ACCESS TO INTERNET IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
Updated: Sep 22
Author: Vrinda Mittal, 4th year learner pursuing BBA.,LLB from Symbiosis International University.
No one’s voice can be suppressed as given in the Article 19 of the Indian Constitution and same was stated by the court in its judgement that, online self-expression cannot be banned in this contemporary time as this is the phase of transformative digital revolution. The corona pandemic has sped up the shift to virtual world. As the world halted, all sectors have moved towards internet, preparing for complete digitisation so the limits between the real and the virtual obscured unimaginably. Because of this shift and the subsequent reliance, it has become basic to perceive the significance of the web.
Evolution of Indian Jurisprudence:
The Indian High Court in 2019, in Fahima Shrin v. Province of Kerala, perceived that Right to Internet access shapes a piece of The Right to Privacy and The Right to Education under Article 21 of The Constitution. The second milestone judgment was conveyed by the Supreme Court of India, continuing in the strides of the Fahima Shrin case. Prior to repudiating the status of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Government had requested a sweeping restriction on all communication services, including the internet. Anuradha Bhasin a journalist filed a petition, challenging the validity of the orders.
The Court, in its choice, stood one stage away from pronouncing Right to Internet as a different fundamental right, and on second thought, held that the internet is a medium through which other key rights are worked out. It held: “the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a), and the right to carry on any trade or business under 19(1)(g), using the medium of internet is constitutionally protected”.
After the Anuradha Bhasin judgment, the Government rushed to re-establish the internet in Jammu and Kashmir; in any case, the speed was limited to 2G. This limitation was additionally challenged in the Supreme Court of India, where the petitioners fought that because of this limitation, a ton of problems and disruption was caused to individuals of the locale, particularly specialists and to students.
The reason given by the organization of the UT of J&K was that the restriction was put as a ground of national security.
The Supreme Court, while perceiving the need to adjust public safety against fundamental rights of residents, gave no instant aid to individuals. The Court likewise noticed that “the degree of restriction and the scope of the same, both territorially and temporally, must stand in relation to what is actually necessary to combat an emergent situation”, and requested the public authority to set up an audit board to survey the closures and furthermore look at the suitability of different choices recommended by the applicants.
Notwithstanding, the Court at last decided that the orders limiting web speed were not illegal.
SC Judgment - Anuradha Bhasin vs Union of India and Ors:
Article 19 (1) of the Indian Constitution guarantees to every citizen right to freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right and its definition has been dilated by Supreme Court in many other judgements. It is not wrong to say that nowadays, the Internet is the primary source of information. The Court also held that, the freedom of speech and expression [Article 19 (1)(a)] and freedom to practice any trade or occupation [Article 19 (1)(g)] are the fundamental rights and enjoyment of internet is a matter of constitutional security. Also, the fundamental rights should be reasonable within the restriction guaranteed under
Article 19(2) and (6) of the Constitution. Therefore, not permitting the use of internet for a long-time frame is not permissible. It must be intended for a sensible span and occasional audit ought to be finished. The court likewise said the orders suspending the Internet would need to fundamentally state how the activity was supported and proportionate to the impending danger to the rule of law. Before putting any ban on internet will be subjected to scrutiny. The conclusion drawn by the court was that Internet closures can't be subjective and it can be challenged in the court of law.
The significance of the internet by courts in India has gradually prepared for the acknowledgment of a different Fundamental Right. To ensure that internet access isn't only an advantage of the special, and to guarantee minimum limitations on its access, the initial step is remembering it as a different Fundamental Right. UNHRC General Assembly, in 2016, expressed admittance to the Internet as fundamental right. Various countries like Spain, Costa Rico, Finland, France, the European Union, Estonia, and Greece had announced Internet Access a Basic Human Right. If internet is given as a human right then it will help the individuals to live an easy life and gather all the information on the web itself. World will be soon replaced by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and everything will be done on a single vocal command, therefore to take advantage of these assets’ internet depicts a huge role.
Sectors that got impacted
The Travel Industry: Countries like Kashmir, Darjeeling and Rajasthan, have a solid dependence on tourisms and due to internet shutdown, these cities have faced a huge loss. Shutdown have deteriorated the issues by cutting communications between the organizations and the customers.
E- Commerce: The citizen of India is inclined more towards the web shopping and because of the close of the internet, this sector was hugely affected along with the digital payment companies. Suppliers who had stocked up their web portals with huge stock has also faced declined in their earnings.
Education: Internet closures have affected schools. Various students were not able to register for exams and access to study material was also a challenge. Due to low or no connectivity schools and colleges were not able to conduct online tests and there was delay in everything.
Internet plays a vital part in the improvement of an economy as we are living in a period where Internet is a fundamental piece of individual life. In Anuradha Bhasin versus Union of India and Ors. the Apex Court held that the fundamental rights such as freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation enjoys constitutional protection but with subject to reasonable restriction as given under Article 19 (2). Suspension of Internet not just hinder leading organizations online rather it additionally deters a person from their source of livelihood, even if there should arise an occurrence of crises Fundamental Right given under Article 21 of the Constitution of India can't be removed.
As held in Maneka Gandhi versus Union of India a law preventing a person from getting individual freedom' will be a question of law under Article 21, Article 19, and Article 14 which are the Golden Triangle of the Constitution of India and subsequently are fundamental Human Rights. Rights presented under Article 14, and Article 21 are indisputably the central rights which can't be diminished. Henceforth, Internet Access goes under the boundary of the Golden Triangle.