The Constitution of India bestows certain fundamental rights to citizens of India guaranteeing civil liberties so that people could live in peace and harmony. These include right to equality, right to freedom, right against exploitation, right to freedom of religion, cultural and educational rights, right to constitutional remedies and right to elementary education.
While all the rights carry specific scope and purpose with a view to restoring fundamental rights of citizens. Of this, right to freedom is considered most important by many people as it covers speech and expression, assembly, association or union or cooperatives, movement, residence, practicing any profession or occupation (subject to security of the State, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality etc.), life and liberty, protection against conviction, arrest and detention in certain cases. Violation of these rights are punishable under the Indian Penal Code subject to seeking judicial intervention/remedies.
Of all the rights to freedom, the freedom of speech and expression is considered the most important one by people many democratic countries allowing a person to communicate his (or her) opinion and ideas to anyone who is willing to receive them. The term freedom of expression is often used synonymously with acts of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used. This includes the freedom of press too.
Undoubtedly, freedom of speech and expression is the most basic of all freedom granted to the citizens under the Constitution of India. Freedom of speech is an essential ingredient of a free society because it serves the purposes of self-fulfillment, discovery of truth, capacity of a person to make decisions and social change. But at the same time, this also bestows on citizen with certain responsibilities. For instance, a hate speech in the garb of freedom of speech can incite tension and conflict among communities or groups. Hence a person needs to exercise his freedom with due care and consideration. Since many people tend to deviate or act irresponsibly, almost all democratic governments including India put some restrictions on speech and expression. The most common limitations are libel, slander, sedition, hate speech, copyright violations, right to privacy, obscenity and pornography etc. It is for this reason that sometimes individuals, including political leaders and activists, have been prosecuted under the law.
Freedom of speech and expression is fascinating and indeed the most important of all freedoms. Till some time back the mass media was limited to print media, radio and few television channels as medium of expression and it was easy to keep a track and check on any appropriate speech and expression. But with the upsurge of the electronic media, particularly various social websites on the internet and other means, people are spewing all kind of trash, unsubstantiated allegations, slanderous statements and even abusive words and phrases to demean, defame and denigrate rivals, adversaries, famous individuals, institutions, society or even own nation.
By doing this they are misusing the fundamental rights, freedom of speech and expression and, in turn, doing damage and disservice to the society and nation. These are new challenges and law will take its own course sooner or later to tackle this problem. If people, on their part, could do some introspection to realize and learn that any freedom has some distinct benefit but limitations too with a purpose, they can perhaps remedy the situation by helping self and avoid causing hurt and damage to individuals, society and nation.