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Article 19

In the case of Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras, [1950] S.C.R. 594 at 602, this Court stated that freedom of speech lay at the foundation of all democratic organizations. In Sakal Papers (P) Ltd. & Ors. v. Union of India, [1962] 3 S.C.R. 842 at 866, a Constitution Bench of this Court said freedom of speech and expression of opinion is of paramount importance under a democratic constitution which envisages changes in the composition of legislatures and governments and must be preserved. In a separate concurring judgment Beg,J. said, in Bennett Coleman & Co. & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., [1973] 2 S.C.R. 757 at 829, that the freedom of speech and of the press is the Ark of the Covenant of Democracy because public criticism is essential to the working of its institutions.[2]

In S. Khushboo v. Kanniamal & Anr., (2010) 5 SCC 600 this Court stated, in paragraph 45 that the importance of freedom of speech and expression though not absolute was necessary as we need to tolerate unpopular views. This right requires the free flow of opinions and ideas essential to sustain the collective life of the citizenry. While an informed citizenry is a pre-condition for meaningful governance, the culture of open dialogue is generally of great societal importance.

This last judgment is important in that it refers to the "market place of ideas" concept that has permeated American Law. This was put in the felicitous words of Justice Holmes in his famous dissent in Abrams v. United States, 250 US 616 (1919), thus:

"But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas-that the best test of truth is the power of thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution."

Justice Brandeis in his famous concurring judgment in Whitney v. California, 71 L. Ed. 1095 said:

"Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the state was to make men free to develop their faculties, and that in its government the deliberative forces should prevail over the arbitrary. They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile; that with them, discussion affords ordinarily adequate protection against the dissemination of noxious doctrine; that the greatest menace to freedom is an inert people; that public discussion is a political duty; and that this should be a fundamental principle of the American government. They recognized the risks to which all human institutions are subject. But they knew that order cannot be secured merely through fear of punishment for its infraction; that it is hazardous to discourage thought, hope and imagination; that fear breeds repression; that repression breeds hate; that hate menaces stable government; that the path of safety lies in the opportunity to discuss freely supposed grievances and proposed remedies; and that the fitting remedy for evil counsels is good ones. Believing in the power of reason as applied through public discussion, they eschewed silence coerced by law-the argument of force in its worst form. Recognizing the occasional tyrannies of governing majorities, they amended the Constitution so that free speech and assembly should be guaranteed.

Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears. To justify suppression of free speech there must be reasonable ground to fear that serious evil will result if free speech is practiced. There must be reasonable ground to believe that the danger apprehended is imminent. There must be reasonable ground to believe that the evil to be prevented is a serious one. Every denunciation of existing law tends in some measure to increase the probability that there will be violation of it. Condonation of a breach enhances the probability. Expressions of approval add to the probability. Propagation of the criminal state of mind by teaching syndicalism increases it. Advocacy of lawbreaking heightens it still further. But even advocacy of violation, however reprehensible morally, is not a justification for denying free speech where the advocacy falls short of incitement and there is nothing to indicate that the advocacy would be immediately acted on. The wide difference between advocacy and incitement, between preparation and attempt, between assembling and conspiracy, must be borne in mind. In order to support a finding of clear and present danger it must be shown either that immediate serious violence was to be expected or was advocated, or that the past conduct furnished reason to believe that such advocacy was then contemplated." (at page 1105, 1106)

There are three concepts which are fundamental in understanding the reach of this most basic of human rights. The first is discussion, the second is advocacy, and the third is incitement. Mere discussion or even advocacy of a particular cause howsoever unpopular is at the heart of Article 19(1)(a). It is only when such discussion or advocacy reaches the level of incitement that Article 19(2) kicks in.[3] It is at this stage that a law may be made curtailing the speech or expression that leads inexorably to or tends to cause public disorder or tends to cause or tends to affect the sovereignty & integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, etc.

It is significant to notice first the differences between the US First Amendment and Article 19(1)(a) read with Article 19(2). The first important difference is the absoluteness of the U.S. first Amendment - Congress shall make no law which abridges the freedom of speech. Second, whereas the U.S. First Amendment speaks of freedom of speech and of the press, without any reference to "expression", Article 19(1)(a) speaks of freedom of speech and expression without any reference to "the press". Third, under the US Constitution, speech may be abridged, whereas under our Constitution, reasonable restrictions may be imposed. Fourth, under our Constitution such restrictions have to be in the interest of eight designated subject matters - that is any law seeking to impose a restriction on the freedom of speech can only pass muster if it is proximately related to any of the eight subject matters set out in Article 19(2).

Insofar as the first apparent difference is concerned, the U.S. Supreme Court has never given literal effect to the declaration that Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech. The approach of the Court which is succinctly stated in one of the early U.S. Supreme Court Judgments, continues even today. In Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, 86 L. Ed. 1031, Justice Murphy who delivered the opinion of the Court put it thus:-

"Allowing the broadest scope to the language and purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment, it is well understood that the right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances. There are certain well- defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which has never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or 'fighting' words-those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality. 'Resort to epithets or personal abuse is not in any proper sense communication of information or opinion safeguarded by the Constitution, and its punishment as a criminal act would raise no question under that instrument.' Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 309, 310, 60 S.Ct. 900, 906, 84 L.Ed.1213, 128 A.L.R. 1352." (at page 1035)

So far as the second apparent difference is concerned, the American Supreme Court has included "expression" as part of freedom of speech and this Court has included "the press" as being covered under Article 19(1)(a), so that, as a matter of judicial interpretation, both the US and India protect the freedom of speech and expression as well as press freedom. Insofar as abridgement and reasonable restrictions are concerned, both the U.S. Supreme Court and this Court have held that a restriction in order to be reasonable must be narrowly tailored or narrowly interpreted so as to abridge or restrict only what is absolutely necessary. It is only when it comes to the eight subject matters that there is a vast difference. In the U.S., if there is a compelling necessity to achieve an important governmental or societal goal, a law abridging freedom of speech may pass muster. But in India, such law cannot pass muster if it is in the interest of the general public. Such law has to be covered by one of the eight subject matters set out under Article 19(2). If it does not, and is outside the pale of 19(2), Indian courts will strike down such law.

Viewed from the above perspective, American judgments have great persuasive value on the content of freedom of speech and expression and the tests laid down for its infringement. It is only when it comes to sub- serving the general public interest that there is the world of a difference.

This is perhaps why in Kameshwar Prasad & Ors. v. The State of Bihar & Anr., 1962 Supp. (3) S.C.R. 369, this Court held:

"As regards these decisions of the American Courts, it should be borne in mind that though the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United State reading "Congress shall make no law.... abridging the freedom of speech..." appears to confer no power on the Congress to impose any restriction on the exercise of the guaranteed right, still it has always been understood that the freedom guaranteed is subject to the police power

- the scope of which however has not been defined with precision or uniformly. It is on the basis of the police power to abridge that freedom that the constitutional validity of laws penalising libels, and those relating to sedition, or to obscene publications etc., has been sustained. The resultant flexibility of the restrictions that could be validly imposed renders the American decisions inapplicable to and without much use for resolving the questions arising under Art. 19(1) (a) or (b) of our Constitution wherein the grounds on which limitations might be placed on the guaranteed right are set out with definiteness and precision." ( At page 378)

in Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Private Limited & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., (1985) 2 SCR 287, Venkataramiah,J. stated:

"While examining the constitutionality of a law which is alleged to contravene Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution, we cannot, no doubt, be solely guided by the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. But in order to understand the basic principles of freedom of speech and expression and the need for that freedom in a democratic country, we may take them into consideration. The pattern of Article 19 (1)

(a) and of Article 19 (1) (g) of our constitution is different from the pattern of the First Amendment to the American Constitution which is almost absolute in its terms. The rights guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) and Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution are to be read along with clauses (2) and (6) of Article 19 which carve out areas in respect of which valid legislation can be made."

Under our constitutional scheme, as stated earlier, it is not open to the State to curtail freedom of speech to promote the general public interest. In Sakal Papers (P) Ltd. & Ors. v. Union of India, [1962] 3 S.C.R. 842, this Court said:

"It may well be within the power of the State to place, in the interest of the general public, restrictions upon the right of a citizen to carry on business but it is not open to the State to achieve this object by directly and immediately curtailing any other freedom of that citizen guaranteed by the Constitution and which is not susceptible of abridgment on the same grounds as are set out in clause (6) of Article 19. Therefore, the right of freedom of speech cannot be taken away with the object of placing restrictions on the business activities of a citizen. Freedom of speech can be restricted only in the interests of the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign State, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. It cannot, like the freedom to carry on business, be curtailed in the interest of the general public. If a law directly affecting it is challenged, it is no answer that the restrictions enacted by it are justifiable under clauses (3) to (6). For, the scheme of Article 19 is to enumerate different freedoms separately and then to specify the extent of restrictions to which they may be subjected and the objects for securing which this could be done. A citizen is entitled to enjoy each and every one of the freedoms together and clause (1) does not prefer one freedom to another. That is the plain meaning of this clause. It follows from this that the State cannot make a law which directly restricts one freedom even for securing the better enjoyment of another freedom. All the greater reason, therefore for holding that the State cannot directly restrict one freedom by placing an otherwise permissible restriction on another freedom." (at page 863)

Before we come to each of these expressions, we must understand what is meant by the expression "in the interests of". In The Superintendent, Central Prison, Fatehgarh v. Ram Manohar Lohia, [1960] 2 S.C.R. 821, this Court laid down:

"We do not understand the observations of the Chief Justice to mean that any remote or fanciful connection between the impugned Act and the public order would be sufficient to sustain its validity. The learned Chief Justice was only making a distinction between an Act which expressly and directly purported to maintain public order and one which did not expressly state the said purpose but left it to be implied there from; and between an Act that directly maintained public order and that indirectly brought about the same result. The distinction does not ignore the necessity for intimate connection between the Act and the public order sought to be maintained by the Act." (at pages 834, 835) "The restriction made "in the interests of public order" must also have reasonable relation to the object to be achieved, i.e., the public order. If the restriction has no proximate relationship to the achievement of public order, it cannot be said that the restriction is a reasonable restriction within the meaning of the said clause." (at page 835) "The decision, in our view, lays down the correct test. The limitation imposed in the interests of public order to be a reasonable restriction, should be one which has a proximate connection or nexus with public order, but not one far-fetched, hypothetical or problematical or too remote in the chain of its relation with the public order..........There is no proximate or even foreseeable connection between such instigation and the public order sought to be protected under section. We cannot accept the argument of the learned Advocate General that instigation of a single individual not to pay tax or dues is a spark which may in the long run ignite a revolutionary movement destroying public order" (at page 836).

This Court has laid down what "reasonable restrictions" means in several cases. In Chintaman Rao v. The State of Madhya Pradesh, [1950] S.C.R. 759, this Court said:

"The phrase "reasonable restriction" connotes that the limitation imposed on a person in enjoyment of the right should not be arbitrary or of an excessive nature, beyond what is required in the interests of the public. The word "reasonable" implies intelligent care and deliberation, that is, the choice of a course which reason dictates. Legislation which arbitrarily or excessively invades the right cannot be said to contain the quality of reasonableness and unless it strikes a proper balance between the freedom guaranteed in article 19(1)(g) and the social control permitted by clause (6) of article 19, it must be held to be wanting in that quality." (at page 763)

In State of Madras v. V.G. Row, [1952] S.C.R. 597, this Court said:

"This Court had occasion in Dr. Khare's case (1950) S.C.R. 519 to define the scope of the judicial review under clause (5) of Article19 where the phrase "imposing reasonable restriction on the exercise of the right" also occurs and four out of the five Judges participating in the decision expressed the view (the other Judge leaving the question open) that both the substantive and the procedural aspects of the impugned restrictive law should be examined from the point of view of reasonableness; that is to say, the Court should consider not only factors such as the duration and the extent of the restrictions, but also the circumstances under which and the manner in which their imposition has been authorised. It is important in this context to bear in mind that the test of reasonableness, where ever prescribed, should be applied to each, individual statute impugned and no abstract standard, or general pattern of reasonableness can be laid down as applicable to all cases. The nature of the right alleged to have been infringed, the underlying purpose of the restriction imposed, the extent and urgency of the evil sought to be remedied thereby, the disproportion of the imposition, the prevailing conditions at the time, should all enter into the judicial verdict. In evaluating such elusive factors and forming their own conception of what is reasonable, in all the circumstances of a given case, it is inevitable that the social philosophy and the scale of values of the judges participating in the decision should play an important part, and the limit to their interference with legislative judgment in such cases can only be dictated by their sense of responsibility and self- restraint and the sobering reflection that the Constitution is meant not only for people of their way of thinking but for all, and that the majority of the elected representatives of the people have, in authorising the imposition of the restrictions, considered them to be reasonable." (at page 606-607)

Similarly, in Mohd. Faruk v. State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors., [1970] 1 S.C.R. 156, this Court said:

"The Court must in considering the validity of the impugned law imposing a prohibition on the carrying on of a business or profession, attempt an evaluation of its direct and immediate impact upon the fundamental rights of the citizens affected thereby and the larger public interest sought to be ensured in the light of the object sought to be achieved, the necessity to restrict the citizen's freedom, the inherent pernicious nature of the act prohibited or its capacity or tendency to be harmful to the general public, the possibility of achieving the object by imposing a less drastic restraint, and in the absence of exceptional situations such as the prevalence of a state of emergency-national or local-or the necessity to maintain essential supplies, or the necessity to stop activities inherently dangerous, the existence of a machinery to satisfy the administrative authority that no case for imposing the restriction is made out or that a less drastic restriction may ensure the object intended to be achieved." (at page 161)

In Dr. N. B. Khare v. State of Delhi, [1950] S.C.R. 519, a Constitution Bench also spoke of reasonable restrictions when it comes to procedure. It said:

"While the reasonableness of the restrictions has to be considered with regard to the exercise of the right, it does not necessarily exclude from the consideration of the Court the question of reasonableness of the procedural part of the law. It is obvious that if the law prescribes five years externment or ten years externment, the question whether such period of externment is reasonable, being the substantive part, is necessarily for the consideration of the court under clause (5). Similarly, if the law provides the procedure under which the exercise of the right may be restricted, the same is also for the consideration of the Court, as it has to determine if the exercise of the right has been reasonably restricted." (at page 524)

in Secretary Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India v. Cricket Association of Bengal, (1995) 2 SCC 161 in para 37, where the following question was posed:

"The next question which is required to be answered is whether there is any distinction between the freedom of the print media and that of the electronic media such as radio and television, and if so, whether it necessitates more restrictions on the latter media."

This question was answered in para 78 thus:

"There is no doubt that since the airwaves/frequencies are a public property and are also limited, they have to be used in the best interest of the society and this can be done either by a central authority by establishing its own broadcasting network or regulating the grant of licences to other agencies, including the private agencies. What is further, the electronic media is the most powerful media both because of its audio-visual impact and its widest reach covering the section of the society where the print media does not reach. The right to use the airwaves and the content of the programmes, therefore, needs regulation for balancing it and as well as to prevent monopoly of information and views relayed, which is a potential danger flowing from the concentration of the right to broadcast/telecast in the hands either of a central agency or of few private affluent broadcasters. That is why the need to have a central agency representative of all sections of the society free from control both of the Government and the dominant influential sections of the society. This is not disputed. But to contend that on that account the restrictions to be imposed on the right under Article 19(1)(a) should be in addition to those permissible under Article 19(2) and dictated by the use of public resources in the best interests of the society at large, is to misconceive both the content of the freedom of speech and expression and the problems posed by the element of public property in, and the alleged scarcity of, the frequencies as well as by the wider reach of the media. If the right to freedom of speech and expression includes the right to disseminate information to as wide a section of the population as is possible, the access which enables the right to be so exercised is also an integral part of the said right. The wider range of circulation of information or its greater impact cannot restrict the content of the right nor can it justify its denial. The virtues of the electronic media cannot become its enemies. It may warrant a greater regulation over licensing and control and vigilance on the content of the programme telecast. However, this control can only be exercised within the framework of Article 19(2) and the dictates of public interests. To plead for other grounds is to plead for unconstitutional measures. It is further difficult to appreciate such contention on the part of the Government in this country when they have a complete control over the frequencies and the content of the programme to be telecast. They control the sole agency of telecasting. They are also armed with the provisions of Article 19(2) and the powers of pre-censorship under the Cinematograph Act and Rules. The only limitation on the said right is, therefore, the limitation of resources and the need to use them for the benefit of all. When, however, there are surplus or unlimited resources and the public interests so demand or in any case do not prevent telecasting, the validity of the argument based on limitation of resources disappears. It is true that to own a frequency for the purposes of broadcasting is a costly affair and even when there are surplus or unlimited frequencies, only the affluent few will own them and will be in a position to use it to subserve their own interest by manipulating news and views. That also poses a danger to the freedom of speech and expression of the have-nots by denying them the truthful information on all sides of an issue which is so necessary to form a sound view on any subject. That is why the doctrine of fairness has been evolved in the US in the context of the private broadcasters licensed to share the limited frequencies with the central agency like the FCC to regulate the programming. But this phenomenon occurs even in the case of the print media of all the countries. Hence the body like the Press Council of India which is empowered to enforce, however imperfectly, the right to reply. The print media further enjoys as in our country, freedom from pre-censorship unlike the electronic media."

Public Order

In Article 19(2) (as it originally stood) this sub-head was conspicuously absent. Because of its absence, challenges made to an order made under Section 7 of the Punjab Maintenance of Public Order Act and to an order made under Section 9 (1)(a) of the Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act were allowed in two early judgments by this Court. Thus in Romesh Thappar v. State of Madras, [1950] S.C.R. 594, this Court held that an order made under Section 9(1)(a) of the Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act (XXIII of 1949) was unconstitutional and void in that it could not be justified as a measure connected with security of the State. While dealing with the expression "public order", this Court held that "public order" is an expression which signifies a state of tranquility which prevails amongst the members of a political society as a result of the internal regulations enforced by the Government which they have established.

Similarly, in Brij Bhushan & Anr. v. State of Delhi, [1950] S.C.R. 605, an order made under Section 7 of the East Punjab Public Safety Act, 1949, was held to be unconstitutional and void for the self-same reason.

As an aftermath of these judgments, the Constitution First Amendment added the words "public order" to Article 19(2).

In Superintendent, Central Prison, Fatehgarh v. Ram Manohar Lohia, [1960] 2 S.C.R. 821, this Court held that public order is synonymous with public safety and tranquility; it is the absence of disorder involving breaches of local significance in contradistinction to national upheavals, such as revolution, civil strife, war, affecting the security of the State. This definition was further refined in Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia v. State of Bihar & Ors., [1966] 1 S.C.R. 709, where this Court held:

"It will thus appear that just as "public order" in the rulings of this Court was said to comprehend disorders of less gravity than those affecting "security of State", "law and order" also comprehends disorders of less gravity than those affecting "public order". One has to imagine three concentric circles. Law and order represents the largest circle within which is the next circle representing public order and the smallest circle represents security of State. It is then easy to see that an act may affect law and order but not public order just as an act may affect public order but not security of the State." (at page 746)

In Arun Ghosh v. State of West Bengal, [1970] 3 S.C.R. 288, Ram Manohar Lohia's case was referred to with approval in the following terms:

"In Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia's case this Court pointed out the difference between maintenance of law and order and its disturbance and the maintenance of public order and its disturbance. Public order was said to embrace more of the community than law and order. Public order is the even tempo of the life of the community taking the country as a whole or even a specified locality. Disturbance of public order is to be distinguished, from acts directed against individuals which do not disturb the society to the extent of causing a general disturbance of public tranquility. It is the degree of disturbance and its effect upon the life of the community in a locality which determines whether the disturbance amounts only to a breach of law and order. Take for instance, a man stabs another. People may be shocked and even disturbed, but the life of the community keeps moving at an even tempo, however much one may dislike the act. Take another case of a town where there is communal tension. A man stabs a member of the other community. This is an act of a very different sort. Its implications are deeper and it affects the even tempo of life and public order is jeopardized because the repercussions of the act embrace large Sections of the community and incite them to make further breaches of the law and order and to subvert the public order. An act by itself is not determinant of its own gravity. In its quality it may not differ from another but in its potentiality it may be very different. Take the case of assault on girls. A guest at a hotel may kiss or make advances to half a dozen chamber maids. He may annoy them and also the management but he does not cause disturbance of public order. He may even have a fracas with the friends of one of the girls but even then it would be a case of breach of law and order only. Take another case of a man who molests women in lonely places. As a result of his activities girls going to colleges and schools are in constant danger and fear. Women going for their ordinary business are afraid of being waylaid and assaulted. The activity of this man in its essential quality is not different from the act of the other man but in its potentiality and in its effect upon the public tranquility there is a vast difference. The act of the man who molests the girls in lonely places causes a disturbance in the even tempo of living which is the first requirement of public order. He disturbs the society and the community. His act makes all the women apprehensive of their honour and he can be said to be causing disturbance of public order and not merely committing individual actions which may be taken note of by the criminal prosecution agencies. It means therefore that the question whether a man has only committed a breach of law and order or has acted in a manner likely to cause a disturbance of the public order is a question of degree and the extent of the reach of the act upon the society. The French distinguish law and order and public order by designating the latter as order publique. The latter expression has been recognised as meaning something more than ordinary maintenance of law and order. Justice Ramaswami in Writ Petition No. 179 of 1968 drew a line of demarcation between the serious and aggravated forms of breaches of public order which affect the community or endanger the public interest at large from minor breaches of peace which do not affect the public at large. He drew an analogy between public and private crimes. The analogy is useful but not to be pushed too far. A large number of acts directed against persons or individuals may total up into a breach of public order. In Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia's case examples were given by Sarkar, and Hidayatullah, JJ. They show how similar acts in different contexts affect differently law and order on the one hand and public order on the other. It is always a question of degree of the harm and its effect upon the community. The question to ask is: Does it lead to disturbance of the current of life of the community so as to amount to a disturbance of the public order or does it affect merely an individual leaving the tranquility of the society undisturbed? This question has to be faced in every case on facts. There is no formula by which one case can be distinguished from another." (at pages 290 and 291). (these case laws and legal points were again reiterated in the case of Anuradha Bhasin v. union of India)

Supreme Court of India

Anuradha Bhasin vs Union Of India on 10 January, 2020

This Court therein held that a mere disturbance of law and order leading to disorder may not necessarily lead to a breach of public order. Similarly, the seven­Judge Bench in Madhu Limaye case further elucidated as to when and against whom the power under Section 144, Cr.P.C. can be exercised by the Magistrate. This Court held therein, as under:

“24. The gist of action under Section 144 is the urgency of the situation, its efficacy in the likelihood of being able to prevent some harmful occurrences. As it is possible to act absolutely and even ex parte it is obvious that the emergency must be sudden and the consequences sufficiently grave. Without it the exercise of power would have no justification.

It is not an ordinary power flowing from administration but a power used in a judicial manner and which can stand further judicial scrutiny in the need for the exercise of the power, in its efficacy and in the extent of its application…. Disturbances of public tranquillity, riots and affray lead to subversion of public order unless they are prevented in time. Nuisances dangerous to human life, health or safety have no doubt to be abated and prevented. We are, however, not concerned with this part of the section and the validity of this part need not be decided here. In so far as the other parts of the section are concerned the key­note of the power is to free society from menace of serious disturbances of a grave character. The section is directed against those who attempt to prevent the exercise of legal rights by others or imperil the public safety and health. If that be so the matter must fall within the restrictions which the Constitution itself visualizes as permissible in the interest of public order, or in the interest of the general public. We may say, however, that annoyance must assume sufficiently grave proportions to bring the matter within interests of public order.” (emphasis supplied)

This Court in Ramlila Maidan Incident, In re case further enunciated upon the aforesaid distinction between a “public order” and “law and order” situation:

“44. The distinction between “public order” and “law and order” is a fine one, but nevertheless clear. A restriction imposed with “law and order” in mind would be least intruding into the guaranteed freedom while “public order” may qualify for a greater degree of restriction since public order is a matter of even greater social concern.

45. It is keeping this distinction in mind, the legislature, under Section 144 CrPC, has empowered the District Magistrate, Sub­ Divisional Magistrate or any other Executive Magistrate, specially empowered in this behalf, to direct any person to abstain from doing a certain act or to take action as directed, where sufficient ground for proceeding under this section exists and immediate prevention and/or speedy remedy is desirable. By virtue of Section 144­A CrPC, which itself was introduced by Act 25 of 2005 [Ed.: The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 2005.] , the District Magistrate has been empowered to pass an order prohibiting, in any area within the local limits of his jurisdiction, the carrying of arms in any procession or the organising or holding of any mass drill or mass training with arms in any public place, where it is necessary for him to do so for the preservation of public peace, public safety or maintenance of public order. …”

In view of the above, ‘law and order’, ‘public order’ and ‘security of State’ are distinct legal standards and the Magistrate must tailor the restrictions depending on the nature of the situation. If two families quarrel over irrigation water, it might breach law and order, but in a situation where two communities fight over the same, the situation might transcend into a public order situation. However, it has to be noted that a similar approach cannot be taken to remedy the aforesaid two distinct situations. The Magistrate cannot apply a straitjacket formula without assessing the gravity of the prevailing circumstances; the restrictions must be proportionate to the situation concerned.

Clear and present danger - tendency to affect.

It will be remembered that Justice Holmes in Schenck v. United States, 63 L. Ed. 470 enunciated the clear and present danger test as follows:

"...The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. Gompers v. Buck's Stove & Range Co., 221 U. S. 418, 439, 31 Sup. Ct. 492, 55 L. ed. 797, 34 L. R. A. (N. S.) 874. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree." (At page 473, 474)

This was further refined in Abrams v. Unites States 250 U.S. 616 (1919), this time in a Holmesian dissent, to be clear and imminent danger. However, in most of the subsequent judgments of the U.S. Supreme Court, the test has been understood to mean to be "clear and present danger". The test of "clear and present danger" has been used by the U.S. Supreme Court in many varying situations and has been adjusted according to varying fact situations. It appears to have been repeatedly applied, see- Terminiello v. City of Chicago 93 L. Ed. 1131 (1949) at page 1134-1135, Brandenburg v. Ohio 23 L. Ed. 2d 430 (1969) at 434-435 & 436, Virginia v. Black 155 L. Ed. 2d 535 (2003) at page 551, 552 and 553[4].

We have echoes of it in our law as well S. Rangarajan v. P. Jagjivan & Ors., (1989) 2 SCC 574 at paragraph 45:

"45. The problem of defining the area of freedom of expression when it appears to conflict with the various social interests enumerated under Article 19(2) may briefly be touched upon here. There does indeed have to be a compromise between the interest of freedom of expression and special interests. But we cannot simply balance the two interests as if they are of equal weight. Our commitment of freedom of expression demands that it cannot be suppressed unless the situations created by allowing the freedom are pressing and the community interest is endangered. The anticipated danger should not be remote, conjectural or far-fetched. It should have proximate and direct nexus with the expression. The expression of thought should be intrinsically dangerous to the public interest. In other words, the expression should be inseparably locked up with the action contemplated like the equivalent of a "spark in a powder keg".

This Court has used the expression "tendency" to a particular act. Thus, in State of Bihar v. Shailabala Devi, [1952] S.C.R. 654, an early decision of this Court said that an article, in order to be banned must have a tendency to excite persons to acts of violence (at page 662-663). The test laid down in the said decision was that the article should be considered as a whole in a fair free liberal spirit and then it must be decided what effect it would have on the mind of a reasonable reader. (at pages 664-665)

In Ramji Lal Modi v. The State of U.P., [1957] S.C.R. 860 at page 867, this court upheld Section 295A of the Indian Penal Code only because it was read down to mean that aggravated forms of insults to religion must have a tendency to disrupt public order. Similarly, in Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, 1962 Supp. (2) S.C.R. 769, Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code was upheld by construing it narrowly and stating that the offence would only be complete if the words complained of have a tendency of creating public disorder by violence. It was added that merely creating disaffection or creating feelings of enmity in certain people was not good enough or else it would violate the fundamental right of free speech under Article 19(1)(a). Again, in Dr. Ramesh Yeshwant Prabhoo v. Prabhakar Kashinath Kunte & Ors., 1996 (1) SCC 130, Section 123 (3A) of the Representation of People Act was upheld only if the enmity or hatred that was spoken about in the Section would tend to create immediate public disorder and not otherwise.

Decency or Morality

This Court in Ranjit Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra [1965] 1 S.C.R. 65 took a rather restrictive view of what would pass muster as not being obscene. The Court followed the test laid down in the old English judgment in Hicklin's case which was whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscene is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands a publication of this sort may fall. Great strides have been made since this decision in the UK, United States as well as in our country.

Thus, in Director General, Directorate General of Doordarshan v. Anand Patwardhan, 2006 (8) SCC 433, this Court noticed the law in the United States and said that a material may be regarded as obscene if the average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the subject matter taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest and that taken as a whole it otherwise lacks serious literary artistic, political, educational or scientific value

In a recent judgment of this Court, Aveek Sarkar v. State of West Bengal, 2014 (4) SCC 257, this Court referred to English, U.S. and Canadian judgments and moved away from the Hicklin test and applied the contemporary community standards test.


in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Baldeo Prasad, [1961] 1 S.C.R. 970 an inclusive definition of the word "goonda" was held to be vague and the offence created by Section 4A of the Goondas Act was, therefore, violative of Article 19(1)(d) and (e) of the Constitution. It was stated:

"Incidentally it would also be relevant to point out that the definition of the word "goonda" affords no assistance in deciding which citizen can be put under that category. It is an inclusive definition and it does not indicate which tests have to be applied in deciding whether a person falls in the first part of the definition. Recourse to the dictionary meaning of the word would hardly be of any assistance in this matter. After all it must be borne in mind that the Act authorises the District Magistrate to deprive a citizen of his fundamental right under Art. 19(1)(d) and (e), and though the object of the Act and its purpose would undoubtedly attract the provisions of Art. 19(5) care must always be taken in passing such acts that they provide sufficient safeguards against casual, capricious or even malicious exercise of the powers conferred by them. It is well known that the relevant provisions of the Act are initially put in motion against a person at a lower level than the District magistrate, and so it is always necessary that sufficient safeguards should be provided by the Act to protect the fundamental rights of innocent citizens and to save them from unnecessary harassment. That is why we think the definition of the word "goonda" should have given necessary assistance to the District Magistrate in deciding whether a particular citizen falls under the category of goonda or not; that is another infirmity in the Act. As we have already pointed out s. 4-A suffers from the same infirmities as s. 4.

At one time this Court seemed to suggest that the doctrine of vagueness was no part of the Constitutional Law of India. That was dispelled in no uncertain terms in K.A. Abbas v. The Union of India & Another, [1971] 2 S.C.R. 446:

"This brings us to the manner of the exercise of control and restriction by the directions. Here the argument is that most of the regulations are vague and further that they leave no scope for the exercise of creative genius in the field of art. This poses the first question before us whether the 'void for vagueness' doctrine is applicable. Reliance in this connection is placed on Municipal Committee Amritsar and Anr. v. The State of Rajasthan . In that case a Division Bench of this Court lays down that an Indian Act cannot be declared invalid on the ground that it violates the due process clause or that it is vague......" (at page 469) "These observations which are clearly obiter are apt to be too generally applied and need to be explained. While it is true that the principles evolved by the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the application of the Fourteenth Amendment were eschewed in our Constitution and instead the limits of restrictions on each fundamental right were indicated in the clauses that follow the first clause of the nineteenth article, it cannot be said as an absolute principle that no law will be considered bad for sheer vagueness. There is ample authority for the proposition that a law affecting fundamental rights may be so considered. A very pertinent example is to be found in State of Madhya Pradesh and Anr. v. Baldeo Prasad, 1961 (1) SCR 970 where the Central Provinces and Berar Goondas Act 1946 was declared void for uncertainty. The condition for the application of Sections 4 and 4A was that the person sought to be proceeded against must be a goonda but the definition of goonda in the Act indicated no tests for deciding which person fell within the definition. The provisions were therefore held to be uncertain and vague.

The real rule is that if a law is vague or appears to be so, the court must try to construe it, as far as may be, and language permitting, the construction sought to be placed on it, must be in accordance with the intention of the legislature. Thus if the law is open to diverse construction, that construction which accords best with the intention of the legislature and advances the purpose of legislation, is to be preferred. Where however the law admits of no such construction and the persons applying it are in a boundless sea of uncertainty and the law prima facie takes away a guaranteed freedom, the law must be held to offend the Constitution as was done in the case of the Goonda Act. This is not application of the doctrine of due process. The invalidity arises from the probability of the misuse of the law to the detriment of the individual. If possible, the Court instead of striking down the law may itself draw the line of demarcation where possible but this effort should be sparingly made and only in the clearest of cases." (at pages 470, 471)

Similarly, in Harakchand Ratanchand Banthia & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., 1969 (2) SCC 166, Section 27 of the Gold Control Act was struck down on the ground that the conditions imposed by it for the grant of renewal of licences are uncertain, vague and unintelligible. The Court held:

"21. We now come to Section 27 of the Act which relates to licensing of dealers. It was stated on behalf of the petitioners that the conditions imposed by sub-section (6) of Section 27 for the grant or renewal of licences are uncertain, vague and unintelligible and consequently wide and unfettered power was conferred upon the statutory authorities in the matter of grant or renewal of licence. In our opinion this contention is well founded and must be accepted as correct. Section 27(6)(a) states that in the matter of issue or renewal of licences the Administrator shall have regard to "the number of dealers existing in the region in which the applicant intends to carry on business as a dealer". But the word "region" is nowhere defined in the Act. Similarly Section 27(6)(b) requires the Administrator to have regard to "the anticipated demand, as estimated by him, for ornaments in that region." The expression "anticipated demand" is a vague expression which is not capable of objective assessment and is bound to lead to a great deal of uncertainty. Similarly the expression "suitability of the applicant" in Section 27(6)(e) and "public interest" in Section 27(6)(g) do not provide any objective standard or norm or guidance. For these reasons it must be held that clauses (a),(d),(e) and (g) of Section 27(6) impose unreasonable restrictions on the fundamental right of the petitioner to carry on business and are constitutionally invalid. It was also contended that there was no reason why the conditions for renewal of licence should be as rigorous as the conditions for initial grant of licence. The requirement of strict conditions for the renewal of licence renders the entire future of the business of the dealer uncertain and subjects it to the caprice and arbitrary will of the administrative authorities. There is justification for this argument and the requirement of Section 26 of the Act imposing the same conditions for the renewal of the licence as for the initial grant appears to be unreasonable. In our opinion clauses (a), (b), (e) and (g) are inextricably bound up with the other clauses of Section 27(6) and form part of a single scheme. The result is that clauses (a), (b), (c), (e) and (g) are not severable and the entire Section 27(6) of the Act must be held invalid. Section 27(2)(d) of the Act states that a valid licence issued by the Administrator "may contain such conditions, limitations and restrictions as the Administrator may think fit to impose and different conditions, limitations and restrictions may be imposed for different classes of dealers". On the face of it, this sub- section confers such wide and vague power upon the Administrator that it is difficult to limit its scope. In our opinion Section 27(2)(d) of the Act must be struck down as an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right of the petitioners to carry on business. It appears, however, to us that if Section 27(2)(d) and Section 27(6) of the Act are invalid the licensing scheme contemplated by the rest of Section 27 of the Act cannot be worked in practice. It is, therefore, necessary for Parliament to enact fresh legislation imposing appropriate conditions and restrictions for the grant and renewal of licences to dealers. In the alternative the Central Government may make appropriate rules for the same purpose in exercise of its rule-making power under Section 114 of the Act."

In A.K. Roy & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., [1982] 2 S.C.R. 272, a part of Section 3 of the National Security Ordinance was read down on the ground that "acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community" is an expression so vague that it is capable of wanton abuse. The Court held:

"What we have said above in regard to the expressions 'defence of India', 'security of India', 'security of the State' and 'relations of India with foreign powers' cannot apply to the expression "acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies and services essential to the community" which occurs in Section 3(2) of the Act. Which supplies and services are essential to the community can easily be defined by the legislature and indeed, legislations which regulate the prices and possession of essential commodities either enumerate those commodities or confer upon the appropriate Government the power to do so. In the absence of a definition of 'supplies and services essential to the community', the detaining authority will be free to extend the application of this clause of sub-section (2) to any commodities or services the maintenance of supply of which, according to him, is essential to the community.

But that is not all. The Explanation to sub-section (2) gives to the particular phrase in that sub-section a meaning which is not only uncertain but which, at any given point of time, will be difficult to ascertain or fasten upon. According to the Explanation, no order of detention can be made under the National Security Act on any ground on which an order of detention may be made under the Prevention of Blackmarketing and Maintenance of Supplies of Essential Commodities Act, 1980. The reason for this, which is stated in the Explanation itself, is that for the purposes of sub-section (2), "acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies essential to the community" does not include "acting in any manner prejudicial to the maintenance of supplies of commodities essential to the community" as defined in the Explanation to sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Act of 1980. Clauses (a) and (b) of the Explanation to Section 3(1) of the Act of 1980 exhaust almost the entire range of essential commodities. Clause (a) relates to committing or instigating any person to commit any offence punishable under the Essential Commodities Act, 10 of 1955, or under any other law for the time being in force relating to the control of the production, supply or distribution of, or trade and commerce in, any commodity essential to the community. Clause (b) of the Explanation to Section 3(1) of the Act of 1980 relates to dealing in any commodity which is an essential commodity as defined in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955, or with respect to which provisions have been made in any such other law as is referred to in clause (a). We find it quite difficult to understand as to which are the remaining commodities outside the scope of the Act of 1980, in respect of which it can be said that the maintenance of their supplies is essential to the community. The particular clause in sub- section (2) of Section 3 of the National Security Act is, therefore, capable of wanton abuse in that, the detaining authority can place under detention any person for possession of any commodity on the basis that the authority is of the opinion that the maintenance of supply of that commodity is essential to the community. We consider the particular clause not only vague and uncertain but, in the context of the Explanation, capable of being extended cavalierly to supplies, the maintenance of which is not essential to the community. To allow the personal liberty of the people to be taken away by the application of that clause would be a flagrant violation of the fairness and justness of procedure which is implicit in the provisions of Article 21." (at page 325-326)

Similarly, in Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab, (1994) 3 SCC 569 at para 130-131, it was held:

"130. It is the basic principle of legal jurisprudence that an enactment is void for vagueness if its prohibitions are not clearly defined. Vague laws offend several important values. It is insisted or emphasized that laws should give the person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited, so that he may act accordingly. Vague laws may trap the innocent by not providing fair warning. Such a law impermissibly delegates basic policy matters to policemen and also judges for resolution on an ad hoc and subjective basis, with the attendant dangers of arbitrary and discriminatory application. More so uncertain and undefined words deployed inevitably lead citizens to "steer far wider of the unlawful zone ... than if the boundaries of the forbidden areas were clearly marked.

Similarly in Chambers v. Director of Public Prosecutions, [2013] 1 W.L.R. 1833, the Queen's Bench was faced with the following facts:

"Following an alert on the Internet social network, Twitter, the defendant became aware that, due to adverse weather conditions, an airport from which he was due to travel nine days later was closed. He responded by posting several "tweets" on Twitter in his own name, including the following: "Crap1 Robin Hood Airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high1" None of the defendant's "followers" who read the posting was alarmed by it at the time. Some five days after its posting the defendant's tweet was read by the duty manager responsible for security at the airport on a general Internet search for tweets relating to the airport. Though not believed to be a credible threat the matter was reported to the police. In interview the defendant asserted that the tweet was a joke and not intended to be menacing. The defendant was charged with sending by a public electronic communications network a message of a menacing character contrary to section 127(1)(a) of the Communications Act 2003. He was convicted in a magistrates' court and, on appeal, the Crown Court upheld the conviction, being satisfied that the message was "menacing per se" and that the defendant was, at the very least, aware that his message was of a menacing character."

81. The Crown Court was satisfied that the message in question was "menacing" stating that an ordinary person seeing the tweet would be alarmed and, therefore, such message would be "menacing". The Queen's Bench Division reversed the Crown Court stating:

"31. Before concluding that a message is criminal on the basis that it represents a menace, its precise terms, and any inferences to be drawn from its precise terms, need to be examined in the context in and the means by which the message was sent. The Crown Court was understandably concerned that this message was sent at a time when, as we all know, there is public concern about acts of terrorism and the continuing threat to the security of the country from possible further terrorist attacks. That is plainly relevant to context, but the offence is not directed to the inconvenience which may be caused by the message. In any event, the more one reflects on it, the clearer it becomes that this message did not represent a terrorist threat, or indeed any other form of threat. It was posted on "Twitter" for widespread reading, a conversation piece for the defendant's followers, drawing attention to himself and his predicament. Much more significantly, although it purports to address "you", meaning those responsible for the airport, it was not sent to anyone at the airport or anyone responsible for airport security, or indeed any form of public security. The grievance addressed by the message is that the airport is closed when the writer wants it to be open. The language and punctuation are inconsistent with the writer intending it to be or it to be taken as a serious warning. Moreover, as Mr. Armson noted, it is unusual for a threat of a terrorist nature to invite the person making it to be readily identified, as this message did. Finally, although we are accustomed to very brief messages by terrorists to indicate that a bomb or explosive device has been put in place and will detonate shortly, it is difficult to imagine a serious threat in which warning of it is given to a large number of tweet "followers" in ample time for the threat to be reported and extinguished."

82. These two cases illustrate how judicially trained minds would find a person guilty or not guilty depending upon the Judge's notion of what is "grossly offensive" or "menacing". In Collins' case, both the Leicestershire Justices and two Judges of the Queen's Bench would have acquitted Collins whereas the House of Lords convicted him. Similarly, in the Chambers case, the Crown Court would have convicted Chambers whereas the Queen's Bench acquitted him. If judicially trained minds can come to diametrically opposite conclusions on the same set of facts it is obvious that expressions such as "grossly offensive" or "menacing" are so vague that there is no manageable standard by which a person can be said to have committed an offence or not to have committed an offence. Quite obviously, a prospective offender of Section 66A and the authorities who are to enforce Section 66A have absolutely no manageable standard by which to book a person for an offence under Section 66A. This being the case, having regard also to the two English precedents cited by the learned Additional Solicitor General, it is clear that Section 66A is unconstitutionally vague.

Ultimately, applying the tests referred to in Chintaman Rao and V.G. Row's case, referred to earlier in the judgment, it is clear that Section 66A arbitrarily, excessively and disproportionately invades the right of free speech and upsets the balance between such right and the reasonable restrictions that may be imposed on such right.

Chilling Effect And Overbreadth

Information that may be grossly offensive or which causes annoyance or inconvenience are undefined terms which take into the net a very large amount of protected and innocent speech. A person may discuss or even advocate by means of writing disseminated over the internet information that may be a view or point of view pertaining to governmental, literary, scientific or other matters which may be unpalatable to certain sections of society. It is obvious that an expression of a view on any matter may cause annoyance, inconvenience or may be grossly offensive to some. A few examples will suffice. A certain section of a particular community may be grossly offended or annoyed by communications over the internet by "liberal views" - such as the emancipation of women or the abolition of the caste system or whether certain members of a non proselytizing religion should be allowed to bring persons within their fold who are otherwise outside the fold. Each one of these things may be grossly offensive, annoying, inconvenient, insulting or injurious to large sections of particular communities and would fall within the net cast by Section 66A. In point of fact, Section 66A is cast so widely that virtually any opinion on any subject would be covered by it, as any serious opinion dissenting with the mores of the day would be caught within its net. Such is the reach of the Section and if it is to withstand the test of constitutionality, the chilling effect on free speech would be total.

Incidentally, some of our judgments have recognized this chilling effect of free speech. In R. Rajagopal v. State of T.N., (1994) 6 SCC 632, this Court held:

"19. The principle of Sullivan [376 US 254 : 11 L Ed 2d 686 (1964)] was carried forward - and this is relevant to the second question arising in this case - in Derbyshire County Council v. Times Newspapers Ltd. [(1993) 2 WLR 449 : (1993) 1 All ER 1011, HL] , a decision rendered by the House of Lords. The plaintiff, a local authority brought an action for damages for libel against the defendants in respect of two articles published in Sunday Times questioning the propriety of investments made for its superannuation fund. The articles were headed "Revealed: Socialist tycoon deals with Labour Chief" and "Bizarre deals of a council leader and the media tycoon". A preliminary issue was raised whether the plaintiff has a cause of action against the defendant. The trial Judge held that such an action was maintainable but on appeal the Court of Appeal held to the contrary. When the matter reached the House of Lords, it affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeal but on a different ground. Lord Keith delivered the judgment agreed to by all other learned Law Lords. In his opinion, Lord Keith recalled that in Attorney General v. Guardian Newspapers Ltd. (No. 2)[(1990) 1 AC 109 : (1988) 3 All ER 545 : (1988) 3 WLR 776, HL] popularly known as "Spycatcher case", the House of Lords had opined that "there are rights available to private citizens which institutions of... Government are not in a position to exercise unless they can show that it is in the public interest to do so". It was also held therein that not only was there no public interest in allowing governmental institutions to sue for libel, it was "contrary to the public interest because to admit such actions would place an undesirable fetter on freedom of speech" and further that action for defamation or threat of such action "inevitably have an inhibiting effect on freedom of speech". The learned Law Lord referred to the decision of the United States Supreme Court in New York Times v. Sullivan [376 US 254 : 11 L Ed 2d 686 (1964)] and certain other decisions of American Courts and observed - and this is significant for our purposes-

"while these decisions were related most directly to the provisions of the American Constitution concerned with securing freedom of speech, the public interest considerations which underlaid them are no less valid in this country. What has been described as 'the chilling effect' induced by the threat of civil actions for libel is very important. Quite often the facts which would justify a defamatory publication are known to be true, but admissible evidence capable of proving those facts is not available." Accordingly, it was held that the action was not maintainable in law."

Also in S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal, (2010) 5 SCC 600, this Court said:

"47. In the present case, the substance of the controversy does not really touch on whether premarital sex is socially acceptable. Instead, the real issue of concern is the disproportionate response to the appellant's remarks. If the complainants vehemently disagreed with the appellant's views, then they should have contested her views through the news media or any other public platform. The law should not be used in a manner that has chilling effects on the "freedom of speech and expression".

That the content of the right under Article 19(1)(a) remains the same whatever the means of communication including internet communication is clearly established by Reno's case (supra) and by The Secretary, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting v. Cricket Association of Bengal & Anr., (1995) SCC 2 161 at Para 78 already referred to. It is thus clear that not only are the expressions used in Section 66A expressions of inexactitude but they are also over broad and would fall foul of the repeated injunctions of this Court that restrictions on the freedom of speech must be couched in the narrowest possible terms. For example, see, Kedar Nath Singh v. State of Bihar, [1962] Supp. 2 S.C.R. 769 at 808 -809. In point of fact, judgments of the Constitution Bench of this Court have struck down sections which are similar in nature. A prime example is the section struck down in the first Ram Manohar Lohia case, namely, Section 3 of the U.P. Special Powers Act, where the persons who "instigated" expressly or by implication any person or class of persons not to pay or to defer payment of any liability were punishable. This Court specifically held that under the Section a wide net was cast to catch a variety of acts of instigation ranging from friendly advice to systematic propaganda. It was held that in its wide amplitude, the Section takes in the innocent as well as the guilty, bonafide and malafide advice and whether the person be a legal adviser, a friend or a well wisher of the person instigated, he cannot escape the tentacles of the Section. The Court held that it was not possible to predicate with some kind of precision the different categories of instigation falling within or without the field of constitutional prohibitions. It further held that the Section must be declared unconstitutional as the offence made out would depend upon factors which are uncertain.

In Kameshwar Prasad & Ors. v. The State of Bihar & Anr., [1962] Supp. 3 S.C.R. 369, Rule 4-A of the Bihar Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1956 was challenged. The rule states "No government servant shall participate in any demonstration or resort to any form of strike in connection with any matter pertaining to his conditions of service."

The aforesaid rule was challenged under Articles 19 (1)(a) and (b) of the Constitution. The Court followed the law laid down in Ram Manohar Lohia's case [1960] 2 S.C.R. 821 and accepted the challenge. It first held that demonstrations are a form of speech and then held:

"The approach to the question regarding the constitutionality of the rule should be whether the ban that it imposes on demonstrations would be covered by the limitation of the guaranteed rights contained in Art. 19 (2) and 19(3). In regard to both these clauses the only relevant criteria which has been suggested by the respondent-State is that the rule is framed "in the interest of public order". A demonstration may be defined as "an expression of one's feelings by outward signs." A demonstration such as is prohibited by, the rule may be of the most innocent type - peaceful orderly such as the mere wearing of a badge by a Government servant or even by a silent assembly say outside office hours - demonstrations which could in no sense be suggested to involve any breach of tranquility, or of a type involving incitement to or capable of leading to disorder. If the rule had confined itself to demonstrations of type which would lead to disorder then the validity of that rule could have been sustained but what the rule does is the imposition of a blanket-ban on all demonstrations of whatever type - innocent as well as otherwise - and in consequence its validity cannot be upheld." (at page 374)

The Court further went on to hold that remote disturbances of public order by demonstration would fall outside Article 19(2). The connection with public order has to be intimate, real and rational and should arise directly from the demonstration that is sought to be prohibited. Finally, the Court held:

"The vice of the rule, in our opinion, consists in this that it lays a ban on every type of demonstration - be the same however innocent and however incapable of causing a breach of public tranquility and does not confine itself to those forms of demonstrations which might lead to that result." (at page 384)

Possibility of an act being abused is not a ground to test its validity:

Supreme Court of India

Shreya Singhal vs U.O.I on 24 March, 2015

The learned Additional Solicitor General cited a large number of judgments on the proposition that the fact that Section 66A is capable of being abused by the persons who administered it is not a ground to test its validity if it is otherwise valid. He further assured us that this Government was committed to free speech and that Section 66A would not be used to curb free speech, but would be used only when excesses are perpetrated by persons on the rights of others. In The Collector of Customs, Madras v. Nathella Sampathu Chetty & Anr., [1962] 3 S.C.R. 786, this Court observed:

"....This Court has held in numerous rulings, to which it is unnecessary to refer, that the possibility of the abuse of the powers under the provisions contained in any statute is no ground for declaring the provision to be unreasonable or void. Commenting on a passage in the judgment of the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland which stated:

"If such powers are capable of being exercised reasonably it is impossible to say that they may not also be exercised unreasonably"

and treating this as a ground for holding the statute invalid Viscount Simonds observed in Belfast Corporation v. O.D. Commission [ 1960 AC 490 at pp. 520-521] :

"It appears to me that the short answer to this contention (and I hope its shortness will not be regarded as disrespect) is that the validity of a measure is not to be determined by its application to particular cases.... If it is not so exercised (i.e. if the powers are abused) it is open to challenge and there is no need for express provision for its challenge in the statute."

The possibility of abuse of a statute otherwise valid does not impart to it any element of invalidity. The converse must also follow that a statute which is otherwise invalid as being unreasonable cannot be saved by its being administered in a reasonable manner. The constitutional validity of the statute would have to be determined on the basis of its provisions and on the ambit of its operation as reasonably construed. If so judged it passes the test of reasonableness, possibility of the powers conferred being improperly used is no ground for pronouncing the law itself invalid and similarly if the law properly interpreted and tested in the light of the requirements set out in Part III of the Constitution does not pass the test it cannot be pronounced valid merely because it is administered in a manner which might not conflict with the constitutional requirements." (at page 825)

In this case, it is the converse proposition which would really apply if the learned Additional Solicitor General's argument is to be accepted. If Section 66A is otherwise invalid, it cannot be saved by an assurance from the learned Additional Solicitor General that it will be administered in a reasonable manner. Governments may come and Governments may go but Section 66A goes on forever. An assurance from the present Government even if carried out faithfully would not bind any successor Government. It must, therefore, be held that Section 66A must be judged on its own merits without any reference to how well it may be administered.

We have already held that Section 66A creates an offence which is vague and overbroad, and, therefore, unconstitutional under Article 19(1)(a) and not saved by Article 19(2). We have also held that the wider range of circulation over the internet cannot restrict the content of the right under Article 19(1)(a) nor can it justify its denial. However, when we come to discrimination under Article 14, we are unable to agree with counsel for the petitioners that there is no intelligible differentia between the medium of print, broadcast and real live speech as opposed to speech on the internet. The intelligible differentia is clear - the internet gives any individual a platform which requires very little or no payment through which to air his views. The learned Additional Solicitor General has correctly said that something posted on a site or website travels like lightning and can reach millions of persons all over the world. If the petitioners were right, this Article 14 argument would apply equally to all other offences created by the Information Technology Act which are not the subject matter of challenge in these petitions. We make it clear that there is an intelligible differentia between speech on the internet and other mediums of communication for which separate offences can certainly be created by legislation. We find, therefore, that the challenge on the ground of Article 14 must fail.

It is well settled that a statute cannot be dissected and then examined as to under what field of legislation each part would separately fall. In A.S. Krishna v. State of Madras, [1957] S.C.R. 399, the law is stated thus:

"The position, then, might thus be summed up : When a law is impugned on the ground that it is ultra vires the powers of the legislature which enacted it, what has to be ascertained is the true character of the legislation. To do that, one must have regard to the enactment as a whole, to its objects and to the scope and effect of its provisions. If on such examination it is found that the legislation is in substance one on a matter assigned to the legislature, then it must be held to be valid in its entirety, even though it might incidentally trench on matters which are beyond its competence. It would be quite an erroneous approach to the question to view such a statute not as an organic whole, but as a mere collection of sections, then disintegrate it into parts, examine under what heads of legislation those parts would severally fall, and by that process determine what portions thereof are intra vires, and what are not." (at page 410)

Section 79(3)(b) has to be read down to mean that the intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge that a court order has been passed asking it to expeditiously remove or disable access to certain material must then fail to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material. This is for the reason that otherwise it would be very difficult for intermediaries like Google, Facebook etc. to act when millions of requests are made and the intermediary is then to judge as to which of such requests are legitimate and which are not. We have been informed that in other countries worldwide this view has gained acceptance, Argentina being in the forefront. Also, the Court order and/or the notification by the appropriate Government or its agency must strictly conform to the subject matters laid down in Article 19(2). Unlawful acts beyond what is laid down in Article 19(2) obviously cannot form any part of Section 79. With these two caveats, we refrain from striking down Section 79(3)(b).

The learned Additional Solicitor General informed us that it is a common practice worldwide for intermediaries to have user agreements containing what is stated in Rule 3(2). However, Rule 3(4) needs to be read down in the same manner as Section 79(3)(b). The knowledge spoken of in the said sub-rule must only be through the medium of a court order. Subject to this, the Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules, 2011 are valid.

In conclusion, we may summarise what has been held by us above:

Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 is struck down in its entirety being violative of Article 19(1)(a) and not saved under Article 19(2).

Section 69A and the Information Technology (Procedure & Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 are constitutionally valid.

Section 79 is valid subject to Section 79(3)(b) being read down to mean that an intermediary upon receiving actual knowledge from a court order or on being notified by the appropriate government or its agency that unlawful acts relatable to Article 19(2) are going to be committed then fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to such material. Similarly, the Information Technology "Intermediary Guidelines" Rules, 2011 are valid subject to Rule 3 sub-rule (4) being read down in the same manner as indicated in the judgment.

Section 118(d) of the Kerala Police Act is struck down being violative of Article 19(1)(a) and not saved by Article 19(2).

Supreme Court of India

Papnasam Labour Union vs Madura Coats Ltd on 8 December, 1994

After considering the respective submissions of the learned counsel for the parties and considering various decisions of this Court in deciding the question of reasonableness of the restriction imposed by a statute on the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution of India (reference to which would be made hereinafter), it appears to us that the following principles and guidelines should be kept in mind for considering the constitutionality of a statutory provision upon a challenge on the alleged vice of unreasonableness of the restriction imposed by it:

(a) The restriction sought to be imposed on the Fundamental Rights guaranteed by Article 19 of the Constitution must not be arbitrary or of an excessive nature so as to go beyond the requirement of felt need of the society and object sought to be achieved

(b) There must be a direct and proximate nexus or a reasonable connection between the restriction imposed and the object sought to be achieved.

(c) No abstract or fixed principle can be laid down which may have universal application in all cases. Such consideration on the question of quality of reasonableness, therefore, is expected to vary from case to case.

(d) In interpreting constitutional provisions, courts should be alive to the felt need of the society and complex issues facing the people which the Legislature intends to solve through effective legislation.

(e) In appreciating such problems and felt need of the society the judicial approach must necessarily be dynamic, pragmatic and elastic

(f)It is imperative that for consideration of reasonableness of restriction imposed by a statute, the Court should examine whether the social control as envisaged in Article 19 is being effectuated by the restriction imposed on the Fundamental Rights

(g) Although Article 19 guarantees all the seven freedoms to the citizen, such guarantee does not confer any absolute or unconditional right but is subject to reasonable restriction which the Legislature may impose in public interest. It is therefore necessary to examine whether such restriction is meant to protect social welfare satisfying the need of prevailing social values.

(h) The reasonableness has got to be tested both from the procedural and substantive aspects. It should not be bound by processual perniciousness or jurisprudence of remedies.

(j) Restriction imposed on the Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution must not be arbitrary, unbridled, uncanalised and excessive and also not unreasonably discriminatory. Ex hypothesis therefore, a restriction to be reasonable must also be consistent with Article 14 of the Constitution.

(k) In judging the reasonableness of the restriction imposed by clause (6)of Article 19, the Court has to bear in mind Directive Principles of State Policy

(l)Ordinarily, any restriction so imposed which has the effect of promoting or effectuating a directive principle can be presumed to be a reasonable restriction in public interest.

Test for reasonableness :

Supreme Court of India

Pathumma And Others vs State Of Kerala And Others on 16 January, 1978

Bench: Beg, M. Hameedullah (Cj), Bhagwati, P.N., Krishnaiyer, V.R., Fazalali, S.M. & Singh, Jaswant, Shingal, P.N. & Tulzapurkar, V.D.

Quoting State of Madras v. V. G. Row " It is important in this context to bear in mind that the test of reasonableness, wherever prescribed, should be applied to each individual statute impugned, and no abstract standard or general pattern, of reasonableness can be laid down as applicable to all cases. The nature of the right alleged to have been infringed, the underlying purpose of the restrictions imposed, the extent and urgency of the evil sought to be remedied thereby, the disproportion of the imposition, the pre- vailing conditions at the time, should all enter into the judicial- verdict. In evaluating such elusive factors and forming their own conception of what is reasonable, in an the circumstances of a given case, it is inevitable that the special philosophy and the scale of values of the judges participating in,the decision should play an important part."

This view was endorsed in the case of Mohd. Hanif Quareshi & Ors. v. The State of Bihar(1) 1959 S.C.R. 629 at 660 where this Court observed as follows :

"Quite obviously it is left to the court, in case of dispute, to determine the reasonableness of the restrictions imposed by the law. In determining that question the court, we conceive, cannot proceed on a general notion of what in reasonable in the abstract or even on a consideration of what is reasonable from the point of view of the person or pe rsons on whom the restrictions are imposed."

Similarly in the case of The Lord Krishna Sugar Mills Ltd. & Anr. v. The Union of India & Anr. (1) the Court observed that the Court in judging the reasonableness of a law, will necessarily see, not only the surrounding circumstances but all contemporaneous legislation passed as part of a single scheme."

To the same effect is another decision of this Court in the case of Kavalappara Kottarrathil Kochuni & Ors. v. The State of Madras & Ors. (2) where this Court observed as follows :

"There must, therefore, be harmonious balancing between the fundamental rights declared by Article 19(1) and the social control permitted by Article 19(5). It is implicit in the nature of restrictions that no inflexible standard can be laid down : each case must be decided on its facts."

In the case of Jyoti Pershad v. The Administrator for the Union Territory of Delhi (supra) at 147 Ayyangar, J. speaking for the Court observed as follows :

"The criteria for determining the degree of restriction on the right to hold property which would be considered reasonable, are by no means fixed or static, but must obviously vary from age to age and be related to the adjustments necessary to solve the problems which communities face from time to time."

The fourth test which has been laid down by this Court to judge the reasonableness of a restriction is to examine the nature and extent, the purport and content of the right, nature of the evil sought to be remedied by the, statute, the ratio of harm caused to the citizen and the benefit to be conferred on the person or the community for whose benefit the legislation is passed, urgency of the evil and necessity to rectify the same. In short, a just balance has to be struck between the restriction imposed and the social control envisaged by clause (6) of Article 19. In the case of Narendra Kumar & Ors. v. The Union ,of India & Ors.(1) this Court observed as follows;

"In applying the test of reasonableness, the Court has to consider the question in the background of the facts and circumstances under which order was made, taking into ac- count the nature of the evil that was sought to be remedied by such law, the ratio of the harm caused to individual citizens by the proposed remedy, to the beneficial effect reasonably expected to result to the general public. It will also be necessary to consider in that connection whether the restraint caused by the law is more than was necessary in the interests of the general public." In the case of Bachan Singh & Ors. v. State of Punjab & OrS. (2) this Court observed as follows "The Court has in no uncertain terms laid down the test for ascertaining reasonableness of the restriction on the rights guaranteed under Article 19 to be, determined by a reference to the nature of the right said to have been infringed, the purpose of the restrictions sought to be imposed, the urgency of the evil and the necessity to rectify or remedy it all of which has to be balanced with the Social Welfare or Social purpose sought to be achieved. The right of the individual has therefore to be sublimated to the larger interest of the general public."

The fifth test formulated by this Court is that there must be a ,direct and proximate nexus or a reasonable connection between the other words, the Court has to see whether by virtue of the restriction imposed on the right of the citizen the object of the statute is really fulfilled or frustrated. If there is a direct nexus between the restriction and the object of the Act then a strong presumption in favour of the constitutionality of the Act will naturally arise. In the case of K. K. Kochuni & Ors. v. State of Madras & Ors. (supra) this Court ,observed as follows :

"But the restrictions sought to be imposed shall not be arbitrary, but must have reasonable relation to the object sought to be achieved and shall be in the interests of the general public".

Same view was taken by this Court in the case of O. K. Ghosh & Anr. v. E. X. Joseph(1) where Gajendragadkar, J. speaking for the Court observed as follows "A restriction can be said to be in the interests of public order only if the connection between the restriction and the public order is proximate and direct.

Indirect or farfetched or unreal connection between the restriction and public order would not fall within the purview of the expression 'in the interests of public order'."

Another test of reasonableness of restrictions is the prevailing social values whose needs are satisfied by restrictions meant to protect social welfare. In the case of The State of Uttar Pradesh v. Kaushaliya & Ors. this Court while relying on one of its earlier decisions in the case of State of Madras v. V. G. Row (supra) observed as follows :-

"The reasonableness of a restriction depends upon the values of life in a society, the circumstances; obtaining at a particular point of time when the restriction is imposed, the, decree and the urgency of the evil sought to be controlled and similar others".

We have deliberately not referred to the American cases because the conditions in our country are quite different and this Court need not rely on the American Constitution for the purpose of examining the seven freedoms contained in Article 19 because the social conditions and the habits of our people are different. In this connection, in the case of Jagmohan Singh v. The State of U.P.(3) this Court observed as follows :

"So far as we are concerned in this country, we do not have, in our constitution any provision like the Ninth Amendment nor are we at liberty to apply the test of reasonableness with the freedom with which the Judges of the Supreme Court of America are accustomed, to apply 'the due process' clause".

Another important test which has been enunciated by this Court is that so, far as the nature of reasonableness is concerned it has to be viewed not only from the point of view of the citizen but the problem before the legislature and the object which is sought to be achieved by the statute. In other words the Courts must see whether the social control envisaged in clause (6) of Article 19 is being effectuated by the restrictions imposed on the fundamental right. It is obvious that if the Courts look at the restrictions only from the point of view of the citizen who is affected it will not be a correct or safe approach in as much as the restriction is bound to be irksome and painful to the citizen even though it may be for the public good.

In the case of Jyoti Pershad v. The Administrator for the Union Territory of Delhi (supra) this Court observed as follows :

"Where the legislature fulfils its purpose and enacts laws, which in its wisdom, is considered necessary for the solution of what after all is a very human problem and tests of ,reasonableness' have to be, viewed in the context of the issues which faced the legislature. In the construction of such laws and particularly in judging of their validity the Courts have necessarily to approach it from the point of view of furthering the social interest which it is the purpose of the legislation to promote, for the Courts are not, in these matters, functioning as it were in vacuo, but as parts of a society which is trying, by enacted law, to solve its problems and achieve social concord and peaceful adjustment and thus furthering the moral and material progress of the community as a whole".

It has also been held by this Court that in judging reasonableness of restrictions the Court is fully entitled to take into consideration matters of common report, history of the times and matters of common knowledge and the circumstances existing at the time of legislation. In this connection, in the case of Mohd. Hanif Quareshi & Ors. v. The State of Bihar (supra) the Court observed as follows :

"It must be borne in mind that the legislature is free to recognise degrees of harm and may confine its restrictions to those cases where the need is deemed to be the clearest and finally that in order to sustain the presumption of constitutionality the Court may take into consideration matters of common knowledge, matters of common report, the history of the times and may, assume every state of facts which can be conceived existing at the time of legislation".

We do not mean to suggest that the tests laid down above are completely exhaustive but they undoubtedly provide sufficient guidelines to the Court to determine, the question of reasonableness of a restriction whenever it arises."

Supreme Court of India

Director General,Directorate ... vs Anand Patwardhan & Anr on 25 August, 2006

In the United States, obscene material is any material or performance, if: the average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the subject matter taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest; the subject matter depicts or describes in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct of a type described in this section; and the subject matter, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, educational or scientific value. Therefore, one can observe that, the basic guidelines for the tier of fact must be:

(a) whether " the average person, applying contemporary community standards" would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest.;

(b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and

(c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic political, or scientific value.

The Constitution of India guarantees everyone the right to freedom of expression. India is also a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and therefore bound to respect the right to freedom of expression guaranteed by Article 19 thereof, which states:

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.

2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in form of art, or through any other media of his choice.

This right guaranteed by the Indian constitution is subject to various restrictions. Like, respect of the rights or reputation of others; protection of national security or of public order, or of public health or morals etc. The catchword here is 'reasonable restriction' which corresponds to the societal norms of decency. In the present matter, the documentary film Father, Son and Holy War depicts social vices that are eating into the very foundation of our Constitutional. Communal riots, caste and class issues and violence against women are issues that require every citizen's attention for a feasible solution. Only the citizens especially the youth of our Nation who are correctly informed can arrive at a correct solution. This documentary film in our considered opinion showcases a real picture of crime and violence against women and members of various religious groups perpetrated by politically motivated leaders for political, social and personal gains.

This film so far as our opinion goes does not violate any Constitutional provision nor will create any law and order problems as the Doordarshan fears. This movie falls well within the limits prescribed by our Constitution and does not appeal to the prurient interests in an average person, applying contemporary community standards while taking the work as a whole, the work is not patently offensive and does not proceed to deprave and corrupt any average Indian citizen's mind.

Supreme Court of India

Municipal Committee, Amritsar & ... vs State Of Punjab & Ors on 30 January, 1969

A Municipal Committee is not, according to the decisions of this Court, a "citizen" within the meaning of Art. 19. The Municipal Committee is, therefore, not entitled to claim protection of. any of the fundamental rights under Art. 19. But the State is incompetent to declare land belonging to the Municipal Committee as falling within the fair area, and to take possession of that land in exercise of the power conferred by the Act, without providing for payment of compensation guaranteed by Art. 31(2).

Allahabad High Court

Rajeev Singh Thru His Wife Smt. ... vs U.O.I.Thru Secy.Home Deptt. New ... on 12 July, 2021

(17) The distinction between the two concepts of "public order" and "law and order" has been lucidly explained by the Apex Court in Ashok Kumar Vs. Delhi Administration : AIR 1982 SC 1143, wherein the Apex Court has observed that the true distinction between the areas of "public order" and "law and order", being fine and sometimes overlapping, does not lie in the nature or quality of the act but in the degree and extent of its reach upon society. The Apex Court has further observed that the act by itself is not determinant of its own gravity. It is the potentiality of the act to disturb the even tempo of the life of the community which makes it "prejudicial to the maintenance of public order". If the contravention in its effect is confined only to a few individuals directly involved, as distinct from a wide spectrum of public, it would raise the problem of "law and order" only. It is the length, magnitude and intensity of the terror wave unleashed by a particular act or violence creating disorder that distinguishes it as an act affecting "public order" from that concerning "law and order". On the facts of that case the Apex Court held that whenever there is an armed hold up by gangsters in a residential area of the city and persons are deprived of their belongings at the point of knife or revolver they become victims of organised crime and such acts when enumerated in the grounds of detention, clearly show that the activities of a detenu cover a wide field falling within the ambit of the concept of "public order".

(18) The Apex Court, to the aforesaid effect, has made observations in Victoria Fernandes Vs. Lalmal Sawma : AIR 1992 SC 687, wherein, relying on its earlier decisions, including Ashok Kumar Vs. Delhi Administration (supra), it was reiterated that while the expression "law and order" is wider in scope, in as much as contravention of law always affects order, "public order" has a narrower ambit and public order would be affected by only such contravention which affects the community and public at large.

(19) The distinction between violation of 'law and order' and an act that would constitute disturbing the maintenance of 'public order' had also fallen for consideration of the Apex Court in State of U.P. & Anr. Vs. Sanjay Pratap Gupta @ Pappu and others : 2004 (8) SCC 591, wherein the Apex Court, after an extensive survey of authority on the issue brought out the distinction in fine detail, which reads as under :-

"12. The true distinction between the areas of law and order and public order lies not merely in the nature or quality of the act, but in the degree and extent of its reach upon society. Acts similar in nature, but committed in different contexts and circumstances, might cause different reactions. In one case it might affect specific individuals only, and therefore touches the problem of law and order only, while in another it might affect public order. The act by itself, therefore, is not determinant of its own gravity. In its quality it may not differ from other similar acts, but in its potentiality, that is, in its impact on society, it may be very different.

13. The two concepts have well-defined contours, it being well established that stray and unorganized crimes of theft and assault are not matters of public order since they do not tend to affect the even flow of public life. Infractions of law are bound in some measure to lead to disorder but every infraction of law does not necessarily result in public disorder. Law and order represents the largest scale within which is the next circle representing public order and the smallest circle represents the security of State. "Law and order" comprehends disorders of less gravity than those affecting "public order" just as "public order" comprehends disorders of less gravity than those affecting "security of State". (See Kuso Sah v. State of Bihar 1974 1 SCC 185, Harpreet Kaur v. State of Maharashtra 1992 2 SCC 177, T.K Gopal Alias Gopi v. State Of Karnataka 2000 6 SCC 168 and State of Maharashtra v. Mohd. Yakub 1980 2 SC 1158).

14. The stand that a single act cannot be considered sufficient for holding that public order was affected is clearly without substance. It is not the number of acts that matters. What has to be seen is the effect of the act on the even tempo of life, the extent of its reach upon society and its impact."

(20) The issue has also been dealt with in the case of Sant Singh vs. District Magistrate, Varanasi : 2000 Cri LJ 2230, wherein in paragraph 7 of the report, while dealing with the point, the Apex Court has held as under :-

"7. The two connotations 'law and order' and 'public 'order' are not the words of magic but of reality which embrace within its ambit different situations, motives and impact of the particular criminal acts. As a matter of fact, in a long series of cases, these two expressions have come to be interpreted by the apex Court. It is not necessary to refer all those cases all over again in every decision for one simple reason that they have been quoted and discussed in earlier decision of this Court dated 14-10-1999 in Habeas Corpus Writ Petition No. 33888 of 1999- Udaiveer Singh v. State of U.P. and the decision dated 1-12-1999 in Habeas Corpus Writ Petition No. 38159 of 1999 Rajiv Vashistha v. State of U.P. (Reported in 1999 All Cri R 2777). The gamut of all the above decisions in short is that the true distinction between the areas of 'public order' and 'law and order' lies not in nature and quality of the act, but in the degree and extent of its reach upon society. Sometimes the distinction between the two concepts of law and order' and 'public order' is so fine that it overlaps. Acts similar in nature but committed in different contexts and circumstances might cause different reactions. In one case it might affect specific individuals only and therefore, touch the problem of 'law and order', while in another it might affect 'public order'. The act by itself, therefore, is not determination of its own gravity. It is the potentiality of the act to disturb the even tempo of the community which makes it prejudicial to the maintenance of 'public order''.

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