Model Question and Answers for APSC | What do you understand by the concept of “freedom of speech and expression”? Does it cover hate speech also? Why do films in India stand on a slightly different plane from other forms of expression? Discuss.
What do you understand by the concept of “freedom of speech and expression”? Does it cover hate speech also? Why do films in India stand on a slightly different plane from other forms of expression? Discuss.
Ans: Any thriving democracy must allow people the freedom to say whatever they want and express their opinions. Anybody who wants to voice their opinion must be able to do so without fear of consequences. So, the phrase
"freedom of speech and expression" has two distinct meanings:
- first, it refers to the establishment of an environment that encourages and permits such expression;
- second, it refers to the protection of individuals from being subjected to limitations, repression, or censorship of any kind when exercising such rights.
Reasonable restriction: Hate Speech
The Indian Constitution guarantees this right, but it is subject to the reasonable limitations set forth in Article 19(2). Hate speech is an exception to the rule, and it is reasonable to limit what is considered to be hate speech. Additionally, the Indian Penal Code contains several sections that forbid hate speech.
Films in India stand on a slightly different plane:
- In India, movies are a distinct form of expression from other forms like plays, recitals, street plays, dance performances, etc. because movies are subject to pre-censorship by the Censor Board.
- Before a film is made available for public viewing, the Censor Board examines, evaluates, and rates it to determine its audience suitability.
- Additionally, in response to outrage or protests from the public, many states forbid or prohibit the screening of films about controversial subjects.
- The Supreme Court has occasionally weighed in to clarify that hate speech is a relative and subjective issue and that the state cannot censor or ban movies out of fear of upsetting the general public.
In K.A. Abbas v. Union of India, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of pre-censor of films within the ambit of Article 19(2) and added that films have to be treated separately from other forms of art and expression because a motion picture is ‘able to stir up emotions more deeply than any other product of art’.