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Access to Internet Fundamental Right: Kerala HC

September 20, 2019 06:34 AM


Access to Internet Fundamental Right: Kerala HC
Authorities could act on complaints of misuse but total restriction is unwarranted: HC

New Delhi:

Access to Internet is a fundamental right which cannot be taken away arbitrarily, a single bench of the Kerala high court has ruled. Justice PV Asha’s order came on a petition of Faheema Shirin, an 18-year-old BA student. The court set aside Shirin’s expulsion and hostel rules which denied Internet access to women students at night.

Shirin contended that mobile and Internet were basic necessities needed to help a student study and develop potential. The court said its misuse could not be grounds for denying access as mobile phones and laptops can be misused any time. Mobile phones have now become a necessary part of life and “unavoidable to survive with dignity and freedom”, the court said and pointed out numerous advantages of technology to argue that such facilities cannot be denied to adults.

“The usage of mobile phones to enable students to have access to Internet will only enhance opportunities of students to acquire knowledge from all available sources based on which they can achieve excellence and enhance quality and standard of education,” the verdict said and quoted SC rulings that freedom of expression included the right to be informed, the right to know and feeling of protection of “expansive connectivity”. Authorities could act on complaints of misuse of phones and laptops, but a total restriction on their use was “unwarranted,” the high court said.

“When the Human Rights Council of the UN has found right to access to Internet is a fundamental freedom and a tool to ensure right to education, a rule which impairs such a right of students cannot be permitted to stand…” the court said, urging students to be counselled on use of phones and laptops and its advantages and disadvantages so that they do not infringe on another’s right to privacy while exercising their own.

The petitioner said that undergraduate students in her college were not allowed to use laptops in hostels and no mobile phones were allowed between 10 pm to 6 am. But this rule was changed from June 24, to disallow mobile phones between 6 pm to 10 pm

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