Right to Freedom in Indian Constitution, Articles (19 to 22)

Fundamental Rights are enshrined in Part 3 of the Indian Constitution and are listed in article number 12 to 35. Fundamental rights are guaranteed to every citizen in India. Some of them are absolute and others are qualified in nature. 

Article 19-22 of the Indian Constitution provides for the Right to Freedom in India. Freedom ensures that one can reach his/her full potential and is not under any restrictions. 

Article 19 provides for the protection of certain rights regarding the freedom of speech etc. It has six subheads under clause 1 of Article 19. They are as follows- 

  • Freedom of speech and expression- it grants every citizen of India the liberty to express their views, opinions, and beliefs freely. It can be done in the form of speaking, writing etc. The apex court has taken a broader view of this provision and covers the right to know about governmental affairs, freedom of the press, right to picketing (but not strike), and right to freely telecast via media among other provisions. 
  • To assemble peacefully- any citizen can gather peacefully without ammunition and carry out demonstrations. Having said that, the aforementioned provision applies only to public land. Further, under section 144 of the CrPC, a magistrate has the power to curb an assembly in the event of imminent danger to human life etc. 

Similarly, under section 141 of the IPC, a grouping of five or more people is unlawful if it is aimed at restricting the implementation of law of land etc. 

  • To set up associations – no one can be denied to form any association or cooperative society or other such association (like a political party, corporate company etc.). However, like any other right, it has some restrictions in applications like not forming a terrorist organization or like as it injures the integrity and sovereignty of India. 
  • Move freely throughout the country- to promote nationalist sentiments, it is provided that anyone can move throughout the length and breadth of a nation without any foundations. It emboldens the spirit of oneness in India and fosters the ideal of common brotherhood. There are certain restrictions on movement to prevent the culture of tribals and unrestricted movement of prostitutes as it endangers common morality. This article only encircles the movement within the territory of India and not outside the borders of the country. 
  • Reside in any part of India- every citizen can reside anywhere in India either temporarily or permanently. The inclusion of this right is done to remove impediments that might torment the internal fabric of a country. However, certain areas are defined exclusively for certain sections and settlement there is prohibited. This is done to retain the cultural richness of that area. 
  • Freedom of profession- one can pick up any profession of his or her choice and generally there are no constraints in that regard. However, an exception to that condition is that the state can seek professional qualifications for certain occupations and the state can also obtain monopoly over an occupation without furnishing any justification. Also, it doesn’t include the right to carry immoral businesses. 

Given that, clause 2 of Article 19 provides for reasonable restrictions that can be put out by the state about the rights given under Article 19(1). Hence, the applications of the right to freedom

can be limited with the imposition of restrictions. Reasonable Restrictions can be imposed on matters concerning the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with other countries, security of the state, decency or morality, o defamation, protection of interests of STs, bringing in professional qualifications, or owing monopoly of a business. 

Article 20 emphasizes protection against conviction for certain offences. The person shall not be convicted for any offence that was not in law books at the time of committing the same. Furthermore, the act also secures a person from being penalized for an amount that is more than what was there during the commission of the offence. This provision is also called no ex-post-facto law. 

Clause 2 provides for the provision that no person shall be punished for the exact offence more than once. This provision is known as protection against double jeopardy. However, it is not available against the act of any administrative authorities. 

Clause 3 of the Article 19 states that no person shall be forced to be a witness against themselves. But, the person can’t refuse to provide material objects, thumb impressions, signature blood samples, and mandatory exposition of the body. 

Article 21 states the provisions regarding the Protection of life and personal liberty. As per this article, no one shall be denied his life or personal liberty sans if done so in accordance with the procedure established by the law. It is functional for both the citizens and the foreigners in equal measure. The contrasting feature in this article concerning the American constitution is that Americans have the concept of due process of law. The expression ‘due process of law’ is wider than ‘the procedure established by law’. The former makes sure that the law that prescribes a procedure should be just and fair as well. However, as per the judicial pronouncement in the Menaka Gandhi case (1978) introduced the manifestation of due process of law in India. This article not only covers the right to live but also to live and die with dignity. In accordance with several judgements, Article 21 is said to include within its ambit the following- (the list is not exhaustive). 

Right to livelihood, right to privacy, right to health, right to free legal aid, right against handcuffing and inhumane treatment, and right to Information among others. 

Eighty Sixth Amendment Act, of 2002 added Article 21 A to the Indian Constitution. It was inserted with the objective to ensure the right to education. In pursuance of this article, the state has an obligation to furnish free and compulsory education to children of 6 to 14 years of age. The addition of this article has broad implications for the goal of guaranteeing social justice for people. It also added a fundamental duty to provide education to children aged between 6-14 years of age. The amendment also amended an article in Directive Principles of State Policy. To fulfil the commitments under the said article, the Right To Education Act (RTE, 2009). It is seen as a revolution in the field of education in India as it has opened the doors of schools to lakhs of underprivileged children who couldn’t afford to get educated earlier. 

Article 22 speaks of the requirement to protect against arrest and detention in certain cases. The person who is taken in custody has the right to be informed of the grounds of arrest, the right to consult a lawyer and be defended by the same. The time limit of 24 hours is given to

present the said person before the magistrate. The 24-hour time limit shall not include the time taken to travel from the place of arrest to the magistrate. 

However, the said provision does not apply to an enemy alien, or detained under the preventive detention act. Preventive detention is done to deter a person from committing an offence in future. It is done without any trial by a court. However, a 3 months time limit applies for detaining an accused under preventive detention. It can be further extended only after approval of an advisory board setup for the same purpose. It is mandated to convey the grounds of arrest to the accused along with grabbing an opportunity to make an expression before the court against the order of arrest. 

The time limit for seeking the statement of the advisory board has been reduced by the 44th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1978 from three months to two months. However, it is still on anvil and not enforced. 

The rights guaranteed under this article maintain the essence of democracy in India by enabling the free voicing of opinions. Discussions, debates, and deliberations are parts of a well-functioning country. However, no freedom is ever complete without some caveats. Therefore, the reasonable restrictions follow the freedoms guaranteed and they help in maintaining law and order, peace and harmony in the country.

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