(1) All citizens shall have the right—

      (a) to freedom of speech and expression;

      (b) to assemble peaceably and without arms;

      (c) to form associations or unions;

      (d) to move freely throughout the territory of India;

      (e) to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India;

      (g) to practise any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

 

(2) Nothing in sub-clause (a) of clause (1) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India,] the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.

 

 (3) Nothing in sub-clause (b) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India or public order, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause.

(4) Nothing in sub-clause (c) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the sovereignty andintegrity of India or] public order or morality, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause.

 

(5) Nothing in 1 [sub-clauses (d) and (e) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of any of the rights conferred by the said sub-clauses either in the interests of the general public or for the protection of the interests of any Scheduled Tribe.

 

(6) Nothing in sub-clause (g) of the said clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it imposes, or prevent the State from making any law imposing, in the interests of the general public, reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause, and, in particular, nothing in the said sub-clause shall affect the operation of any existing law in so far as it relates to, or prevent the State from making any law relating to,—

         (i) the professional or technical qualifications necessary for practising any profession or carrying on any occupation, trade or business, or

         (ii) the carrying on by the State, or by a corporation owned or controlled by the State, of any trade, business, industry or service, whether to the exclusion, complete or partial, of citizens or otherwise.

Debate Summary

Article 19 of the Constitution of India was debated on the 1st and 2nd of December 1948 and the 16th and 17th of October 1949. While Constituent Assembly was pleased with the incorporation of the rights of freedom as articulated in the Article, conflict seemed to emerge over certain issues. The core conflict that arose related to the clauses of the article that provided for restrictions to the enumerated rights of freedom. Many members of the Assembly argued that the restrictions provided for in the article, resulted in the rights being compromised and negated. Members who considered the restrictions as desirable said that nowhere in the world are ‘rights’ ever absolute. Even in America, rights were restricted and these restrictions were put in by the Supreme Court as time went along. In the case of India, restrictions have been written into the constitutional text itself. Hence, there exists no real difference if restrictions are embedded within the constitution or later put in by the courts. Discussions in the Assembly then pertained to which institution – legislature or judiciary – was more appropriate in deciding the nature of the restrictions. The assembly seemed to realise that even if restrictions were written into the constitution text, the courts still had to engage in interpretation. The term ‘reasonable restrictions’, was added into the article in an attempt to give legitimacy and rationale to the clauses that restricted rights. This was also done as a guide for interpretation of the article by the judiciary. In the draft presented to the Assembly, the article had ‘sedition’ as one of the restrictions to the enjoyment of rights. This was dropped as members found the term undesirable due to potential of it restricting legitimate dissent, which is crucial in a democracy. ‘Contempt of Court’ was added as one the restrictions, as members felt that freedom of speech and expression could be used to sabotage justice that is to be dispensed by courts, especially in the context of sub-judice cases. Some members wanted a separate ‘freedom of press’ clause in the article, but it was clarified that this would come under the ambit of ‘freedom of speech and expression, and hence no separate mention was required.