R Rajgopal V State Of Tamil Nadu 1994 6 SCC 632



This landmark judgment is about an auto driver and an autobiography writer who had been sentenced to death for murder during his life imprisonment he shared about the details of his illegal connections with prison and public officials involving in all sorts of illegal activities; as the writing revealed the truth behind the person in bar, his publication was attempted to being stopped to safeguard rights of petitioners through article 191a of the indian constitution as it had defamatory content to get published with an intention to defend themselves irrespective any true facts the court carefully discussed about the solitude rights of the citizen and decided the case by keeping both sides of the coin in mind which definitely has a crystal clear reflection on the judgment of it where the honble court held that even the higher authority or the government has no absolute right to infringe prior commentary which became an image of necessity of right to privacy and hence maintained the supremacy of law.

KeywordsRight to privacy, freedom of press, defamation, auto Shankar, prior restraint.


Judgement Cause TitleR Rajgopal V State Of Tamil Nadu
Case NumberCivil Writ Petition No. 264
Judgement Date07th of October 1994
CourtThe Supreme Court of India
QuorumHon’ble Shri Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, Justice S.C. Sen
AuthorHon’ble Shri Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy
Citation1995 AIR 264 1994 SCC(6)632 JT 1994(6) 514 1994 SCALE(4) 494
Legal Provisions InvolvedArticle 19(1)(a) r/w Article 19(2), Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, Section 499 and 500 of the Indian Penal Code and Official Secrets Act, 1923


The case of R. Rajgopal and Ors v. State of Tamil Nadu established a pivotal precedent at the junction of freedom of speech, privacy rights, and the role of the press. It centered around Auto Shankar, a death row prisoner seeking to block the publication of his autobiography. The court’s ruling balanced the fundamental right to freedom of expression with the protection of individual privacy and matters of public interest. It emphasized the critical role of the press in scrutinizing public officials while upholding dignity and privacy. This landmark case highlighted the intricate principles guiding media authority and individuals’ rights, setting a precedent for courts to navigate disputes concerning freedom of speech while respecting privacy rights and public interest.


  1. The case centralized on Shankar an Auto driver, who was accused of murder and death sentence was declared for him.
  2. While in the prison, he wrote an autobiography and mentioned everything about his activities and life including all about illegal connections with state officials involved in all sorts of unlawful activities.
  3. Before his death sentence Shankar wrote requesting that to issue his biography in the entitled magazine.
  4. The moment where the prisoner personnel got to know this immediately, the prison official warned the petitioner that his book contained absolutely false and defamatory information.
  5. They threatened him that if the book gets published he will take required legal action against him.
  6. Unwanted interference from higher authorities showed that they sought of tried to protect their freedom to publish under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution.
  7. Despite their enormous efforts the High Court dismissed their petition as a result they brought the matter in front of the Supreme Court under Article 32 praying to preclude respondents from infringing the publication.


  1. Whether any citizen of India can be prevented from publishing any others biography?
  2. Whether the freedom of press qualifies the media to publish an unofficial content of a citizen’s life?
  3. Whether the state public officers are qualified to assess a beforehand restraint on the media to forestall their defamation?
  4. Whether the prison executives are entitled to prohibit the printing of a prisoner’s biography on the ground the that he is behind the bars and cannot use any legal remedies in order to protect his rights and thus they are authorized to act on behalf?


  1. The counsels for Petitioner / Appellant submitted that, it’s the petitioner right to publish his biography.
  2. The announcement of issuing was fragmented as his illegal connections with the state officials was disclosed.
  3. Various instances happened where petitioner’s press was raided.
  4. Apprehension occurred in petitioner about the damage that might be caused by the police.
  5. They also contended that, the petitioner was free to publish his writing under Article 19(a) of the Indian Constitution.
  6. Also argued that the communications made in the book are not true and shouldn’t be relied hence, it was a clear cut defamatory for the state. 


  • The counsels for Respondent submitted that, the prisoner absolutely denied publishing any sort of book and he didn’t entitle any authority to his advocate for publishing the book or biography.
  • The publication is a fundamental right given in the Constitution of India but these has some restrictions too and these were violated in this case.
  • Allegations made about the prisoner officials that they have tortured him and had no sufficient, reasonable and valid grounds to justify it.
  • The book was written by Shankar himself hence all the facts and incidents mentioned in it were true.


    • The Constitution of India

      Article 19(1)(a) – All citizens shall have the right to freedom of speech and expression.

      • The Indian penal Code

         Section 499 – Defamation: Anybody who tries to impute anyone by words, either by spoken, reading, signs or by visible representations intends to harm somebody’s reputation is said to be defaming that person.

        Section 500 – Punishment for defamation: Anybody who defames anybody will be punished with simple imprisonment for two years or with fine or both.  


        The writing publication is not at all valid which means the state has the right to sue for defamation but preventing the publication before hand is not admissible also stated that auto Shankar has public records about his activities which was disrupting for the public in general so publication can be done with or without his consent but when it comes to his personal life if they publish something regarding this they will be invading and violating his privacy rights same is applicable to the public officials who had illegal connections with him have no right to stop publishing before time.


        The Hon’ble Court held on the basis that articles books or stories can be published about Shankar because he has public records but when it comes to publishing about his personal private life including his family affairs consent must be taken prior to publishing regarding this because if not done so they are disregarding his or her right to privacy no body not even the state has no right to stop its countrymen from employing solitude rights.


        Right to privacy is the highlight of this decision therefore it ruled that every Indian citizen has the right except any kind of intervention and it is a crucial element of Article 21 so everybody can fully enjoy this right lawfully.


        From the above analysis we can say conclude that judgement for this case was quite tough to say as it was dealing with the fundamental right of an individual although the court did a fair and reasonable justice to this case but it would have been much better if the court could have decided to rename the book instead of a autobiography it could have been published just to make the public in general aware about the officials in their state.


        Important Cases Referred

        1. Kharak Singh v the State of UP 1962
        2. Govind v the State of MP 1975
        3. Griswold v Connecticut 1965
        4. Roe v Wade 1973

        Important Statutes Referred

        1. Official Secrets Act, 1923
        2. The Constitution of India
        3. The Indian Penal Code, 1860

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