Citation: AIR 1963 Guj 259, 1963 Cri LJ 502, (1963) GLR 209 Decided on: 4th May, 1962 Bench: Hon’ble Justice N. Miabhoy, Hon’ble Justice M. Mody
The Freedom of speech and expression is one of the fundamental rights granted by the Constitution of India to the citizens of India. According to this right, every citizen has a right to express one’s own views and opinions freely. But, does that allow one to propagate his view through a loudspeaker? The answer to this question is given in the case mentioned below.
On 6th March 1961, Shri Indulal Kanayalal Yagnik [hereinafter referred to as the “Petitioner”], the president of Ahmedabad Janata Samiti wrote a letter to the Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad (2nd respondent) seeking permission to use loudspeaker at a place called “Tilak Maidan” for a meeting.
On 8th March 1961, Mr. G. R. Sindhi the Police Sub-Inspector (3rd respondent) in whose jurisdiction the meeting was held seized the microphone from the petitioner on the grounds that despite the refusal from the police commissioner the petitioner was using loudspeaker at the meeting.
Under Section 131 of the Bombay Police Act, the 3rd respondent filed a complaint in the Court of Judicial Magistrate, Shri Lalani (4th respondent) alleging that the petitioner shall be punished for breaching the rules.
Therefore, the petitioner appeared before the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution alleging that the rules formed under sub-clause(iii), clause (r), sub-section (1), Section 33 of the Bombay Police Act were ultra-vires and violative of Article 14 and 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution. He also appeals the Court to direct the 4th respondent to drop any kind of criminal proceedings on the matter mentioned above.
Whether, the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression includes the right to use loudspeaker.
Whether, Section 33 sub-section(1) clause(r) sub-clause(iii) of the Bombay Police Act is violative of Article 19(1)(a) and Article 14 of Indian Constitution.
It was contended by Mr. Oza on behalf of the petitioner that the right to propagate one’s view through a loudspeaker is a part of freedom of speech and expression. Also, the rules and orders provided by Section 33 of the Act anticipate total prohibition for exercising the fundamental right.
He further contended that the principle of delegated legislation was offended by conferring powers to Police Commissioner or the District Magistrate. Lastly, it was contended that the seizure of the microphone was violative of Article 31 of the Constitution.
The Advocate General on behalf of the respondent contended that the provisions contained under Section 33 of the Act were reasonable restrictions made for public interest and were therefore not violative of Article 19(1) (a) and 14.
The Constitution conferred the right of freedom of speech and expression merely to propagate one’s view it possibly does not include in its ambit the use of mechanical means like loudspeakers.
Section 33 of the Bombay Police Act provides that “(1) The Commissioner and the District Magistrate, in areas under their respective charges or any part thereof, may make, alter or rescind rules or orders not inconsistent with this Act for…(r) licensing, controlling or, in order to prevent obstruction, inconvenience, annoyance, risk, danger or damage of the residents or passengers in the vicinity prohibiting… (iii) the using of a loudspeaker in or near any public place…” This Section confers the power of licensing, the power of control, and the power of prohibiting the use of loudspeakers in or near a public area.
The Court observed that putting a complete ban on the use of loudspeakers with the view to restrain the citizen to circulate his views will infringe the fundamental rights of the freedom of speech and expression unless justified otherwise. However, its observed, the powers conferred by the executives was not to impose a total ban on the use of loudspeaker rather, it’s a case of partial reasonable restrain in the interest of the public.
Denying the contention of Mr. Oza who was of the view that the restrictions provided were unreasonable the Court stated that the test of reasonableness is not given as a rigid standard, it varies from case to case, time to time-based on the given situation. If restrictions were placed for the betterment of the citizens and to avoid social conflicts then such restrictions should be considered as reasonable restrictions. However, no absolute power of imposing restriction must be placed in an executive officer.
The Court further observed that for operating in different localities based on different geographical limits it will be more convenient if the executive officers are provided with powers to make different rules for smooth functioning. Therefore, the contention of denying the citizens equality under Article 14 of the Constitution does not arise.
Therefore, based on the observations mentioned above, the High Court of Gujrat held that the petition must fail and so rejected the petition.
Hence in this case of Indulal K. Yagnik vs. State and Ors. It was rightly held that the use of loudspeaker is not included under the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. Further, no executive officer has an absolute right of imposing restrictions under Section 33.