Freedom of Press and Right to Live with Dignity in India


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Article 21 of the Indian constitution guarantees its citizens “right to live” and the subsequent judgements extended this right to “right to live with dignity”. The Fundamental Rights in the Indian constitution are safeguarded against the “state”. The government cannot take away the freedom of the individual citizens by arbitrary legislation and laws. Now under the ambit of Article 21, a host of other important rights are also classed, such as the right to education (RTE). This is as far as the scope of the Article 21 in relation to state and its relation citizens are concerned.

Strangely, the “right to live with dignity” was used by the Ahmedabad High Court as an injunction in case of Jay Shah, son of Amit Shah, the RS MP and the President of the BJP. The honourable High Court asked The Wire not to publish any news, reports, information on Jay Shah as it deprives him of his right to live with dignity.

A free press is an important fifth pillar of the democracy and in this case, the online newspaper, the Wire, has every right to publish news without concern for “right to life” which is always balanced by the “reasonable restriction” in Part III of the Indian constitution. Of course, the BJP President and his son can file the defamation suit and this is the right legal step to be taken, but a blanket ban on publishing news on Shah’s son is something that must raise some issues.

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Freedom of the press is not absolute freedom and individuals’ rights when they live in society are also not absolute. The rights are relative to each other, but in the hierarchy of rights, some rights must have more importance than others. The right to thieve is not the fundamental right and it must be the duty of the press to expose thievery and corruption in any form.

Honourable Courts in India have recently shown some great enthusiasm in passing several important judgements and it shows how the democracy can thrive if the institutions can maintain their independence and guard the constitution. If all the institutions created by the constitution work towards safeguarding the constitution, we will see the strong democratisation of Indian society.

Author – Mangesh Dahiwale

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