The Article 19(1) (a) of Constitution of India provides for the right to freedom of speech and expression. The freedom of speech and expression entitles a person to speak without any censorship or restriction. This freedom is not restricted to only verbal speech, but extends to all mediums, that are used to impart or receive information and ideas. However, the right to freedom of speech and expression can be limited in favor of public interest, such as to curb obscenity or defamation.
Constitution of India: Shocking Research Paper on LIC
The scope and extent of the freedom of speech and expression, provided under the Constitution of India, was examined by the Supreme Court, in a landmark case of Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Manubhai D. Shah, (1992) 3 SCC 637. The respondent in this case was an executive trustee of the Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC), Ahmedabad. He conducted a research on the working of the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC). Based on this research, he published a paper ‘Fraud on Policy Holders-A Shocking Story.’ This paper captured the discriminatory practices adopted by the LIC, and delved into the analysis of how such practices affected the interests of the consumers.
A counter was published by a member of LIC in ‘Yogakshma’, a magazine published by the LIC. The respondent was keen to publish a rejoinder to the article and requested LIC to do so. However, his request was rejected. The respondent contended that denial to publish his rejoinder in the magazine violated his fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression. However, the LIC claimed that the magazine intended to inform its members, employees and agents about its actions and that it is not meant to be sold to the general public. The High Court rejected the claims and ruled in favor of the respondent. Further, the court ordered the LIC to publish the article in the magazine’s upcoming issue.
The LIC challenged the High Court’s decision in the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court also dismissed the LIC’s plea. It ruled that rejection to publish the respondent’s article violated his rights provided under the Article 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution.
Also, it was contended that the LIC is a ‘State’ within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India. As per Article 12, the ‘State’ includes the Central and the State Governments, the Indian Parliament, the State Legislatures and other local authorities within the territory of India as governed by the Indian government. The court, in this case, pointed out that a ‘State’ should promote public interest.