Indian Express Newspapers v. Union of India, (1985) 1 SCC 641

Author: Romika Narotra, Amity University Noida


On December 6, 1984, the Supreme Court of India heard his case and had carefully considered legal issues regarding freedom of speech and expression and freedom of the press. The applicants Indian Newspapers (Mumbai) Private Limited and Others protested the government’s decision to export the printed material, claiming that it violated the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India. The court made a comprehensive assessment of various issues, including the functioning of customs, notifications issued under the Customs Act 1962 and the impact of payment duty on information and knowledge. He emphasized the state’s responsibility to promote popular education through the press and the need to strike a balance between taxation and constitutional freedom. Finally, the court ruled in favor of the petitioners, ruling that the tax imposed on foreign publications was illegal because it violated their rights to speech and expression. The controversial decision reiterates the important role of the media in democratic societies and emphasizes the need to comply with the rule of law when making policy.


Judgement Cause TitleIndian Express Newspapers v. Union of India
Case Number1 SCC 641
Judgement Date06/12/1984
CourtSupreme court of India
AuthorE. S. Venkataramiah
Citation1986 AIR 515
Legal Provisions InvolvedConstitution of India Article 19(1)(a) Article 13(2) Customs Act, 1962


Legal information of Indian Express Newspapers (Mumbai) Pvt Ltd. Ltd. v. Union of India [AIR 1985 SC 641] is an important judicial decision on the order of importation of newspapers and its impact on freedom of expression and belief. Plaintiffs say this regulation undermines media freedom and reduces sales. Therefore, this decision is considered the most important decision because it establishes a link between freedom of the press and the principles of democracy. This relationship shows the important role of the media in protecting human rights. While Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech and expression, Article 19(2) imposes some restrictions. The correctness of this decision lies in the recognition that freedom of the press is the foundation of democracy and an important element of checks and balances in the administrative process.


Indian Newspapers presentation (Mumbai) Pvt Ltd v. Union of India marked an important era in the field of Indian law regarding the decision of newspapers. The petitioners, including renowned newspapers and their employees, protest that these taxes violate the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression as defined in the Constitution of India. They argue that increases in newspaper prices lead to a decline in circulation, preventing the public from accessing important information and ideas, thus leading to the importance of freedom of content and the role of the media in healthcare. The document demonstrates the balance between economic policy and legal freedom and demonstrates the important role of the decision in supporting fundamental freedom. The court’s decision by the petitioners underscores the importance of upholding freedom of the press as a form of freedom and sets a precedent for future judicial review of the relationship between tax law and law in India. To understand the nuances of this case, a general analysis of the sociopolitical context is necessary. The Indian government’s decision to ban newspaper imports is seen as a way to curb the spread of information and propaganda. This law, considered a restriction of media freedom and an attack on independent media, was widely condemned by the media and non-governmental organizations. The legal battle not only resolves the issue of major import tariffs, but also raises important questions about the nature of democracy and the media’s role in managing government contracts. By challenging these provisions in the law, the petitioners have sought to reaffirm the importance of the media as a fourth medium and protect it from the interference effect of non-interference, while upholding the ideals of freedom and expression in the Constitution of India.


  1. Whether the imposition of import duty on newsprint violates the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Indian Constitution by placing an unreasonable burden on the press.
  2. Whether the imposition of import duty on newsprint disproportionately affects smaller and regional newspapers compared to larger publications, thereby violating the principle of equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
  3. Whether the government’s power to levy taxes under Article 265 of the Indian Constitution can be exercised in a way that effectively stifles the freedom of the press, even if not explicitly mentioned as a permissible restriction under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.


In the landmark case of Indian Express (Mumbai) Pvt Ltd v. Union of India, the plaintiff’s lawyer argued that the newspaper’s decision violated the Constitutional bridge regarding recognition of freedom of speech and expression. They argue that these taxes have an impact on the media, increasing operating costs, hindering their ability to disseminate information to a wider audience, and undermining the core values of press freedom. The petitioners also challenged the legality of import under the Indian Customs Act, 1934, saying some items were not exempt from import, thus posing a burden on the printing industry. While the petitioners acknowledged the government’s right to tax newspapers, they said the tax should be reasonable and should not burden the media given their independent role in society. Therefore, the court asked the Indian government to re-examine the tax policy to ensure that it complies with the provisions of the law and does not burden newspapers.


Responding to the petition, the respondents’ counsel, Union of India, argued that the newspaper’s decision was in the public interest and would save the government money. They argued that the necessity was to increase government revenue, so it had a legitimate purpose other than restricting press freedom. In addition, the Union of India appears to defend the imposition of import duty as a legal prerogative, claiming that the government has the right to control the duty as per the will of the law. They can also emphasize the need to balance freedom of the press with the exercise of financial rights, that is, this need is not too expensive for the media and does not violate the basic principles of freedom of speech and expression.



Indian Express (Bombay) Private Limited v. The Supreme Court of India, Union of India, issued an order to the central government on December 6, 1984, directing the gazetteer to reconsider the tax policy on water exports. The court emphasized that it should be examined whether tax laws violate the rights of speech and expression, especially freedom of the press. The proportionality of the clause represents the principle of adjudication that links freedom of speech and expression with the enduring role of the media in a democratic society. The decision emphasizes the importance of ensuring that government measures, including taxation, do not limit or hinder the media’s ability to fulfill their important duties in democratic structures.


In Indian Express Newspapers (Mumbai) Pvt Ltd v. Union of India , the Supreme Court’s obiter judgment reflected the impact of import duties on newspapers on freedom of speech and expression. The Court recognized that these obligations could suppress information and ideas in newspapers and thus affect social order. However, these observations are cautionary statements made by the Court when discussing the general implications of the case and are not at the heart of the decision.


  1. Global Freedom of Expression
  2. Vidhi Legal Policy
  3. Indian Kanoon
  4. Indian Law Portal

Leave a Reply