Access to Internet is a Fundamental Right: Kerala High Court

A single bench of the Kerala high court headed by Justice PV Asha has ruled that access to the Internet is a fundamental right which cannot be taken away arbitrarily.

Case before Kerala High Court

  • The court was hearing a petition filed by Faheema Shirin, an 18-year-old BA student which questioned the hostel rules which denied Internet access to women students at night.
  • The petitioner contended that mobile and Internet were basic necessities needed to help a student study and develop potential.
  • The petitioner challenged her expulsion for not adhering to restrictions on the use of the mobile phone.

Judgment of Kerala High Court

  • The court set aside Shirin’s expulsion and hostel rules which denied Internet access to women students at night.
  • The court 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.
  • The court held that “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 court observed that 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, such restriction could not be permitted to be enforced.
  • Citing the judgment of Supreme Court in the case of S.Rengarajan and others v. P. Jagjivan Ram (1989) the Kerala High Court held that “ 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 further said that the 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.

The undergraduate students in the women’s hostel of Sree Narayana College in Kozhikode 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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