Supreme Court on Freedom of Speech of Ministers - IE - 14/01/23
Context: Recently, a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court unanimously and rightly ruled out any additional curbs on free speech by ministers.
-The case (Kaushal Kishor v the State of UP), relates to the Bulandshahar rape incident of 2016, in which the then Minister of the State termed the incident a ‘political conspiracy and nothing else’.
-A writ petition was filed by the survivors before the SC and the court raised an important question: “Can restrictions be imposed on a public functionary's freedom of speech and expression?”.
--->Judgement of the Court:
i. On Reasonable Restrictions:
-Like other citizens, ministers are guaranteed the right to freedom of expression under Article 19(1) (a), governed by the reasonable restrictions laid out in -Article 19(2) — and those are enough. Because “The role of the court is to protect fundamental rights limited by lawful restrictions and not to protect restrictions and make the rights residual privileges.”
ii. On Collective Responsibility:
-The majority ruling also made a valid distinction on the government’s vicarious responsibility for ill-judged or hateful remarks made by its individual ministers. It is not possible to extend the concept of collective responsibility to “any and every statement orally made by a Minister outside the House of the People/Legislative Assembly”.
iii. Statement by an Individual Minister:
The court also addressed the question of whether the statement of a minister, that is inconsistent with the fundamental rights of citizens, can result in a constitutional tort. A mere statement by a minister that goes against an individual’s fundamental rights may not be actionable, but becomes actionable if it results in actual harm or loss.
-Over a Hateful Public Discourse
-On Collective Responsibility
-Statement by an Individual Minister
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