Article 19, Constitution of India- The rights and their Restrictions

Updated: Jun 2, 2021

The freedoms under Article 19 and their restrictions

Constitution of India- Cover

Personal liberty is considered the primary right in all of the various fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution of India.

The entire set of Articles ranging from Article 19 to Article 22 form a very crucial chapter on Personal Liberties by defining and protecting it with the utmost preference and backing of the law.

So, let’s delve into Article 19, the foremost of them all.

Also, I’ll try to keep this as brief as possible :)

The Six Freedoms along with their restrictions:

Article 19 (1) of the Constitution guarantees the citizens of India the following six fundamental freedoms that are not absolute and limited to certain restrictions provided in Article 19 (2) through to Article 19 (6):

a. Freedom of Speech and expression

The right to freedom of speech and expression is indispensable in a democracy.

The Right to Freedom of speech and expression essentially stands for the right to express one’s own opinions and convictions freely by speaking, writing, printing, painting, through pictures, or any other means to convey a narrative.

This right is viewed at:

  1. Helping an individual attain self-fulfillment

  2. Assisting the discovery of the truth.

  3. Strengthening an individual’s participation in decision making

  4. Providing a mechanism for establishing a reasonable balance between stability and social change.

Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution simply adds that all citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression but will be subject to the restrictions provided under Article 19 (2).

Now, this is a segment that can be a complete article on its own. So, I am not going to delve into much detail about the various dynamics of the interaction between the right {19(1) (a)} and its restrictions {19 (2)}. But, don’t worry, you can find the complete article on this topic, on another NELJ blog- HERE.

b. Freedom of Assembly

People protesting against racism in India

The right- Article 19 (1) (b) guarantees all citizens of India the right “to assemble peacefully and without arms”. This fundamental right is inclusive of the right to hold general public meetings and take out processions/movements provided that these assemblies are:

  • Peaceful,

  • Involve unarmed participants and are;

  • Not beyond the reasonable restrictions imposed under Article 19(3).

The restriction - Article 19 (3) states that- nothing stated in Article 19 (1) (b) “shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause”

This means that in the interest of Sovereignty and public order, the right conferred by Article 19 (1) (b) can be curbed with reasonable restrictions like dispersion of such gathering by using force.

However, an assembly can only be dispersed when it becomes “unlawful”. Section 141 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) lays down the criteria for when an assembly of five or more persons becomes unlawful:

When the common object of the persons composing the assembly is to-

  1. Resist the execution of any law or legal process.

  2. Commit any mischief or criminal trespass

  3. Obtain possession of any property by force

  4. Compel a person to do an illegal act or omission

  5. Overawe or prevent any public servant from exercising his lawful powers.

Section 144 of IPC also empowers the Magistrate to restrain an assembly or prevent the gathering of five or more people if, under his estimation, there is a risk of obstruction, annoyance, or injury to any person lawfully employed or danger to human life, health and safety. This is also viewed as preventing the rise of public tranquility, riot, or an affray.

c. Freedom to form Associations or Unions or Co-operative societies

The right- Article 19 (1) (c) of the Constitution of India guarantees all citizens of the country the right “to form associations or Unions or Co-operative societies”.

The right of association pre-supposes organization. An organization is a body of connected people involved either in the same industry, residence, or any other agenda that may require a permanent relationship between all members for the pursuit of a collective goal.

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