Freedom of expression means the right to express one’s own conviction and opinions freely by word of mouth, by writing, through painting or any other mode. In modern times it is widely accepted that the right to freedom of expression is necessary in a democratic society and this right must be safeguarded at all times. Liberty to express opinions and ideas without hindrance and especially without fear of punishment plays a significant role in the development of society. It is one of the most important fundamental liberties guaranteed against state suppression or regulation. However, this freedom needs to be tempered so that it does not hurt the sentiments of others.
• ‘Freedom of expression’ originally guaranteed by the Indian constitution Prior to 1972, Article 19 (1) of the Indian constitution guaranteed this freedom of expression. However, after 1972, Indian politicians felt this should be restricted as they feared that they will be ridiculed or otherwise harmed politically if it remained unrestricted. So, they enacted laws to limit the freedom of expression on various grounds under the garb of law and order, national security and other noble objectives.
• Restriction to freedom of speech causes suffering Many writers, speakers, cartoonists etc. belonging to different castes, creeds and social positions have suffered and are suffering due to the restrictions imposed by law. On most occasions they have been charged and arrested, causing them mental anguish and physical/financial suffering.
• Freedom of expression should be protected Important justifications for freedom of expression and speech are that they assist in the discovery of truth, help an individual to attain self fulfilment etc. ultimately results in the welfare of society and state and strengthen the capacity of an individual in participating in decision making in a democracy.
However, no freedom is absolute and unrestricted. It is necessary to exercise freedoms in order to have a democratic society, but their limitations are also needed for the maintenance of the democratic society. So, the freedom has to have suitable restrictions.
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