Article 19 is the backbone of Part III of the Constitution. This Article guarantees to the citizens of India the enjoyment of certain civil liberties of free nation. Freedoms secured under Article 19 can be claimed by citizens only. The freedoms enumerated in Article 19(1) are those great and basic rights which are recognised as .the natural rights inherent in the status of a citizen. But these rights are not absolute rights, for they are liable to be curtailed by laws made or to be made by the State to the extent mentioned in clause (2) to (6) of Article 19.
Article 19 provides the following freedoms to the citizens of India:
(a) Freedom of speech and expression,
(b) Freedom to assemble peaceably and without arms,
(c) Freedom to form associations or unions,
(d) Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India
(e) Freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India,
(f) [Omitted by Constitution (44th Amendment)
(g) Freedom to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
Article 19 (2) to 19 (6) deal with restrictions to be imposed by the legislature. The rights guaranteed under Article 19 are not absolute rights; hence the State is empowered to impose reasonable restrictions upon the peaceful enjoyment of freedoms guaranteed by Article 19. The restrictions which are imposed must be reasonable restrictions; they cannot be arbitrary or selective.
Freedoms Available to Citizens Only
The rights under Article 19 are guaranteed primarily for the citizens only. The Corporations though they are persons in the eye of law, but they are not citizens. Hence, they cannot enforce the rights guaranteed under Article 19.
In Bank Nationalization case, AIR 1970 S.C. 40, the Supreme Court held that the fundamental rights of shareholders as citizens are not lost when they associate to form a company.
As explained above, freedoms detailed in Article 19 (1) are not absolute freedoms rather they are subject to certain exceptions which are provided under Article 19 (2) to 19 (6) of the Constitution. These restrictions may be imposed by any authority which is competent to make law.
The expression “reasonable restrictions” seeks to strike a balance between the individual rights guaranteed under Article 19(1) and the social control necessary as permitted by clauses (2) to (6) of Article 19. Hence, the restrictions to be constitutionally valid must satisfy the following two tests:
(1) It must be for the purposes mentioned in clauses (2) to (6) of Article 19;
(2) It must be reasonable restriction. What constitutes Reasonable Restriction?
The term, “reasonable restriction” has no where been defined in the Constitution. The test of reasonableness has to be applied to each individual statute impugned and no absolute standard or general pattern of reasonableness can be laid down as applicable to all cases.
However, the Supreme Court, has laid down in Amnanchala Nadar v. State of Madras, AIR 1959 S.C. 300 that in order to be reasonable the restrictions must have a reasonable relation to the object which the legislature seeks to achieve and must not go in excess of that object. However, the Supreme Court has prescribed the following guidelines for determining the reasonableness of restrictions:
(1) The reasonableness of a restriction has to be determined in an objective manner and from the point of view of the persons upon whom the restrictions are to be imposed. In N.B. Khare v. State of Delhi, AIR 1950 S.C. 11, it has been held that it is the effect of law which constitutes the tests of its reasonableness, its object whether good or bad is immaterial for this purpose.
(2) In judging the validity of restrictions, the courts have necessarily to approach it from the standpoint of view of furthering the social interest which it is the purpose to the legislation to promote and the situation which presented itself to the legislature when the impugned law was enacted.
(3) In Joyoti Prasad v. Union Territory of Delhi, AIR 1961 S.C. 1602, the court held that the reasonableness has to be judged from the point of not only the surrounding circumstances but all contemporaneous legislations passed as a part of single scheme. It is the reasonableness of the restriction and not the law which is to be found out.
(4) A restriction to be valid must have a rational or proximate relation with the grounds for which the legislature is entitled to impose restrictions. The grounds are laid down in Article 19 (2) to 19 (6) of the Constitution for the enjoyment of freedoms contained in Article 19.
(5) Restrictions imposed for securing the objects of the Directive Principles of State Policy may be regarded as reasonable restrictions.
(6) The court must determine the reasonableness of restriction objectively from the substantive as well as procedural standpoint.
(7) The court will examine the reasonableness of the restriction but not the reasonableness of the impugned legislation.
(8) Matters of common knowledge and history of the times may assume importance in determining the reasonableness.
(9) Background of the facts and circumstances under which the impugned legislation or order was passed taking into account the nature of evil sought to be remedied by such law and the ratio of harm caused to individual citizens by the proposed remedy, all must be taken into account while testing the reasonableness of the restriction.
(10) It is the courts and not the legislature which has to judge anally whether a restriction Is reasonable or not.
In Sunil Batra (No. 2) v. Delhi Administration, AIR 1980 S.C. 1579, the Supreme Court has held that the practice of keeping under-trial prisoners with the convicts In jail, violates the test of reasonableness under Article 19. Clauses (2) to (6) of Article 19 clearly provides the grounds on the basis of which the restrictions are to be imposed on the specific freedoms guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution.
It may, however, be noted that reasonableness connotes that the limitation imposed upon a person in the enjoyment of a right should not be arbitrary or of an excessive nature. The reasonableness of restriction has to be determined in an objective manner and from the standpoint of the Interests of general public.