While the SC strongly emphasised that the government must protect press freedom in the country, the ruling also reaffirmed that criticism of government policies cannot be characterised as anti-establishment. This means that the government must, in principle, make sure that press freedom is protected for the benefit of the democratic republic, with a focus on ensuring its sound functioning. What the press stands for is the freedom to challenge the status quo and inform the public of the hard facts, and what the SC has accomplished in this particular case is clearing up any confusion and making it even clearer to the government, which has been attempting to stifle a variety of opinions on socioeconomic, political, and ideological issues facing the nation.
The Court’s decision is a significant step towards defending press freedom, which holds the key to a vibrant democracy because a vibrant and healthy democracy like India cannot function unless the press is free to report the news without fear of government censorship. The press is expected to go beyond and clear it off for the people because citizens need to be given unbiased and factual information so they can make informed decisions. Frequently, we see a smoke screen that blocks the path to understanding reality on the ground. The press is meant to go beyond that smoke screen and report facts—a process that cannot, under any circumstances, be restricted or forbidden.
The SC’s decision serves as a timely reminder to the government that it must uphold the right to freedom of expression, which is a key tenet of the nation’s democracy. Any attempt to curtail this right must be seen as a direct assault on democracy’s very foundation. The judiciary’s affirmation of the fourth pillar of India’s constitutional order—an independent press—is to be celebrated as a significant triumph for the nation’s citizenry in general and the press in particular. The judiciary of India is renowned for noting infringements of fundamental rights and assuring their protection, and it has once again demonstrated this reputation with a bang.
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