Sakal Papers (P) Ltd and Ors v. Union Of India (UOI) (1962) 3 S.C.R. 842

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Facts: The issue of freedom of Press has been raised in three petitions where the constitutionality of the newspaper (Price and Page) order, 1960 is questioned. The newspaper "Sakal" was started in the year 1932 and it is claimed that it has a net circulation of 52,000 copies on week days and 56,000 copies on Sundays in Maharashtra and Karnataka and as such plays a leading part in the dissemination of news and views and in moulding public opinion in matters of public interest. The daily addition of the newspaper contains six pages a day for five days in a week and four pages on one day. This edition is priced at 7 nP. The Sunday edition consists of ten pages and is priced at 12 nP. About 40% of the space in the newspaper is taken up by advertisement matter and the rest is devoted to news, articles, features, views etc. It is claimed on behalf of the petitioners that one of the special features of the newspaper is coverage of foreign news and despatches on foreign affairs. It is claimed on behalf of the petitioners that this paper is not aligned with any political party and that upon controversial questions the public look up to it. for impartial appraisement of the issues involved and for guidance. The Act in question is there to regulate the number of pages according to the price charged, prescribe the number of supplements to be published and prohibit the publication and sale of newspapers in contravention of any Order made under section 3 of the Act. The Act also provides for regulating by an Order under section 3, the sizes and area of advertising matter in relation to the other matters contained in a newspaper. Penalties are also prescribed for contravention of the provision of the Act or Order. Further, in the year 1952 the Government of India appointed a Press Commission for enquiring into a large number of matters concerning the Press and one of the recommendations of the Commission was to enact a law such as the one impugned before us. This law is alleged by the respondent to have been made to give effect to that recommendation. Both the sides place reliance upon the finding of the Press Commission and have invited us to accept these findings, though not necessarily the recommendations. The petitioners point out that since the total number of pages which "Sakal" gives to its reading public on six days in a week is 34, and that as a result of the impugned Order they will either have to raise its price from 7 nP. to 8 nP. per day or to reduce the total number of pages to 24. They further point out that while at present all newspapers can issued any number of supplements as and when they choose, under the Order they would be prevented from doing so except with the permission of the Government. According to them the Order would have the effect of either compelling them to increase the price or to reduce the number of pages of practically every newspaper in the country as also of preventing them from publishing supplements without extraneous restrictions, which they are able to do at present.

Issues: It is the petitioners' case that the impugned Act and the impugned Order are pieces of legislation designed to curtail and which would in effect curtail the freedom of the press and as such are violative of the right guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. They point out that if they continue to give in their newspaper the same number of pages as at present, they would have to increase its selling price and that this will adversely affect its circulation. If, on the other hand, they reduce the number of pages in order to conform to the impugned order their right to disseminate news and views will be directly interfered with. Thus in either event there will be an interference with their right under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The petitioners point out that the impugned Order reserves to the Central Government the power to permit issue of supplements, except those on January 26 and August 15, and that the result of this would be to place them at the mercy of the Government and thus interfere with their freedom of expression. Further, the Act and the Order are violative of the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution inasmuch as their avowed object is to promote arbitrarily the interests of some newspaper at the expense of others. They contend that inequality is writ large in the provisions of the Act and of the Order and that there is no reasonable classification or basis or any rational relationship between the restrictions imposed and the objects sought to be achieved. According to them, while the established newspapers will be hardly affected by these provisions those that are endeavouring to come up will be hampered in their progress.

Rule: Article 19(a) of the Constitution of India.

Analysis: the very object of the impugned law is to affect the circulation of certain newspapers which are said to be practising unfair competition it is difficult to appreciate how it could be sustained. The right to freedom of speech and expression is an individual right guaranteed to every citizen by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. There is nothing in clause (2) of Article 19 which permits the State to abridge this right on the ground of conferring benefits upon the public in general or upon a section of the public. It is not open to the State to curtail or infringe the freedom of speech of one for promoting the general welfare of a section or a group of people unless its action could be justified under a law competent under clause (2) of Article 19. It is admitted that the impugned provisions cannot be justified on the grounds referred to in the aforesaid clause. It was, however, contended on behalf of the State that there are two aspects of the activities of newspapers - the dissemination of news and views and the commercial aspect. These two aspects, it is said are different from one another and under clause (6) of Article 19 restrictions can be placed on the latter right in the interest of the general public. It may well be within the power of the State to place, in the interest of the general public, restrictions upon the right of a citizen to carry on business but it is not open to the State to achieve this object by directly and immediately curtailing any other freedom of that citizen guaranteed by the Constitution and which is not susceptible of abridgement on the same grounds as are set out in clause (6) of Article 19. Therefore, the right of freedom of speech cannot be taken away with the object of placing restrictions on the business activities of a citizen. Freedom of speech can be restricted only in the interests of the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign State, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. It cannot, like the freedom to carry on business, be curtailed in the interest of the general public. If a law directly affecting it is challenged it is no answer that the restrictions enacted by it are justifiable under clauses (3) to (6). For, the scheme of Article 19 is to enumerate different freedoms separately and then to specify the extent of restrictions to which they may be subjected and the objects for securing which this could be done. The freedom of a newspaper to publish any number of pages or to circulated it to any number of persons is each an integral part of the freedom of speech and expression. A restraint placed upon either of them would be a direct infringement of the right of freedom of speech and expression. The only restrictions which may be imposed on the rights of an individual under Article 19(1)(a) are those which clause (2) of Article 19 permits and no other.

Conclusion: It was considered that section 3(1) of the Act, which is its pivotal provision, is unconstitutional and, therefore, the Daily newspaper (Price and Page) Order, 1960 made thereunder is also unconstitutional. If section 3(1) is struck down as bad, nothing remains in the Act itself.