The right to freedom is a right that is guaranteed via Fundamental Rights under the Constitution of India. Fundamental Right related to the right to freedom is contained in Article 19. Whereas Articles 20, 21 and 22 contain the Fundamental Right related to personal liberty.
This Constitution law note talks about the right to freedom and personal liberty given under Articles 19-22.
Article 19: Right to Freedom
However, these rights are not absolute and are subject to some restrictions. The restrictions on these freedoms are provided in clauses 2 to 6 of Article 19 of the Constitution.
1. Freedom of Speech and Expression
Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(2)
Freedom of speech and expression means the right to freely express one’s opinion or views through either words, writing, printing, pictures or any other means. Freedom of the press also comes under this category. This freedom not only includes the freedom to deliver one’s opinion but also includes the freedom to deliver or publish views or opinions of other people.
Restrictions on Freedom of Speech and Expression
The restrictions to freedom of speech and expression are given under clause (2) of Article 19 of the Constitution. It contains grounds on which the restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression can be imposed. The restrictions can be imposed:
(a) to not permit anyone to challenge the sovereignty and integrity of the state;
(b) in the interest of the security of the state;
(c) if it jeopardises friendly relations with foreign states;
(d) if it is against public order;
(e) if it tends to affect the decency or morality;
(f) if it exceeds the reasonable and fair limit to contempt of court;
(g) in cases of defamation;
(h) to prohibit incitement of an offence.
2. Freedom of Assembly
Articles 19(1)(b) and 19(3)
Article 19(1)(b) provides the freedom of assembly. It guarantees the right to assemble peacefully and without arms to every citizen of India. It includes the right to hold meetings and take out ceremonies. Further, reasonable restrictions can be imposed on this right under clause 3 of Article 19.
3. Freedom to Form Association or Unions or Cooperative Societies
Articles 19(1)(c) and 19(4)
The right to form an association, union or cooperative society is given under Article 19(1)(c) of the Indian Constitution.
Restrictions to Freedom to Form Association
Clause (4) of Article 19 authorises the state to impose reasonable restrictions on the freedom to form an association, union or cooperative society in the interest of public order, morality or sovereignty or integrity of India.
4. Freedom of Movement
Articles 19(1)(d) and Article 19(5)
The right to freedom of movement is guaranteed under Article 19(1)(d) of the Constitution to every citizen of India. This provides the citizens with the right to move wherever they want to, within the territory of India. However, this right is subject to some restrictions prescribed under Article 19(5).
Restrictions to Freedom of Movement
Clause (5) of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution empowers the state to impose reasonable restrictions on the right to freedom of movement. It contains grounds on which the restrictions can be imposed. These are:
(a) in the interest of the general public;
(b) for the protection of the interest or Scheduled Tribes.
5. Freedom to Reside and to Settle
Articles 19(1)(e) and Article 19(5)
Article 19(1)(e) guarantees every citizen the right to reside and settle in any part of the Indian territory. It indicates freedom to reside anywhere and in any part of the territory of India.
Restrictions to Freedom to Reside and Settle
The restrictions imposed on the right to freedom to reside and settle are the same as freedom of movement.
6. Freedom of Profession, Occupation, Trade or Business
Articles 19(1)(g) and 19(6)
Article 19(1)(g) guarantees every citizen the right to practice any profession or carry on any trade, occupation or business.
Restrictions to Freedom of Profession
As per clause (6), the state government can impose restrictions on the right to freedom of profession, occupation, trade or business. But these restrictions can be imposed only in two conditions:
- It must be reasonable, and
- It must be in the interest of the public.
Article 20: Protection in Respect of Conviction for Offences
1. Ex Post Facto Law
Clause (1) of Article 19 of the Indian Constitution provides that a person cannot be convicted for an offence that he committed at a time when it was not acknowledged as an offence under the law. Also, a person can be subjected only to a penalty that was inflicted under the law at the time of the commission of the offence and not greater than that.
2. Double Jeopardy
Double jeopardy means that a person cannot be punished more than once for the same offence. Clause (2) of Article 20 of the Constitution of India provides protection against double jeopardy. This clause comprises the common law rule nemo debet vis vexari, meaning no one should be set in peril twice for the same offence.
In simple words, the doctrine of double jeopardy states that a person cannot be punished more than one time for the same offence. However, the rule of double jeopardy does not apply where the offences committed are not the same.
3. Prohibition Against Self-Incrimination
The accused person also has protection against self-incrimination. Clause (3) of Article 20 states that an accused cannot be forced to be a witness against himself. The accused person has a right not to make any such statement that is against his own will.
Article 21: Protection of Life and Personal Liberty
Article 21 of the Indian Constitution contains the most important Fundamental Right available to every person, whether citizen or foreigner. Accordingly, it states that no one should be deprived of his life and personal liberty except by the procedure specified by the law. Also, the procedure must be just, fair and reasonable.
Article 21 includes not only the right to life but the right to a dignified life.
Self-Determination of Gender by Transgender Hijra
The case National Legal Services Authority vs Union of India (2014) has made a significant and remarkable judgement whereby it stated that self-determination of gender is an important aspect of human autonomy and self-expression, and it is protected under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
Article 22: Safeguards Against Arbitrary Arrest and Detention
Article 22 of the Constitution provides safeguards against arbitrary or incidental arrest and detention. Clauses (1) and (2) of this Article provide four rights to a person who is arrested for any offence under any ordinary law. And, these rights are:
- The right to be informed of the ground of arrest as soon as possible.
- Right to consult and to be represented by a lawyer of his choice.
- Right to be produced before a magistrate within 24 hours.
- The right to freedom from detention beyond the said period except by order of the magistrate.
Clause (3) of Article 22 provides the exceptions to the rule given in clauses (1) and (2). It states that the rights contained in clauses (1) and (2) are not accessible to the following persons:
1. An enemy alien; and
2. A person who is arrested or detained under any law providing for preventive detention.