In a significant ruling, the Kerala High Court on Thursday declared that the right to access to Internet is a fundamental right forming part of right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution. The right to Internet access also forms part of right to education, added a single bench of Justice P.V. Asha.
The order came on a petition filed by a student at a college in Kozhikode challenging restrictions on usage of mobile phones in girls' hostel, reported Livelaw.
In her petition, Faheema Shirin, a BA student of Sree Narayana College, alleged that she was expelled from the college for not abiding by the restrictions on mobile phones in the hostel. According to her, the inmates are not allowed to use mobile phones between 6 pm and 10 pm.
The petitioner argued that the restrictions were hampering the students' learning process by depriving them of access to information.
According to sflc.in, the students had earlier raised concerns regarding this unreasonable rule to the Deputy Warden of the Women’s Hostel. Instead of having an open discussion on students’ grievances, they were informed by the authorities that those not willing to abide by the hostel rules would be required to vacate their hostel rooms.
The court accepted the petitioner's contention that the restrictions on the use of mobile phones amounted to violation of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 (1) (a).
It may be noted that Kerala had become the first state in the country to declare Internet access as a human right. In the 2017 state budget, the CPI(M) government had earmarked a special fund aimed at providing Internet connections to 20 lakh families either at subsidised rate or completely free of cost.
Advocate Legith T. Kottakkal, who appeared for the petitioner, also pointed out that the United Nation's Human Rights Council in 2016 declared right to Internet to be human right.
In her order, Justice Asha observed that the mobile phones, once a luxury, have become an inevitable part of daily human life.