The Lawmatics Freedom of Press Series

The case of ‘Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras, (1950)’ was an important case on the freedom of speech and expression, which came before the supreme court through Article 32.

Romesh Thapar

Bench in the Case

Majority Judgment- The Judgment of Kania C.J., Mehr Chand Mahajan, Mukherjea and Das JJ. was delivered by Patanjali Sastri J- [Quashed the Order]

Minority Judgment-

Fazl Ali J. delivered a separate judgment- [Dismissed the Petition]

Facts of the case

The petitioner was the printer, publisher and editor of a then started weekly journal in English called Cross Roads printed and published in Bombay. The Government of Madras, the respondents, in the case, in exercise of their powers under section 9 (1-A) of the Madras Maintenance of Public Order Act, 1949 issued an order on 1st March, 1950, whereby they imposed a ban upon the entry and circulation of the journal in that State, after claiming that, the order is to secure public safety and the maintenance of public order.

On this, the petitioner claimed that the said order contravenes the fundamental right of the petitioner to freedom of speech and expression conferred on him by article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution and he challenges the validity of section 9 (1-A) of the impugned Act as being void under article 13 (1) of the Constitution by reason of its being inconsistent with his fundamental right aforesaid.

Contention of the Advocate-General of Madras

The AG raised preliminary objection that petitioner should have first approached the High Court under Article 226. But the court said that Article 32 provides a “guaranteed” remedy for the enforcement of those rights, and this remedial right is itself made a fundamental right by being included in Part III. This Court is thus constituted the protector and guarantor of fundamental rights, and it cannot, consistently with the responsibility so laid upon it, refuse to entertain applications seeking protection against infringements of such rights.

Turning to the case, the court said that there can be no doubt that freedom of speech and expression includes freedom of propagation of ideas, and that freedom is ensured by the freedom of circulation. Liberty of circulation is as essential to that freedom as the liberty of publication. Indeed, without circulation the publication would be of little value.

And the majority in the case held that the order of the Government of Madras would be a violation of the petitioner’s fundamental right under article 19 (1) (a). The order of the respondents prohibiting the entry and circulation of the petitioner’s journal in the State of Madras was quashed.


Romesh Thapar v. State of Madras, 1950 AIR 124, 1950 SCR 594