Azam Khan – Freedom of Speech and Expression

Kaushal Kishore v State Of Uttar Pradesh

The Constitution Bench held that the Freedom of Speech of public officials cannot be restricted in favour of another persons fundamental rights. However, they held that the State has an obligation to protect the fundamental rights of citizen's even against non-state actors such as other private persons.

Decided

Parties

Petitioner: Kaushal Kishor

Lawyers: Fali S Nariman (Amicus Curiae); Harish Salve (Amicus Curiae); Rajeev Dhavan

Respondent: State of Uttar Pradesh; Azam Khan; Director General of Police, Uttar Pradesh; Senior Superintendent of Police, Lucknow; Senior Superintendent of Police, Central Bureau of Investigation.

Lawyers: Kapil Sibal; K K Venugopal

Case Details

Case Number: WP (Crl.) 113/2016

Next Hearing:

Last Updated: January 19, 2023

Key Issues

1

Can the Freedom of Speech and Expression be restricted on grounds outside of those contained in Article 19(2) of the Constitution?

2

Can citizens claim right to life and liberty violations under Article 21 of the Constitution against non-State actors like other private individuals?

3

Does the State have an obligation to protect citizens from violations of their Right to Life and Personal Liberty from other non-State actors?

4

Can statements made by public officials be attributed to the government if it is linked to state affairs?

5

Can governments be held responsible for the statements of public officials which result in constitutional rights violations?

Case Description

On 29th July 2016, a young girl and her mother were allegedly gang-raped on National Highway 91. When they were on the National Highway passing through Bulandshahr, their car was stopped by criminals who dragged the 13-year-old girl and her mother out and raped them in a field nearby. When the victim of the gangrape filed an FIR, Uttar Pradesh Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan made a statement terming it a ‘political conspiracy against the Uttar Pradesh Government.

In August 2016, the victims approached the Supreme Court and filed a writ petition, seeking action against the minister for making such remarks about the incident. Fearing the absence of a fair investigation in Uttar Pradesh, they requested the Court to transfer the case to another State. The Court engaged Mr Fali S Nariman to assist the Court as Amicus Curiae and ordered a stay on the investigation. Mr Nariman pointed out that the Court is constitutionally obliged to evolve new tools to enhance the cause of justice by instilling public confidence in the fairness of trial, clarifying principles of law on interference with police investigation, and clarifying what is to be done if comments are made on the investigation or on the victim by a public personality or a public servant.

On 17th November 2016, the Court ordered an unconditional apology to be submitted by Mr Azam Khan.

The Court identified the core issue as – whether the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) is restricted by only Article 19(2), or is it also restricted by other fundamental rights, specifically Article 21.

On 20th April 2017, the Court referred the matter to a five-judge constitution bench and requested the Amicus Curiae to formulate questions of law for the Bench to consider. The questions were framed and submitted to the Court on 31st July 2017.

On 23 October 2019, a Constitution Bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M.R. Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat began hearing the matter.