Right to Access Internet as a Fundamental Right

INTRODUCTION

Right to Internet is the Right to Access Internet Services or broadband so that people can connect with anybody they desire to. It’s not only about connecting with people but is the major tool of growth in this tech-savvy world. As the INTERNET is the icon for digitalization in the world.

TRACES OF ORIGIN AND RECOGNITION AS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT

International view
  1. Global level
  • 2003-World Submit on Information Society said that the phrase of freedom of expression includes “information society”
  • 2009- BBC’s survey showed that access to the internet must be a fundamental right
  • 2011- Frank La Rue’s report led to the suggestion of Right to Internet Access as a Human Right
  • 2016- UNHRC’s (United Nations Human Right Council) resolution recommended it as an essential human right (fundamental right)
  1. State levels

Estonia in 2000, the parliament dispatched a huge program to extend admittance to the open country. The internet, the administration contends, is fundamental for life in the 21st century.

Greece in 2008 amended its Article 5a of the Constitution of Greece expressing that all people reserve a privilege to take an interest in the information society and that the state has a commitment to encourage the creation, trade, dispersion, and availability to e-data.

France in June 2009, the constitutional council, France’s most noteworthy court, announced Right to the internet to be fundamental common freedom in an emphatic choice that struck down parts of the HADOPI law, a law that would have followed victimizers and without legal survey consequently slice off organization admittance to the individuals who kept on downloading unlawful material after two admonitions

Spain in November 2009, made the Spanish residents approach the Internet due to Act 2/11 of March 2004 which expresses that practical economy should fasten broadband admittance to its all-inclusive assistance.

Costa Rica on 30 July 2010 through an order of its apex court said that admittance to the advances in technology and development turns into an essential device to encourage the activity of the rights fundamental in nature and popularity based cooperation (e-vote based system) and resident control, instruction, independence of expression and thought, accessibility to data and public administrations on the web, the option to speak with the government electronically and managerial straightforwardness etc. incorporate the basic right of access to the internet or worldwide web as fundamental in nature.

Finland: by July 2010, each individual in Finland was to approach a one-megabit every second broadband association, as per the ministry of transport and communications, and by 2015, admittance to a 100 m bit/s association.

Canada in 2016, through the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, articulated Internet access as a fundamental help.

Indian view

Faheema shirin vs. State of Kerala

This case was filed by a college student against the rule of a girl’s hostel ceasing the right to usage of phone and internet within the time slot of 6 pm to 10 pm in hostel premises, being the first case claiming the right to internet where this case attracted some articles of constitution of India and these are-

  • Article 21- Right to Privacy
  • Article 21-A Right to Education
  • And some of the articles of DPSPs  – Article 41, 45 and 46

Where in this case the court with the single bench of hon’ble J. P.V. Asha on 19th September 2019, was of the opinion that the right to access internet goes along with the right to education and right to life because of the learning and development processes of the student life and thus the Kerala high court held that “right to internet is to be a fundamental right of every citizen”

  • Anuradha bhasin vs. UOI & Gulam Nabi Azad vs. UOI

These are clubbed petitions regarding the internet shutdown in the J&K Union Territory for almost 100 days. The case of Anuradha Bhasin claimed that this Internet Shutdown has violated the provision of Article 19 of the constitution because due to the shutdown, the people were restricted from online communications, where the physical movement has also been restricted due to application of Section 144 of Cr.P.C and it was also said that Right to access the Internet is a part of the Article 19 (1) (a) of the constitution. This case attracted

  • Article 19 (1)(a)- Freedom of Speech and Expression

Where the Supreme Court on 10th January 2020 opined that “due to immediate threat or security concern a temporary ban on internet services is permissible but the suspension of the internet services for an indefinite period will not be entertained under Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Service) Rules, 2017 so as to maintain a balance between national security and human rights”, and thus ordered 2g speed data availability at some parts of J&K., In this case, it was also said that, “Right to access Internet is an integral part of Right to education and Right to Privacy under Article 21A and Article 21 of the Constitution of India respectively”.

  • Foundation of Media Professionals Vs. UOI

Now this petition near around 21st April 2020, was filed for the availability of 3G & 4G speed networks in J&K instead of the 2G speed and also claimed that this type of act directly violates the Right to Education, Profession, Health, etc. Where it attracted the articles –

  • Article 14- Right to Equality
  • Article 19 (1)(g)- Freedom of Trade and Profession
  • Article 21- Right to Life- Right to Health-
  • Article 21-A Right to Education

This is was the landmark case where Supreme Court firstly ordered for a committee and gave the order for resuming the 3G/4G internet services after 15th August 2020 at the trial basis and held that yes the Right to Access Internet comes under the ambit of fundamental rights and added it in the Article 19(1) of the Constitution. 

IMPORTANCE OF THE RIGHT

If we talk just in sense of the contemporary world then the Right to Internet is very necessary as in this today’s fast-moving world, this right is entangled with the Right of Digitalization and Development, as any country cannot develop if there is no digitalization in that country and also in the whole world there are at least 60% of people who doesn’t possess the right to access internet. Thus this right is very necessary for every human being in the world.

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Now if we talk about the Indian scenario, in India it was found that within a decade there have been nearly 400 internet shutdowns in the country. Referring this we can also say that right to internet attract many rights along with it like Right to Education, Right to Privacy, Right to Profession, Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, Right to Health etc. which at times have been violated because of the shutdowns. But its importance was mainly felt at the time of the 213 days internet shut down from 4th August 2019-4th March 2020 in J&K because of alert of Section 144 due to National Security. This marked the need for such a fundamental right in the country so that all the rights mentioned above were not violated, because it was said to be the longest Internet shutdown in India. And it will also support the governmental projects of MAKE IN INDIA & DIGITAL INDIA.

RIGHT TO INTERNET AS A HUMAN RIGHT

We all know that the Internet and digitalization are the future path makers and that’s why the access to Internet services can be held as a Moral Right of a being. Here we can draw a conception that yes then the right to internet can be said as a human right, as it involves the development or growth of human beings. Also, it not only focuses on online communications but has a large scope in the field of education as well, and as it’s evident that right to education is a basic human right so as the right to internet will be the same. Thus it can be considered as a human right.

But Professor Vint Cerf, who is said to be one of the fathers of internet said that “Technology is an enabler of rights, not a right itself”, and was of the opinion that Internet cannot be given a status of Human Right. On this point even I agree that yes Right to Internet cannot be a human right, as a human right has no restrictions and are absolute in nature, but as we said above that there are some specific reasons where this right can be restricted, so it will not be an absolute right and thus is not a human right but a fundamental right of a being.

DEBATE OVER THE AMBIT OF THE RIGHT

From all the 3 major judgments of the right to internet, a debate has been seen among people regarding the ambit of the right i.e. according to the SC’s judgment in the Media Professionals Case, said that the Right to Access Internet is mentioned under the Article 19(1) of the Constitution but with reasonable restrictions which may follow up according to the provision of Article 19(2), but from the judgment of the foremost case of Kerala High Court, it was seen that the court declared it as a fundamental right under the ambit of Article 21 and 21-A as a violation of this right will lead to violation of the right to education and privacy. Thus somewhere among the Indian population, it has been seen that they are of two viewpoints i.e. some in support of Article 19 (1) & some which view it along with Article 21.

In my opinion, though the Right to Internet is connected with Right to Education it is highly involved with the Right to online communication which comes under Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression and Right to Profession and Trade.

Also, the placing of Right to Internet under Article 19 is more beneficial because of the restrictions to be put up on this right in case of emergency will easily propagate with the restrictions or the proportionality principle under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.

IMPORTANCE IN PANDEMIC AND AFTER

When the govt. announced the 21-day lockdown all over the country, the internet was the basic tool of public utility as due to which people were able to do e-shopping without going outside, connect with family and friends and basically the partner of monotony in the lock-down. But it has also been seen that not all the people have this right, as even after being declared as a fundamental right, but was seen as a privilege because not every person has this right with him. So I think that the union govt. for protecting this right of people must make internet available to every person so that they are not deprived of their right to internet and also can be a part of Digitalization. Like the way to alleviate digital literacy, through the Common Service Centres or cyber cafes, and in rural areas by a Village Level Entrepreneur.

CONCLUSION

Now if we sum up the whole discussion for Right to Internet being a fundamental right, it is evident that this right has gone through many phases for being recognized as a fundamental and a basic human right, both nationally and internationally. In the Indian scenario it can be said that during the 213 days internet shutdown in J&K, 3 major judgments came up and marked the milestone of Right to Internet as a fundamental right under the Constitution. Though it was criticised that Internet service can never be said as a right because Technology cannot be set as a fact of Human Right, but from this phase, it turned up as a right and now only its proper implementation is left, which can only be done when the govt. make such provisions where every person has access to internet, and no one is deprived of it, then in a true sense, this right will accomplish its aim and object.

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