Freedom of the press is a fundamental right that is protected by the Indian Constitution under the larger umbrella of the freedom of speech and expression in Article 19(1)(a). The Supreme Court of India has frequently intervened to protect this right, delivering landmark judgments that shape the constitutional understanding of press freedom. Here are a few significant cases:
- Romesh Thappar vs State of Madras (1950): The Supreme Court struck down a Madras law that banned the entry and circulation of the English journal “Cross Roads”. The court ruled that the law violated the freedom of speech and expression, and the ban was a restriction on the liberty of the press.
- Brij Bhushan and Another vs The State of Delhi (1950): The Supreme Court ruled that the imposition of pre-censorship on an English weekly of Delhi, ‘The Organiser’, was unconstitutional and violated Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
- Sakal Papers Ltd vs Union of India (1962): The Supreme Court struck down the Daily Newspaper (Price and Page) Act, 1960, stating it violated the freedom of press as it directly affected the components of a newspaper i.e., volume and circulation.
- Bennett Coleman & Co. vs. Union of India (1972): The Supreme Court held that restrictions on the procurement and allocation of newsprint was a violation of freedom of speech and expression as it directly impacted the circulation and thus the freedom of the press.
- Indian Express Newspapers vs Union of India (1985): The Supreme Court held that the imposition of custom duties on newsprint was a burden on the right to freedom of speech and expression and could not be justified under Article 19(2).
- Securities and Exchange Board of India vs. Sahara India Real Estate Corporation Limited and Others (2012): The court upheld the right of the press to report on hearings, stating that the public had a right to know about proceedings of such nature.
- Shreya Singhal vs Union of India (2015): While primarily about online speech, the judgment reiterated the principle that restrictions on speech and expression should be as minimal as possible, and this naturally extends to the press as well.
Please note that while these are Supreme Court rulings, there are also various important High Court rulings related to freedom of the press. Also, some cases indirectly affect the freedom of the press even if they may not explicitly deal with issues related to media or journalism.