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Access to Internet is a basic right: Kerala HC
What to study?
For Prelims: Right to freedom and privacy, how are they protected?
For Mains: Threats to these rights, how can they be guaranteed?
Context: The Kerala High Court has held that the right to have access to the Internet is part of the fundamental right to education as well as the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution.
What’s the issue?
- A college student from Kozhikode was recently expelled from the college hostel for using her mobile phone beyond the restricted hours.
- This was challenged in the court.
- The petitioner contended that the internet, accessible through mobile phones or laptops, provided an avenue for the students to gather knowledge.
Observations made by the HC:
- When the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has found that the right of access to Internet is a fundamental freedom and a tool to ensure right to education, a rule or instruction which impairs the said right of the students cannot be permitted to stand in the eye of law.
- The action of the college authorities infringed the fundamental freedom as well as privacy and would adversely affect the future and career of students who want to acquire knowledge and compete with their peers.
- The court while citing the observations of the SupremeCourt in the S.Rengarajan and others v. P. Jagjivan Ram (1989) case said “ the fundamental freedom under Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted only for the purposes mentioned in Article 19(2) and the restriction must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not the quicksand of convenience or expediency.”
The Court has observed rightly in the sense that the hostel authorities are expected to enforce only those rules and regulations for enforcing discipline. Enforcement of discipline shall not be by blocking the ways and means of the students to acquire knowledge.
Besides, college authorities as well as parents should be conscious of the fact that the students in a college hostel are adults capable of taking decisions as to how and when they have to study.
UN view on this:
UN, in 2016, made a series of statements collectively describing that internet access as a basic human right.
The basic elements of this include:
- not intentionally prevent or disrupt access to or dissemination of information online.
- states should consider formulating and adopting national internet-related public policies that have the objective of universal access and enjoyment of human rights at their core through transparent and inclusive processes with all stakeholders.
- promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, on the internet and other information and communication technology.
- how the internet can be an important tool for fostering citizen and civil society participation, for the realisation of development in every community and for exercising human rights.
Sources: the Hindu.