Prelims level : Indian Polity Mains level : GS-II (Indian Polity and Governance)
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Why in News:

  • Chief Justice of India said The Hindu’s right to publish the Rafale documents was in constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech.
    with this, the court dismissed the objections raised by
    the government against deal for purchase of 36 Rafale jets


  • The government claimed that review were based on secret rafale documents unauthorized removed from the Ministry of Defence and leaked to the media.
  • It also argued that stolen documents came under the protection of the Official Secrets Act (OSA). The chief justice Ranjan Gogoi said that the publication of Rafale documents by The Hindu upholds Freedom of Press.
  • The court pointed out that under section 24 of the RTI act provides allegations of corruption as well as human rights violation, which should not be exempted from disclosure under the law.

About Rafale jets:

  • India in September 2016 inked a direct deal with the French government to purchase 36 new Rafale fighter jets.
  • Rafale is a twin-engine medium multi-role combat aircraft, manufactured by French company Dassault Aviation. Dassault claims Rafale has ‘Omnirole’ capability to perform several actions at the same time, such as firing air-to-air missiles at a very low altitude, air- to-ground, and interceptions. The aircraft is fitted with an on-board oxygen generation system (OBOGS) which suppresses the need for liquid oxygen re-filling or ground support for oxygen production. It carry out a wide range of missions: Air-defence/air-superiority, Reconnaissance, close air support dynamic targeting, Air-to-ground precision strike/interdiction, anti-ship attacks, nuclear deterrence, buddy-buddy refueling.

Freedom of speech and expression

  • It is one of the six freedoms which the Constitution of India guarantees under its Article 19(1).
  • The main conception behind granting this freedom to the citizen of India was to allow them to freely develop their thoughts and ideas and share them without any unreasonable hurdle. In the scheme of Constitution of India this freedom is enshrined in the most important part relating to the ‘Fundamental rights of the citizen’ and the ‘Universal declaration of Human Rights’. As sharing, expressing ideas, knowledge through speech, writings, audiovisual stuffs, etc. become necessary and for protecting this, a recognized right was grated in favour of Citizen to free speech and expression.
  • The Right to Information Act, 2005 is also having a close connection with the concept of the liberty of speech and expression.
  • The concerned law on the issue of ‘right to information’ was enacted with the purpose and object to make provisions to set out the practical regime of right to information for citizens and this appears to be a important issue in the subject of Freedom of speech and expression.

Freedom of Press

  • The fundamental right of the freedom of press implicit in the right the freedom of speech and expression, is essential for the political liberty and proper functioning of democracy. The Indian Press Commission says that “Democracy can thrive not only under the vigilant eye of legislature, but also under the care and guidance of public opinion and the press is par excellence, the vehicle through which opinion can become articulate.”
  • Freedom of press is the heart of social and political intercourse. It is the primary duty of the courts to uphold the freedom of press and invalidate all laws or administrative actions, which interfere with it contrary to the constitutional mandate.

About Official Secrets Act:

  • The law meant for ensuring secrecy and confidentiality in governance, mostly on national security and espionage issues. The Indian Official Secrets Act, 1904 was enacted during the time of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.
  • One of the main purposes of the Act was to control the voice of nationalist publications.
  • The Indian Official Secrets Act was extended to all matters of secrecy and confidentiality in governance in the country.

Ambit of the Act:

  • The secrecy law broadly deals with two aspects — spying or espionage, which is dealt with in Section 3 of the Act, and disclosure of other secret information of the government, which is dealt with in Section 5. The secret information can be any official code, password, sketch, plan, model, article, note, document or information.
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