Internet is one the list of essentials in modern times, it is a vital part of everyone’s day to day life. The Internet basically controls us in everyday lives. For us, it is very easy to say that we get to use the internet every day and that is not a small thing to say and it would come as a shock that there are 60% of people in the world who don’t get to use the internet. Forget about everyday basis, this percentage of people doesn’t even have the right to internet.
Now if we look at India which is a developing country, we see that only 1 out of 10 people have access to internet. Then there are many countries which don’t allow their citizens to access specific contents. There are many restrictions imposed on various contents. So, if we look at today’s generation, internet is a must and there is no development without digitalization. In 2016, the United Nations Human Rights Council stated that Right to Internet should be a fundamental right after looking at the suppressive plans of the government. In the past 10 years, there were more than 400 internet shutdowns in India.
Now if we talk about the past 1 year in India, there was the longest internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir when Indian parliament revoked Article 370 from the constitution and separated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into 2 union territories on 4th August, 2019. Then the government-imposed section 144 which states that more than 5 people cannot assemble together, to maintain peace and security. However, the internet gets restored after 213 days which is on 4th March, 2020.
There were some important cases which discussed the Right to Internet. In the case of Faheema Shirin R.K. v. State of Kerala , Faheema Shirin was a female college student who studied at Sree Narayana Guru College and resided at the Women’s Hostel which was under the college. There was a restriction in the hostel regarding the use of mobile phones within the hostel from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am and then from 6pm to 10pm.
The case was filed in front of Justice P V Asha, a single judge bench of the Kerala High Court. Justice P V Asha opposed the restriction and gave an important judgment that Right to Access Internet is a fundamental right and this fundamental right was added in Right to Privacy and Right to education under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Next in the case of Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India  which was filed on 10th January, 2020, the internet ban in Jammu and Kashmir was being challenged which was happening from 4th August, 2019. The Supreme Court said that restriction of physical movement along with shutting down of all internet communications violated Article 19 of the constitution since Right to Internet is a part of Article 19 (1a) which is a fundamental right of the constitution. The Supreme Court also said that due to immediate threat or due to any security concern, temporary ban on services is acceptable but suspension of internet services for an indefinite period is not acceptable since the balance between the national security and human rights should always be maintained.
So after this judgement, 2G internet was permitted in Jammu and Kashmir. But after this case, another following case was filed. So, in the case of Foundation of Media Professionals v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir & Anr , the ban on 3G and 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir was challenged. The argument was that the ban on internet services violated many fundamental rights like Right to Education, Right to Profession, Right to Health, right to freedom of speech and expression and many other fundamental rights.
The Supreme Court said to resume 4G services in Jammu and Kashmir and gave directions to restart 4G services and also ordered a committee. So, after many discussions, the centre directed to recommence 4G internet services on limited areas of Jammu and Kashmir after 15th August as a trial basis.
In Kerala which is the most literate state of India, the state government is undertaking the project where they have decided to contribute internet to 20 lakh poor families. These types of initiatives must be taken by all other governments then only every Indian citizen will get the fundamental right to use the internet.
- Faheema Shirin R.K. v. State of Kerala, W.P(C) No. 19716 OF 2019(L)
- Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, W.P(C) No. 1031 OF 2019
- Foundation of Media Professionals v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir & Anr, (2020) SCC 453
- Global Freedom of Expression, available at: https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/cases/foundation-for-media-professionals-v-union-territory-of-jammu-and-kashmir-anr/, accessed 23 October 2020
- The Hindu, available at: https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/govt-clearance-for-k-fon-project/article29901484.ece, accessed 20 October 2020