No additional curbs on free speech by ministers : SC

No additional curbs on free speech by ministers: SC

Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that despite the principle of collective responsibility, personal statements of ministers, including MLAs and MPs, cannot be held to be statements of the government.

What was the matter?

  • The above mentioned judgment of the Supreme Court came in the case of Kaushal Kishore Vs State of Uttar Pradesh, which deals with the 2016 Bulandshahr rape incident.
  • The then Uttar Pradesh state minister and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan termed the incident as ‘nothing but a political conspiracy’.
  • The aggrieved people had filed a petition before the apex court seeking action against Khan.

Views of Supreme Court-

  • A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice SA Nazeer and comprising Justices BR Gavai, AS Bopanna, V Ramasubramaniam and Justice B V Nagaratna delivered the verdict.
  • The apex court said that no additional restrictions can be imposed against the freedom of expression except those mentioned under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • The apex court said that citizens have a right to approach the court for violation of Article 19 and Article 21, but a statement made by a minister does not become actionable merely because it is inconsistent with the rights of the citizens.
  • However, the court also said that if the statement of a public officer leads to any kind of incident or crime, then remedies can be sought against it.
  • The Supreme Court said that the Prime Minister or the Chief Minister does not have disciplinary control over the members of the Council of Ministers, and in a country like ours, where there is a multi-party system and often coalition governments are formed, it is not always possible for the Prime Minister/Chief Minister to whip (take action) when a statement is made by a member of the Council of Ministers.

Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution

  • Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the “right to freedom of speech and expression” to all its citizens, including the media.
  • Clause (2) of Article 19 places reasonable restrictions on the above right i.e. the right to freedom of speech and expression is not absolute and restrictions can be imposed in certain cases.

These matters are the following: sovereignty and integrity of India, security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality, contempt of court, defamation and incitement to an offence.

Source – The Hindu

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