106

[9] Rahul Deo, freedom of press-forth pillar of democracy, lawoctopus (Dec19,2014) https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/freedom-press-pillar-democracy/

[10] (2010) 4 SCC 653

[11] LL 2021 SC 244




Author- Radhika Goyal

LL.M.-II

New Law College, Pune

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