• Recently, while setting aside an externment order against a journalist, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that a person’s fundamental right to reside and to move about freely anywhere in India cannot be refused on “flimsy grounds”.
  • Externment orders prevent the movement of a person in certain areas.
  • According to the SC, the drastic action of externment should only be taken in exceptional cases, to maintain law and order in a locality and/or prevent a breach of public tranquility and peace.

Important points:

  • Article 19(1)(d) of the Indian Constitution entitles every citizen to move freely throughout the territory of the country.
  • This right is protected against only state action and not private individuals.
  • Moreover, it is available only to the citizens and to shareholders of a company but not to foreigners or legal persons like companies or corporations, etc.
  • The freedom of movement has two dimensions, viz, internal (right to move inside the country) and external (right to move out of the country and right to come back to the country).
  • Article 19 protects only the first dimension.
  • The second dimension is dealt by Article 21 (Right to life and personal liberty).
  • Restrictions on this freedom can only be imposed on two grounds which are mentioned in the Article 19(5) of the constitution itself, namely, the interests of the general public and the protection of interests of any scheduled tribe. For example:
  • The Supreme Court held that the freedom of movement of prostitutes can be restricted on the grounds of public health and in the interest of public morals.
  • The entry of outsiders in tribal areas is restricted to protect the distinctive culture, language, customs and manners of scheduled tribes and to safeguard their traditional vocation and properties against exploitation.
  • While hearing the case of Shaheen Bagh protests, the SC declared that there is no absolute right to protest, and it could be subjected to the orders of the authority regarding the place and time.
  • In the context of discussing the limits of free speech and what may tantamount to hate speech, the SC has recently held that “Historical truths must be depicted without in any way disclosing or encouraging hatred or enmity between different classes or communities.”


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