A statement made by a minister cannot be attributed vicariously to the government even when applying the principle of collective responsibility, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.
A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice S A Nazeer said no additional restrictions against free speech can be imposed except those mentioned under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
“Statement made by a minister even if traceable to any affairs of state or protecting the government cannot be attributed vicariously to the government even applying the principle of collective responsibility.
“Fundamental right under Article 19(1)(a) can be exercised even against other instrumentalities other than the state,” the bench, also comprising Justices B R Gavai, A S Bopanna, V Ramasubramanian, said.
Justice B V Nagarathna, who was also part of the bench, wrote a separate judgement and said freedom of speech and expression is a much needed right so that citizens are well informed and educated on governance.
She said hate speech strikes at the foundational values by making society unequal and also attacks citizens from diverse backgrounds especially “in a country like us that is ‘Bharat’.” The judgement came on a question of whether restrictions can be imposed on a public functionary’s right to freedom of speech and expression.