Kochi: The Kerala High Court ruled on Thursday that the right to access Internet using mobile phone is a fundamental right under the Constitution. Justice P.V. Asha, in a landmark judgment, also said it was part of the right to privacy and the right to education.
The court passed the verdict in a petition filed by Faheema Sherin, a third semester student of B.A. (English) of Sree Narayana College, Chelannur, Kozhikode, challenging her expulsion from the college hostel for violating the restrictions on using the mobile phone from 6 pm to 10 pm. every day. The petitioner challenged the restriction on the ground that it was adversely impacting her access to information and study materials.
The verdict of the single bench assumes importance in the background of ongoing shutdown of internet and mobile phone services in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5.
The court upheld the contention of the petitioner that restrictions on accessing internet by curtailing the use of mobile phones amounts to violation of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution. The court held that the internet accessed through the mobile phone or laptops provides an avenue for students to access knowledge.
Counsel for the petitioner pointed out that the UN Human Rights Council had declared right to internet as a human right in 2016. Justice Asha upheld the contention and cited the Supreme Court verdict in the Vishakha case in this regard. The apex court judgment stated that rights declared by the UN could be read into the relevant Indian laws.
“Going by the aforesaid dictum laid down in the said judgment, the right to have access to Internet becomes the part of right to education as well as right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India”.
The petitioner also objected to the gender discrimination inherent in the restriction as the same was not applicable to the boy’s hostel. The decision of the college hostel was against the stipulations issued by the UGC. The stipulation says that the concern for the safety of women should not be used to “impose discriminatory rules for women.”...