The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) had recognized a set of rights as inalienable to mankind for the purpose of protecting human dignity and freedoms. Two of the most essential rights recognized by this Magna Carta of Human Rights are the right to freedom of speech and expression and the right to fair trial. These two rights are generally considered as integral and inalienable for protecting the essential elements of liberty and freedom in a democratic society governed by rule of law. In the era of telecommunications, media has assumed a position of great significance in both protecting and promoting free speech, access to information and protecting major socio-economic, civil, political and cultural rights of the people. Both traditional media like newspaper, television and radio, and new age media like internet and the social networking sites, twitter feeds, facebook updates, blogs, youtube videos etc are playing a significant role towards this effort. But many a times the various inalienable rights granted to the individuals comes in conflict with each other and a conscious effort needs to be made to bring a balance between the different concerns. A traditional area of tripartite conflict is between the media, citizens and the judiciary. It is an essential right of the media to freely promote access to information and free and fair speech; right of the individuals to protect their privacy and personal integrity relating to their jobs, family, business, religious beliefs etc.;, and right of the judiciary to render free and fair resolutions to disputes between the parties and promote proper administration of justice. The five judge bench decision in the case of Sahara India v. SEBI (2012) is a renewed effort to resolve the traditional controversy by the highest court of judicature in India.
The fundamental rights chapter of the Constitution of India has conferred certain rights to the citizens as fundamental for the promotion of justice, equality and liberty. Article 19 of the Constitution has recognized fundamental rights like freedom of speech and expression, to assemble without peacefully and without arms, to form associations or unions, to move freely and reside in any part of India and to practice any profession or occupation, or conduct any business or trade. Other articles of the Constitution has granted additional rights and freedoms like right to life and liberty, religious and cultural freedom, freedom from human exploitation and atrocities, and right to equality. But none of these rights are absolute in nature and are always subjected to reasonable restrictions for the benefit and well being of the larger sections of the society. Article 19(2) of the Constitution recognizes certain important grounds of reasonable restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression like ‘in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.’ (emphasis added)