Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd vs Proprietors Of Indian Express

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 23/09/1988

COURT: Supreme Court of India

JUDGES: Mukharji, Sabyasachi (J)

REFERENCE: 1989 AIR 190, 1988 SCR Supl. (3) 212


Petitioner: Reliance Petrochemicals Ltd Respondent: Proprietors Of Indian Express

SUBJECT: The judgment Revolves around the freedom of Press in the light of reasonable restrictions.

FACTS: The petitioners in this case filed a petition seeking the Court’s injunction against the Respondant’s from publishing any article related to the issue of debentures.

Previously, on 26 August 1988, the court issued an injunction restraining 6 respondants from printing, or publishing any article in any of the issues of Indian Express.

Upon this injunction, the respondants asked for this injunction to be set aside, which the court did and hence, on 31 August 1988, the Respondants published the article.

The petitioners in the present case, reiterate their request for the injunction to continue as even though there was over- subscription of the debentures, the allotment day had not expired and the subscribers could still withdraw


The Indian Constitution

Article 19(1)(a): Freedom of speech and expression

  1. Whether the injunction should continue or not?

Petitioner contention:

  • It was stated that the reliance public issue was the largest in India, and would greatly suffer if published.
    • It would cause a lot of interference and injustice.
    • The trials conducted by the newspapers, while the case is sub-judice is contempt of court.
    • There should not be any obstacle related to the public issue.
    • There is an imminent and present danger of the prejudice caused.
    • The trials could effect the judgments being pronounced by the Court.
Respondant’s contention:
  • The injunction should be vacated.
  • Stopping the expression of ideas and speech, was a clear violation of freedom of press

under article 19.

  • The issues are public and hence, public debate cannot be curbed.
  • The judges cannot be influenced since they are sitting on the bench, professionally trained.

The court’s view:

  • There are no fixed standards to check imminent danger. That has to be seen from the facts and circumstances of the case.
  • The test is seen on the basis of Balance of Convenience.
  • In the present situation, the issue of debentures have been closed, and any prejudice leading to withdrawl by the general public does not arise. Hence, no imminent danger.
  • And The balance of convenience lies in favour of the respondants.
  • Any further issuance of injunction would violate the fundamental right enshrined in 19(1)((a).
  • Also, the court states that the “right to know” is also a fundamental right that must be respected.

CONCLUSION: Finally, it was decided by the court that the fundamental right of press cannot be snatched, merely on the grounds of apprehension of danger. The court takes a narrow interpretation of the restrictions, in comparison to the freedoms enlisted in clause 1 of Article

  1. Here, the court firmly determined that there was no real or substantial danger and that the public has the equal right to know.