Indian Media and the Law


Over time, our society has come a long way concerning the sociological and technological development of its people. The enormous surge in the growth of Artificial Intelligence and digitalization has aided this rampant exposure of the public to the new technology and wider access to media. Media in its most general form denotes a place wherein people express and interact with each other via various modes such as audio, video, film, radio, television, and print media. It has become a very convenient and easy way of expressing one’s ideas, thoughts, views, or opinions on a plethora of topics and issues. With rampant globalization, mass media has become a vital tool for connecting people at large immaterial of their geographical locations and territorial boundaries.

The Indian media is known as the fourth pillar of democracy along with the Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary, and thus plays a significant role in the Nation’s governance. Every coin has two sides, on one hand, the whole world seems to be connected so deeply that the physical territories almost seem insignificant while on the other hand such exposure, technological advancement, and increased connectivity have opened doors to various evil entries. To maintain the overall harmony and stability of the Nation, various laws are enacted to regulate this complex intersection of the right to express ourselves and the limitations attached to it.


The word ‘Media’, generally means a physical or electronic platform or a medium wherein people interact with each other to share and exchange their ideas, thoughts, and opinions about a particular subject matter or topic. The diverse and dynamic media consists of the following variants:

  • Print Media including newspapers, flyers, brochures, and magazines
  • Electronic Media including radio, television, and cinema
  • Digital Media including the Internet, mobile phones, and social media

Now, such media houses are not maintained by any single entity, the ownership of media can be of three types, namely:

  1. Public Media: it includes the government-owned organizations such as DD News and All India Radio
  2. Private Media: it is owned and maintained by some individuals or corporations such as Disney, Fox News, ANI, and CNN.
  3. Community Media: it includes those diverse and local websites and channels that are owned by a particular community or people from different geographies and cultures.


The society at large is very much dependent on the social media, news channels, newspapers, television, and radio in shaping the opinions of its population. Our society is indeed full of controversies and paradoxes on one hand we provide the masses the right to free speech while on the other hand, we put some limitations on them. Here, the determination of this line between the end of free speech and the beginning of applicable limitations becomes quite tricky to understand.

media law
[Image Sources: Shutterstock]

The most heated debate goes around the topic of “Media trial”. ‘Media Trail’ or ‘Trial by Media’ denotes the interference of media via newsrooms or newspapers in such a way that people start making preconceived notions regarding the innocence or guilt of the accused in the ongoing matter. These media houses start reporting the matter even before the judicial decision is given and people start making their notions by their understanding of the content being served. The trial by media has both positive and negative impacts on the society at large. There have been numerous cases depicting how the media’s reporting has either helped in making the case or destroyed it. It majorly affects the accused’s life, the victim’s circumstances, and the minds of the judicial prodigies i.e. the judges.

In the case of Saibal Kumar Gupta and Others vs B. K. Sen And Another[1] it was held that “a newspaper intruding into a crime and conducting an independent investigation for which the accused or suspect has been apprehended and then publishing the results of that inquiry would be mischievous. This is deceptive because when one of the country’s regular tribunals is conducting a trial, a trial by newspapers must be outlawed. This is founded on the belief that a newspaper’s investigation tends to obstruct the process of justice, regardless of whether the investigation prejudices the accused or the prosecution.”


In a democratic country like ours, the opinions and voices of the general masses are given huge importance and consideration. Our Constitution guarantees the right to free speech and expression U/A 19(1)(a) to every person in India by which one can express their opinions and views and comment on any particular matter. It confers numerous rights on the masses such as the right to freedom of the Press, the Right to Information, the right to silence, and the right to communicate, etc.

However, what was intended for the welfare of the people has resulted in numerous safety and security concerns for the Nation in addition to hampering public order. With the incessant growth and reachability of media and its variants, various threats are getting inculcated such as hate speech, deep fake AI, frauds, spreading fake news, cyberbullying, cyber terrorism, piracy and privacy infringement, etc. Thus, there exist some limitations to this right of free speech such as:

  • Public order, decency or morality,
  • Hate speech,
  • Defamation,
  • Contempt of Court,
  • Friendly relations with the foreign countries,
  • Security, sovereignty, and integrity of the country as provided U/A 19(2).

Furthermore, as these grounds given under Article 19(2) are exhaustive any restriction outside this clause would be struck down.[2] Media is the medium by which such sharing of opinions takes place among such a large population thus regulating the media is indeed a very crucial thing to minimize and avoid unnecessary chaos.


To overcome the above-discussed problems and issues it becomes significant to ensure proper regulation and monitoring of these media houses whether dealing with print media, digital media, or electronic media. Some of the key legislation governing the media are as under:

  1. The Foreign Relations Act, 1932

Objective: To ensure good and harmonious foreign relations via regulating the media content.

  1. Defence of India Act, 1962

Objective: It gives the central government the authority to establish regulations that forbid printing or publishing any content in any newspaper, preventing reports that are detrimental to civil defense, such as military activities, and prohibiting the publication of information that is detrimental to civil defense.

  1. Parliamentary Proceedings (Protection of Publication) Act, 1956

Objective: To protect the publications of reports of proceedings of Parliament except in newspapers.

  1. The Press (Objectionable Matters) Act, 1951

Objective: To put restrictions upon printing and publication of provocation to commit crime and other objectionable matters.

  1. Contempt of Court Act, 1971

Objective: To ensure no wilful disobedience of judicial orders takes place and thus ensure no interference with the process of administration of justice

  1. Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act, 1956

Objective: To prohibit advertisements relating to any harmful publication i.e., any publication that tends to corrupt a young person aged under 18 years by provoking or instigating such person to commit offenses or acts of violence or cruelty or the like.

  1. The Cinematography Act, 1952

Objective: Provides provisions regarding certification of cinematographed films for exhibition.

  1. The Information Technology Act, 2000

Objective: To regulate the media being shared and uploaded in the digital platform to prevent and protect the masses from digital threats such as cyberbullying, cyber terrorism, and cyber piracy.

  1. The Press Council of India Act, 1978

Objective:  It seeks to uphold and enhance the standards of Indian newspapers and news agencies, safeguard press freedom, and foster a sense of accountability and public service among all journalists.


Media has become an inseparable part of our day-to-day lifestyle, whether it’s a child, an adult, or an aged person everyone is in some or other way involved in some media. However, the incessant growth of this connectivity has its pros and cons. It becomes a tricky task to maintain a balance between the pillars of democracy in a way that the democratic spirit of people’s opinion is protected but not on the verge of public order.

Thus, a balanced approach of serving people with the developments taking place across the globe as well as ensuring that content conforms with the laws of the land is the best approach to preserving the essence of this complex duo of Indian media and law.

Author: Ankita Bhardwaj, in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email to or at  Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney.


  1. Express Newspapers (Private) Ltd. v The Union of India, 1986 AIR 872
  2. Saibal Kumar Gupta and Others vs B. K. Sen And Another, 1961 AIR 633
  3. The Constitution of India, 1950

[1] 1961 AIR 633

[2] Express Newspapers (Private) Ltd. v The Union of India, 1986 AIR 872

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