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Statement made by a minister can’t be vicariously attributed to govt: Supreme Court | India News


NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Tuesday said a statement made by a minister cannot be attributed vicariously to the government even when applying the principle of collective responsibility.
A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice S A Nazeer said that no additional restrictions, other than those prescribed under Article 19 (2) of the Constitution, can be imposed on the right to free speech of a citizen.
The apex court said the restrictions under Article 19(2) are exhaustive.
The SC also said that a minister’s statement can’t be vicariously attributed to the government.
“The minister is liable for the statement himself,” said the Justices S Abdul Nazeer, B R Gavai, A S Bopanna, V Ramasubramanian and B V Nagarathna, the latter writing a separate judgment.
“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.
Justice Nagarathna, who wrote a dissenting view on the validity of 2016 demonetisation, said she differed in approach to the issue of free speech relating to statements made by ministers and politicians.
Hate speech strikes at the root of equality and fraternity and said fundamental duties could be used to check disparaging speeches and promote harmony among citizens, she said.
She said that if a minister makes a statement then it can be vicariously attributed to the government, unless the government has made public its views opposed to that of the minister.
“Parliament may enact a law against hate speeches and disparaging remarks against fellow citizens. It is for political parties to control their members not to cross limits of free speech. Citizens can approach court against hate speech by fling criminal or civil cases,” she added.
The pronouncement of the majority judgment by Justice Ramasubramanian was to the point and lasted mere seven minutes.
But Justice Nagarathna read out major portions from her minority view for nearly 30 minutes and thanked the lawyers and audience for their patience.



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