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Article-19 and Social Media Regulation

Last Updated : 24 Nov, 2021
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The term ‘freedom’ means absence from control. In the context of Article 19, it means the absence of control by the State. Articles 19(1)(a) to (g) guarantee certain freedoms to the citizens of the country. These freedoms are subject to restrictions contained in Articles 19(2) to (6). Originally Article 19 guaranteed seven freedoms. Article 19(1)(f) pertaining to the right to hold and acquire property was deleted by the 44th Constitutional Amendment, 1978. These freedoms are essential to promote the basic rights of the citizens as well as democratic values. 

Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, AIR 1978 SC and in various other judicial pronouncements held that a right may not be explicitly given in various clauses of Article 19(1) but still it may be regarded as a part of Article 19. that

It means that there are various other rights that are incidental to express rights given in Article 19 but they have on been mentioned in the Article. Rights guaranteed under Article 19 are basic rights that have been regarded as natural rights and inherent in the status of citizens (Dharam Dutt v. Union of India, (2004) 1 SCC 712). These freedoms are not absolute, these are liable to be controlled, curtailed, and regulated to some extent by the State on the grounds mentioned in Articles 19(2) to (6).

Test for reasonableness:

Supreme Court in State of Madras v. V.G. Row, AIR 1952 SC 196 held that the test of reasonableness should be applied to each individual statute on a case-to-case basis and there cannot be a standard or a general pattern of reasonableness. The Supreme Court has however held in various cases that for adjudging reasonable restrictions courts must consider factors such as duration and extent of restriction, circumstances and manner in which they are authorized, nature of the right infringed, and the purpose of the restriction.

The burden to prove that restrictions are reasonable lies on the State. In Om Kumar v. Union of India, AIR 2000 Supreme Court held that the courts are entitled to consider the proportionality of restrictions. It means that restrictions should not be arbitrary or beyond what is required for achieving the object. Legislation that arbitrarily or excessively invades the fundamental rights cannot be said to be reasonable. Further, the restriction must have a direct or proximate nexus with the object which the legislation seeks to achieve. Supreme Court in State of Bombay v. Balsara, AIR 1951 SC 318 held that Directive Principles of State Policy is a relevant factor in considering whether the restriction on a fundamental right is reasonable or not. A restriction that promotes Directive Principles of State Policy is generally regarded as reasonable.

Article 19 and Social Media:

Nowadays, the Right to freedom of speech and expression is mainly used by social media and the internet. From past years and till now social media is playing a vital role between the citizens and connection with the world to express thought and communication to others. Even UN meetings and other meetings around the world level are getting to the citizens by social media. But the use of social media by citizens as a fundamental Right must be ensured by fundamental duties also. Article 19 itself has an inherent right to freedom of speech and expression even in the case of the internet and social media. Currently, there are nearly 448 million users of social media in India. Social media is one of the biggest platforms to share and propagate one’s thoughts to others.

Some Advantages of Social Media:

  • To provide a true picture of any issues.
  • To strengthen the unity and brotherhood among people.
  • To make citizens think about what is right or wrong.
  • To reduce stereotypical mindset.
  • To express dissent against the government in a democratic country like India,
  • To express thoughts through books, blogs.
  • To give voice to the oppressed classes as well as women against violence and atrocities.

Some Disadvantages of Social Media:

  • Spreading hate against religion, race, etc.
  • Spreading false propaganda.
  • Defamation of persons, institutions.
  • Threat to internal security
  • May complicate the relations with friendly nations.
  • Incite violence, riots, and collective crime.

Some major causes to regulate social media:

1. Restrictions on freedoms by Constitution itself:

Articles 19(2) to (6) impose restrictions on various facets of freedom mentioned in Article 19. It is important to note that the legislature cannot restrict the freedoms on any other grounds other than those mentioned in Article 19(2) to (6). But it also states that-

  • The restrictions must be imposed only under the authority of law.
  • Each restriction must be reasonable.
  • The restriction must strictly relate to the grounds mentioned in Articles 19(2) to (6).

2. The dignity of a nation:

Citizens must be responsible for their fundamental duties also while taking benefit of fundamental rights. Fundamental Duties under Article 51A provide few duties which shall be followed by citizens while enjoying their fundamental rights, so the same applies to Article 19. While taking the privilege of freedom of speech and expression a citizen must protect the integrity, unity, and sovereignty of India. Anything expressed on social media platforms must not degrade the dignity of any society, religion, etc, or our nation.

3. Cybercrimes by use of social media:

Cybercrime is the worst result of the use of social media. Cybercrimes as now in the present days are rapidly increasing and most of the cases are related to cyberstalking, cybercrime, money fraud, outraging the modesty of women by morphing photos or videos, etc are the bad example of cybercrime.

4. Loss of moral values:

Some people do not give respect to moral values and laws while using social media platforms. Especially people having the age of 14-22 years, don’t know how and in which manner the social media platforms are useful and wrong for them. The impact of using Social media can be seen in people as it is diverting them from their moral values and respect to life.

5. Public order and foreign relations:

Sometimes social media is also responsible for disturbing public order or foreign relations, by this way sometimes users are creating havoc on International relations or public order. Mob lynching, Riots are the worst condition due to fake or wrong news or videos circulating over social media platforms.

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