Min’s right to free speech under apex court lens

| | New Delhi

For the first time, the Supreme Court will set out to decide whether a Minister of a State or Central Government can be allowed immunity under right to free speech to make any comment on any issue or can such comment fasten responsibility on the respective Government he represents under the principle of collective responsibility.

The Court framed this question for consideration by a Constitution Bench and sought the views of top legal brains Fali S Nariman and Harish Salve to assist as amicus curiae in settling this law. The next hearing of the case is fixed for May 2.

The issue emerged following a comment made by former Uttar Pradesh Minister Azam Khan who commented upon the Bulandshahr rape case as a conspiracy hatched by Opposition to defame his Government. The victims in the case through their nearest kin approached apex court to seek transfer of the case outside the State.

While Khan apologised to the apex court and got away, the Bench headed by Justice Dipak Misra wished to know whether a person holding a public office can make a comment violating or infringing the fundamental right of another citizen.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who appeared for UP Government maintained that a Minister is free to give his comment. But Salve objected claiming that free speech has to be exercised by a citizen without harming right to liberty, dignity, privacy, gender equality of another citizen. Under collective responsibility, a Minister must be seen to espouse the Government’s view and should be restrained from making personal comments.



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