The year 2020 was hard for every single person around the world due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Government passed the order for total lockdown to control the spread of coronavirus any further, which was for almost 4 months. During this lockdown fake news were also spread in the name of freedom of speech and expression, due to which Government had to take measures and actions to stop the spreading of fake news to avoid the panic amongst the people. 

Article 19 of the Indian Constitution guarantees the Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, this right is one of right which cannot be suspended except in certain cases. In the case of Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, Court held that only on three conditions Article 19(2) can be restricted which are:

  1. Provided by law.
  2. It is for the interest of sovereignty and integrity of India, for safety and security of any State or to maintain any friendly relation with any other country or State, if it is a matter of decency or morality, or any defamation or if it is a matter of contempt of Court etc.
  3. It has to be reasonable.

In the case of Dr.Indranil Khan v. State of West Bengal &Ors, petitioner was arrested and his mobile phone and sim was seized by the Bengal police on the FIR filed against him for his facebook post which was about deficiency of the gear supplements provided to doctors by the State Government who were treating the Covid-19 patients.

The police charged him for causing disharmony and feeling of hatred under the Indian Penal Code and also interrogated him. Justice Mukerji said that in the tweet posted by the petitioner there was a reply from the department of health thanking him for raising this issue.

The Court held that Article 19 which gives freedom of speech and expression upheld by the State, the court also observed that if any opinion or expression is putting the Government down or dishonouring the Government then it cannot defend this allegation by intimidation of a person who is expressing his views.

He further said that without proper court leave no interrogation will be taken. And if police have prima facie evidence which shows an offence has been committed then police may file a criminal case against him without arresting him.

Court also held that the liberty of  Dr. Khan can only be restricted by Court’s order in the manner of proceeding, and ordered the Police to return the mobile phone and sim seized by them. Justice Mukerji also restrained the petitioner from making post on social media regarding this matter.

References:

  1. Tiwari .A. (2020, October 14). Section 144 and the Pandemic: A look at Freedom of Speech in Mumbai. Retrieved from https://www.jurist.org/commentary/2020/10/akshita-tiwary-pandemic-freedom-of-speech/
  2.  Covid-19: Case against Bengal doctor for online post faces High court Ire. (2020, April 2). Retrieved from https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/coronavirus-case-against-bengal-doctor-for-online-post-faces-high-court-ire-2204844

(Author: Charu Shrivastava, LYT)

2 thoughts on “Freedom of Speech and Expression during Covid-19

  1. Hi! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I truly enjoy reading your posts. Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same topics? Thanks! Birgit Julio Cavuoto

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