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Freedom of Speech of Legislators

About the News

  • The Supreme Court gave the judgment while answering a reference made to it regarding the extent of the right of free speech available to legislators in the context of:
    • Remarks by a former Minister on a rape case and
    • Alleged anti-women statements by another Legislator


Key Highlights of the Judgment

  • No additional restrictions: The court said no additional restrictions against the free speech of legislators can be imposed except those mentioned under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • Collective responsibility is unidirectional: The court ruled that collective responsibility is that of the Council of Ministers (CoM). Each individual Minister is responsible for the decisions taken collectively by the CoM.
    • In other words, the flow of stream in collective responsibility is from the Council of Ministers to the individual Ministers. The flow is not on the reverse.
    • The court further said it is not possible to extend this concept of collective responsibility to any and every statement orally made by a Minister outside the House of the People/Legislative Assembly”
  • Omission and commission of offence: The court said if a statement made by the Minister is inconsistent with the rights of the citizens it may not by itself be actionable. But if it leads to omission or commission of offence by a public official, then remedies can be sought against it.


About the Freedom of Speech and Expression

Article 19(1) (a)

  • The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of speech and expression to all citizens. It is enshrined in Article 19(1) (a).
  • This implies that all citizens have the right to express their views and opinions freely.
  • This includes not only words of mouth, but also a speech by way of writings, pictures, movies, banners, etc.
  • The right to speech also includes the right not to speak.
  • Freedom of the press is an inferred freedom under this Article.
  • Right to Information (RTI) also emanates from the artcle.

Restriction on Freedom of Speech

  • Article 19(2) imposes restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression.
  • The reasons for such restrictions are in the interests of:
    • Security
    • Sovereignty and integrity of the country
    • Friendly relations with foreign countries
    • Public order
    • Decency or morality
    • Hate speech
    • Defamation
    • Contempt of court


How the freedom of speech available to the legislators is different from that of general citizenry?

  • Privileges and immunities: The speech of MPs and MLAs in Parliament and other legislative bodies is particularly protected under Articles 105 and 194 as a parliamentary privilege.
    • The MPs and the MLAs are exempted from civil or criminal liability for any statement made or act done inside the house in the course of their duties.
    • They have the freedom from arrest 40 days prior or after a session of legislature or during the session or from the premises of the legislature without the permission of the house.
    • The legislature has the power to regulate its internal affairs — that covers the behaviour including disruptions, vandalism and violence — of the house. Police or courts cannot interfere.
  • Need for freedom of speech to the legislators:
freedom of speech to the legislators
freedom of speech to the legislators

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The speech of MPs and MLAs in Parliament and other legislative bodies is particularly protected under which article?

Articles 105 and 194

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