Paper Details Paper Code: RP-CLA-V2-05 Category: Research Paper Date of Submission for First Review: March 28, 2022 Date of Acceptance: July 6, 2022 Citation: Junu Das, “Comparative Analysis of Freedom of Speech and Expression in USA and India”, 2, AIJACLA, 68, 68-80 (2022). Author Details: Junu Das, Faculty of Law, Dhubri Law College, Dhubri, Assam
Abstract The contemporary world is largely advocating democracy as the best form of governance where the extent of rights enjoyed by the citizens within a sovereign nation determines the status of its democracy. Both India and USA have demonstrated themselves to be the world’s one of the largest democracies and both these nations have adopted right-based jurisprudence, where India focused on ensuring individual freedoms to its citizens without compromising with social justice and highlighting the responsibility of the State in promoting access to justice as a welfare state while USA focused primarily on securing individual rights of its citizens above all. Freedom of Expression has been provided a wide recognition as one of the Fundamental Rights in both India and USA. However, the scope of such rights as enjoyed by the citizens of both these nations differs in the manner such right is regulated by their respective governments and adjudicated by their respective judiciaries. In both the countries this right is not absolute and the line of demarcation between the right of citizens to express their emotions and the liability for exercising such right in access of its scope varies in both the countries and the manner how it varies and on what factors such variation depends in both these countries assumes importance to be studied. After a careful analysis of the status of this right in both the countries, it has been observed that in India, the scope of this right for the citizens is larger than that of the fellow citizens in USA. Keywords: Constitution of India; First Amendment to the American Constitution; Freedom of Speech; Indian Jurisprudence; Unprotected and Protected Speech
The word freedom of speech and expression denotes right to speak one’s own outlook generously by words of mouth, visible representation, gesture, by writing that also included publishing, painting, by posting on social media, or by picture or nay other mode. Thus, it can be said that freedom of speech and expression means one’s own view or opinion or idea through the communicable medium such as expressing it by writing, publishing, protesting, posting on social media etc. for any purpose.
Freedom of Speech and Expression shall also include Freedom of Thoughts and Conscience since, without the freedom of thought, there will be no meaning in providing the Freedom to express ones’ thoughts.
Meera Methew has specified that “‘Expression’ is a term including a sufficient range of gestures, words, or signs. In general, it can be said that expression is a kind of communication, which consistently advances thought process or ideas and feelings to any living being whoever the receptor is.” Historian Bury in his book History of Freedom of Thought observed stated that Freedom of Expression is a “supreme condition of mental and moral progress.” The Freedom of Speech can be referred to as the first freedom. The maintenance of democracy is the foundation for free speech; society is also equally entitled to regulate Freedom of Speech and Expression by democratic action. Freedom of Speech and Expression brings within its ambit the corresponding duty and responsibility and puts a limitation on the exercise of liberty. The State has a legitimate interest to regulate the said freedom by restraining its limits. While each citizen has been granted this freedom, there is a correlative duty on all not to interfere with the liberty of others.
The concept of freedom of speech has been defined under a number of international instruments that can be analyzed in the following manner:
Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights defined Freedom of Speech to mean that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) provided for minimum interferences on everyone’s right to hold opinions and the Freedom of Expression, the scope of which was provided and it also held that such freedom carries with it special responsibilities and therefore can be restricted if such restrictions are legally enforced and are necessary for protecting the rights of others, national security, public order, etc.
Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms also upheld that everyone possesses the Right to Freedom of Expression whose scope was similarly explained as that of the ICCPR.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH & EXPRESSION IN UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The United States of America (USA) is a federal republic that consisted of 50 states. This section shall analyze the major provision related to federal law with special reference to the freedom of speech and expression in USA and how the USA tries to protect the freedom of speech and expression. Freedom of Speech and Expression in its modern form was first recognized in the Constitution of the United States of America. The Constitution of the United States is one of the oldest constitutions in the world which came into force on March 04, 1789. The US Constitution initially had only 7 Articles and did not recognize the Freedom of Speech and Expression as a fundamental right.
It was only after the Amendments of the Constitution that mandate to secure the rights of the individuals. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was adopted on 15th December 1791 considering it as a part of the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights guarantees the rights and liberties of the citizen of America. Bill of rights included those ten amendments which determined the individual’s rights concerning their government. These ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights were designed to protect the rights of individuals including the right to Freedom of Speech and the government has no power to abridge such Freedoms by the law.
The Supreme Court of the United States widely interpreted the term free speech and extended its scope it. There are several kinds of speech protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which the judiciary has interpreted by providing terms. These are:
Protected Speech interpreted by Judiciary
The speeches which are protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution are known as protected speech. Protected speeches are those speeches which have substantive ideas, values, opinion, and expression to achieve political, economic and social justice. The First Amendment provides the right to every individual to exercise their free speech, giving opinion publicly without pre-censorship, without any intervention, and without any restriction.
A few of the categories of Free Speech as provided by the American Judiciary are as follows:
Political and Ideological Speech is protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Political and Ideology speeches are undoubtedly expressive and essential for the better functioning of the government.
In the case of Ward v. Rock Against Racism, 160 the Court held that to survive as a restriction on the First Amendment, such restriction must satisfy a three main test. These are:
1. To determine the validity of legislation, Court must examine whether legislation is content-based or content-neutral. The regulation must not be content-based, since content-based regulations impose restrictions on speech and expression. The Supreme Court is likely to strike down regulations that differentiate based on what is said or expressed. The regulation must be content-neutral.
2. It must be narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest
3. It must leave open ample alternative channels for communicating the speaker’s message.
Freedom of Press
The right to distribute ideas and information, receiving information, publishing any matter is protected under the First Amendment. From the beginning, the Courts have tried to decide whether the freedom of the press is different from Freedom of Speech.
Justice Potter Stewart of the US Supreme Court has articulated that freedom of the press is different from free speech. In the case of Houchins v. KQED, Justice Stewart had observed that in “the First Amendment it has expressed separately the term Freedom of Speech and freedom of the press which cannot be a constitutional accident, but an acknowledgment of the critical role played by the press in American society. The Constitution requires compassion to the role of press for performing effectively.”
However, in the case of First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 165 the Court observed that if the Court and the government provide special protection to the freedom of press then the burden will also lie on them to determine “what is press” and “what kind of actions can fall under the press freedom.” Free speech guarantees the freedom of the press and there is no requirement to differentiate between these two terms.
Symbolic speech is also protected under the First Amendment until and unless these kinds of speech provide intimidation to other individuals. The symbolic speech represents nonverbal a non-writing form of ideas and beliefs and is represented in the form of art, music, dance, painting.167 If the government makes any law that puts restrictions on symbolic speech, then it would be a violation of the First Amendment. During the 1990s one Music Rap Band was backfired by the government, corporations because the Court declared that their one album namely “Nasty as they wanna be” was legally obscene and the members of the band were arrested after performing a song from the same album. 168 The lyrics of the song referred to women as “bitch”. The band was convicted by the lower court and in the appeal the advocate of the band contended that the music was also a form of Freedom of Speech that “reflects exaggeration, parody, and humor…these words, as crude as some people find them, have artistic value when you have an understanding, when you have them, in effect, decoded.”169 In the appeal, the Court reversed the decision of the Lower Court. In another case,170 a group of students of a school arranged a silent protest by wearing black armbands to show their protest against the Vietnam War. When the matter came into the knowledge of the principal, he told the students body that whoever protested by wearing a black armband to show the protest against the Vietnam War will be suspended. And subsequently, some students were suspended from the school. The Supreme Court held that the armbands represented “pure speech” and suspension of the students violate the First Amendment right of students. Another example can be taken which determined that First Amendment protects the symbolic speech as free speech when a protester burned an American Flag to indicate his protest of the Reagan Administration. The protester was convicted under the Lower Court. The Supreme Court overruled the decision of the Lower Court and held that flag desecration to show political protest was protected under the First Amendment.
As it has been discussed in the above that visible representation, picture, gesture etc are also can be considered as a kind of speech therefore to give liberty to use these type of communicable mode is considered as freedom of speech for the citizens of a particular country. In America, the judiciary interpreted two types of speech one is protected speech another is unprotected speech.The above discussed were few examples of speech that were held to be protected under the First Amendment of the American Constitution. However, there are certain categories of Speech that are not protected under the connotation of Freedom of Speech. These include:
Obscenity and Child Pornography
Obscenity and Child pornography is not protected under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The obscenity can be defined as “an act, utterance, or item tending to corrupt the public morals by its indecency or lewdness.” By the definition, it can be termed as prurient or sexual interest. The term obscenity can be divided into three kinds, via- obscene speech, pornography, and child pornography.174Although, all communication that represents indecency is not considered obscene. In the landmark case Miller v. California, 175 the Court developed three kinds of tests which determined the obscenity which is also known as the Obscenity or Miller test. The three tests are
1. The material must appeal to the prurient interest;
2. The material must depict or describe sexual conduct in a deliberate offensive manner in the community which is specially defined by the applicable state law and
3. some exceptions do not fall under obscene materials, for instance, a statue of a naked man, biological symbol of the human body, etc. It can be said that the material is not considered obscene taken as a whole, which has any literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. All these three tests are required to be considered for determining the obscenity of the material.
Defamation means any statement or comment which damages the reputation of a man. It can be a false statement about another person or a statement that damages the personality of that person. In the United States of America, defamation is treated as a tort and not a criminal act. Defamation is unprotected speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
In New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, a landmark judgment given by the US Supreme Court held that news publications shall not be held as liable to public administrators. The news publication can only be liable if the plaintiff meets the actual malice standard in the publication of the false statement. This decision provides newspapers more freedom to publish the news related to the public interest.
To escape from the charges of defamation, one must pass through the test of Substantial Test Doctrine. Substantial Truth Doctrine is a defense that can protect a person from making a defamatory statement that is published or express based on truth. Under this doctrine, a statement cannot be held as objectionable if the person can establish the truth. In the case of Lathan v. Journalco.The Court held that statement which is slightly inaccuracies of expression do not make the alleged libel false where defamatory is which protect publisher or person.
It is a speech by which a person can commit dishonest or unlawful activity. The incitement is also an unprotected speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. In Schenk v. the United States, Justice Wendell Holmes Jr. developed a test that is known as clear and present danger. If the nature of the statement of a person shows the danger to the public order, then the test will apply in this case. In this case, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment has not guaranteed to safeguard the speech which encourages men to resist induction. The Courtsaid that the “speech is not protected when it is used in such circumstances and of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about substantive evils that the government has a right to prevent.”
Commercial speeches are those speeches that are used for selling products and marketing. To some extent, commercial speech is protected under the First Amendment but not in the same manner as protects non-commercial speech. The First Amendment protected commercial speech which is not generally false or misleading and is genuine and does not represent any harmful or illegal activities.
In 44 Liquormart, Inc. and Peoples Super Liquor Stores, Inc., Petitioners v. Rhode Island and Rhode Island Liquor Stores Association,  the Government of the Rhode Island passed two legislations that banned the seller and media from advertising the liquor in every other shop except those which are selling liquor in that Island. Later, a Liquormart filed a suit against the legislation by saying that these legislations are unconstitutional and violated their First Amendment right. The Court held that it does not violate the First Amendment rights of the individuals. After this case, the Rhode Island Liquor Stores Association tried to advertise the prices of the liquor outside the State by publishing in the newspaper and thereby filed a suit to the Court by challenging the two regulations. The Lower Court held that banning advertisement was constitutional under First Amendment because it will highly increase consumption. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Lower Court and held that the regulations enacted by the government were a “blanket ban” on advertising which was protected under the First Amendment. The Court held that it will be wrong to assume that the commercial speech is not protected under the First Amendment unless such advertisement is fraudulent or illegal. The Supreme Court by minimizing the protection to commercial speech declared that commercial speech can be restricted in some parts but not as a whole. Thus, it can be observed that the First Amendment though expressly did not provide such other rights but by the interpretation of judiciary many rights have been inserted and the scope of the First Amendment has been extended a lot. The rights which judiciary has declared as protected rights are Right to Publicity, Right to Receive Information and Idea, Right to Respond and Right to Reply, Right to Criticize, Press access, etc. However, the Judiciary has also termed out certain categories of expression as unprotected due to their nature of causing a potential threat to the values that are considered as essential to be protected for the existing human civilization. Such differentiation in the categories of speech by the American Judiciary also highlights the extent of power the Judiciary possesses in determining the fate of a Constitutional provision in the United States.
Laws for Protection of Freedom of Speech in the United States
In the United States of America, there prevail several legislations that were enacted to define how the right to Free Speech shall be protected. Few of such legislations shall be analyzed in this section to understand the extent to which such freedom is protected in the United States.
The Freedom of Information Act, 1967
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a federal law that came into force on 4th July 1967. The Act provided the right to the citizen to request free access to all records from any federal agency except to the extent the records are protected from disclosure by any of nine exemptions contained in the law or by one of three special law enforcement records exclusions. This Act will apply to the Federal Agencies but it will not apply to Congress or Courts. From the enactment times, this Act has brought several amendments and the most important one occurred in 1974 and 1996.
The Privacy Act, 1974
This Act was enacted to maintain the balance between the information about the individual required by the government and to record the data of individual. This Act creates a code of fair information practices that administers the collection, maintenance, use, and dissemination of information about individuals that is maintained in systems of records by federal agencies.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION IN INDIA The Constitution of India Bill of 1895 was the first Indian articulation which emphasized the Freedom of Speech and Expression as every citizen may express his thoughts by words or writings and publish them in print without liability to censure, but they shall be answerable to abuses, which they may commit in the exercise of this right, in the cases and the mode the Parliament shall determine. The debate on the Constitution of India took place from 9th December 1946 to 24th January 1950. This Constituent Assembly debated over all the matters enshrined in the Constitution of India. Regarding Freedom of Speech, the Assembly had a huge discussion. Article 13 of the Draft Constitution discussed the right to Freedom of Speech and Expression. Article 13 states, as subject to public order or morality the citizens are guaranteed- (a) Freedom of Speech and Expression; (b) freedom of the press; (c) freedom to form association or union…etc. ” It was also suggested that Article 13 (1) (a) along with the Freedom of Speech and Expression, shall mention freedom of press and publication. M.V. Kamath had recommended that the restrictions clause Article 13(2) to (6) should be deleted from the Drafted Constitution. However, some members supported the restriction provision and argued that since the rights of Freedom of Speech are not absolute in any part of the world, so when the government of India will become independent from British Imperial Rule, it will become necessary to provide restrictions under the Constitution. In the end, it was decided to keep the restrictions. The Constitution of India did not insert freedom of the press which was also an important part of Freedom of Speech and freedom of the press, however became implicit in the Constitution of India 1950. Further, the Preamble of the Constitution of India, which was an adaptation of the ‘Objective Resolution’ drafted by Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and was passed by the Constituent Assembly, also provided the scope for ensuring the “liberty of Thought, Expression, Belief, Faith and Worship…”to all the citizens. This provision of the Preamble highlighted the Rights that were guaranteed by the Constitution of India to all its citizens and also highlighted the importance that such rights assume in India. Subsequently, the First Amendment of the Constitution 1951 brought some amendments relating to the Freedom of Speech by adding reasonable before the restriction word and added friendly relations with foreign states and public order as the grounds of restriction under it. In 1963, the sixteenth Amendment of the Constitution added ‘sovereignty and integrity of India’ as another ground of reasonable restrictions. Thus, we can say that if any preexisting law prevailed before the establishment of the Constitution, then that law shall be prevailed subject to such conditions as amended and the state has the right to make any law to maintain the security of the state, to prohibit unrestrained malicious propaganda against friendly relation with other state, to maintain the public tranquility, to preserve the decency and morality and to protect the prestige of Court from willful disobedience, etc. The purpose of Freedom of Speech and Expression is to help the individuals in attaining selffulfillment, to assist in the discovery of truth to strengthen the capacity of the individuals in participating in decision-making, to provide a mechanism by which it would be possible to establish a reasonable balance between stability and social change. Thus, it can be held that in a democratic country like India, Freedom of Speech and Expression is a must for the welfare of the society to criticize the government’s acts. To strengthen democracy, it is necessary to protect and preserve the Freedom of Speech and Expression for participation in public affairs. Freedom of Speech and Expression cannot be absolute and shall be unrestricted. Freedom of Speech and Expression shall be used with caution and responsibility so that people cannot misuse this right. With absolute Freedom of Speech, people can misuse and abuse their rights and threaten the harmony of the country and create violence. Therefore, it is necessary to restrict the absolute Freedom of Speech and Expression of individuals. Judicial Interpretations on Freedom of Speech and Expression in India Article 19 1 a of the constitution of india states that every citizen has the right to enjoy freedom of speech and expression with some limited restricted as provided under Article 19 2 of the constitution of India. Freedom of Speech and Expression means the right to express one’s own views, opinions without any hesitation by words of mouth, by writing, printing, promoting one’s own view by publishing articles, etc. Freedom of Press Press is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy, the way (likewise) executive, legislative and judiciary maintain a check and balance and shaped the democracy in a proper form, the press also does the same thing by ensuring transparency into these three organs. The press plays an important role as an instrument of social, political, and economic change in a country. Therefore, it is necessary to have free press and publication which is a sin qua non for a democratic country. Freedom of the press can be determined by providing liberty to print, publish, and articulate which can spread information or knowledge relating to the development of national interest. The independence of the press is necessary to criticize openly the function of the government. Therefore, the interference of the government in the matter of freedom to propagate ideas through press, publication, articulation, and communication should be limited. Freedom of the press is an implicit term which was suggested by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly saying that freedom of the press is another name of Freedom of Speech and Expression, hence there is no necessity to use the word freedom of press expressly. Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly Debate expressed his views about the press that the press managers or editors and the publishers are individuals and by publishing articles they are exercising their rights of expression. Freedom of the press includes print in the form of newspapers, magazines, journals, reports, etc. in the form of audio through radio, podcasting, etc., and by videos (news channel, youtube) and by the other means of social media. Freedom of commercial speech Commercial speech means the advertisement of any product by the means of the newspaper, journal, or electronic mode. It is an expression related to social, political, and economic interests. A commercial advertisement is not protected under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. However, in the case of Hamdard Dwakhana v. Union of India, The Court held that advertisement of commercial aspect does not come under the purview of Freedom of Speech and Expression. Right to Broadcast Broadcasting is a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. Every citizen has the right to broadcast their views, opinions by means of television, F.M radio, newspaper, etc. In the case of Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting v. Cricket Association of Bengal,  the Court widened the scope of Freedom of Speech and Expression and held that right to broadcast or telecast the matches embedded in Freedom of Speech and Expression. Right to information The Supreme Court by extending the right of Freedom of Speech and Expression provided that right to know information that promotes transparency in public affairs is encapsulated under Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution. People have the right to know and the right to access the information about the activities of the government therefore to maintain the accountability or transparency and the decision-making process participatory, the Right to Information Act, 2005 was enacted. Right to criticize In Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Manubhai D. Shah,the Court held that criticizing one’s view comes under the fundamental rights. The right to reply that is the right to get published one’s reply in the same publication in which something was published before against the opinion of the citizens, was a part of the Freedom of Speech and Expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. Above these there are also other kind of freedom of speech which are recognized by the judiciary such as Right to expression beyond national boundaries, Intellectual Property Right comes under the Freedom of Speech and Expression, Right not to speak or Right to Silence, Freedom of online speech is recognized under the Constitution of India same as traditional Freedom of Speech that is highlighted in the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India,  where the Supreme Court held that online speech is protected under the Constitution of India. The above discussion highlights that how extensively the scope of Freedom of Speech and Expression has been widened up for allowing every possible expression of the citizens to flow in the form of information. Such freedom in India now includes, Right to Know, Right to Conscience, Right to Criticize, Right to remain Silent, Freedom of Press, etc. which indicates that due to the demand for democracy and Rule of Law, the Judiciary has always been extending the meaning of Freedom of Speech. However, these rights are not absolute in nature that subject to some restriction that is provided for the government and those Reasonable Restrictions on Freedom of Speech and Expression are provided under Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India. These are 1. Sovereignty and integrity of India 2. Security of the state 3. Friendly relations with foreign states 4. Public order
5. Decency or morality 6. Contempt of Court
8. Incitement to an offense.
CONCLUSION Thus, from the above, it becomes clear that USA and India both consider freedom of speech and expression as the highest right of the citizen however the interpretation relating to freedom of speech is much done in the case of India. The judiciary of India expanded the term freedom of speech and expression widely. Both USA and India consider these rights as not absolute rights for their citizens, both the countries provided restrictions for fundamental rights yet the restrictions that are imposed upon such a right are stricter in India compared to those in the United States of America. However, it shall also be acknowledged that the Judiciary has also exercised greater power in limiting the Freedom of Speech in India than the citizens in exercising such a right even though the right has been granted as a Fundamental Right. The determination of the scope of such a right is again in the hands of the Judiciary and at the same time, the determination of the validity of the restrictions also seems to remain in the hands of the Judiciary only. It further appears that in the case of India, it’s the Judiciary who has the ultimate authority to decide the extent and limit to which a citizen is allowed to enjoy his/her Fundamental Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression but in the USA, the ultimate safeguard of freedom of speech is the Constitution of America. However it can be said that the first civil right for the citizen was felt by the England for that purpose Magna Carta was made in 1215. Although it was provided limited rights to the citizen but it cannot be denied that the concept of civil right for their citizen came from the Magna Carta of England.
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