Right to Access Internet Part Of Right to Privacy, RTE: Kerala HC

The right to access Internet is a fundamental right forming part of Right to Privacy under Article 21, the HC said.

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Hindi Female

The right to access Internet is a fundamental right forming part of right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution, the Kerala High Court said on Thursday, 19 September, adding that it also forms a part of right to education, according to a Livelaw report.

A single-judge Bench, Justice PV Asha held:

“When the Human Rights Council of the United Nations have found that right to 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 court was hearing a writ petition filed by Faheema Shirin, a BA English student of Sree Narayana College in Kozhikode, who had knocked the HC doors after being expelled from the college hostel for not abiding by the restrictions on mobile phone usage.

The inmates of the girls’ hostel were reportedly banned from using mobile phones between 6 pm and 10 pm on all days.

The petitioner had reportedly protested the restriction along with few of her colleagues, claiming that it was a hindrance in their learning process as the ban on mobile phone usage essentially deprived them of access to information, the report said.

Petitioner's counsel Legith T Kottakkal argued that the UN had declared right to Internet a human right in 2014.

The HC bench then cited the SC’s Vishakha judgment, and said the rights declared by UN bodies can be read into Indian law.

Observing that mobile phones have become “part and parcel of the day to day life”, the court said easy access to Internet through mobile phones will aid the education of students.

A student above 18 years shall be given the freedom to choose the mode for her studies provided it does not cause any disturbance to others, the court said.

Holding that schools in Kerala promote digitalisation with smart class rooms and the modern technology has occupied all the fields even from primary section, the court added:

“Thus the usage of mobile phones in order to enable the students to have access to internet will only enhance the 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 petitioner also alleged that the restriction was discriminatory on grounds of gender as no such restrictions were in place at the boys' hostel. The hostel management, however, said the restriction was to maintain students' discipline, so as to ensure that they study without distractions.

Parents’ consent to the said restriction doesn’t make it valid, as students, who are more than 18 years of age, have decisional autonomy, the court held.

(With inputs from Livelaw)

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