Saturday, February 4, 2023

Supreme Court reserves judgment on whether restrictions can be placed on right to freedom of speech of a public functionary

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The Supreme Court today reserved its verdict on the right to freedom of speech and expression to be given to a public functionary.

A Constitution bench of 5 judges, headed by Justice SA Nazeer, heard the arguments by Attorney General R Venkataramani, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and other lawyers representing other parties.

The bench also comprised Justice BR Gavai, Justice AS Bopanna, Justice V Ramasubramanian, and Justice BV Nagarathna. On a code of conduct for legislators, Justice Gavai observed that touching this topic is encroaching into the powers of the legislature and the executive.

The Attorney General submitted that any change or modifications of restrictions to a fundamental right have to come from Parliament as a matter of constitutional principle.

SG Tushar Mehta said the issue is academic whether a writ can be filed citing Article 21 for action against a particular statement.

In 2017, a three-judge bench referred the matter to the Constitution Bench to adjudicate various issues, including whether a public functionary or a minister can claim freedom of speech while expressing views on sensitive matters.

The matter came to be highlighted when there were arguments that a minister could not take a personal view and his statement has to be in consonance with government policy.

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