Meaning of the Term ‘Internet’
The term ‘Internet’ refers to any set of computer networks that communicate using the Internet Protocol. It is the specific internet consisting of a global network of computers that communicate using Internet Protocol and that use Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) to identify the best paths to route those communications. It connects millions of web servers and helps in better communication.
Introduction to Fundamental Rights
Background of the access to the Internet and then declaring it as a Fundamental Right
As per the statistics report, 60% of the World Population does not have any right to the internet. If the least developed nations are taken into consideration, then out of 10 individuals only a single person has access to the internet. Moreover, many countries restrict the content to be viewed by their citizens on the internet. In today’s world, no development is possible without digitalisation. Thus, in 2016 after taking into consideration access to the internet and the suppressive tactics of the government, UNHRC (United Nations Human Right Council) stated that Right to the Intenet should be made a fundamental right.
Right to the Internet in India
In the past 10 years, there were approximately 400 shutdowns of the internet in India. The recent report states that on 4th August 2019, when the Parliament of India revoked Article 370 of the Constitution of India. This revocation led to the division of State of Jammu Kashmir into two Union Territories namely, Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. Along with this decision, Section 144 of The Code of Criminal Procedure was also imposed in Jammu & Kashmir for security reasons which prohibit the assembly of more than four people. Moreover, the internet was shut down in Jammu & Kashmir which was the longest shutdown of the internet in the history of India. The internet services were restored after 213 days on 4th March 2020. From 4th August 2019 to 4th March 2020, the internet was shut down in Jammu & Kashmir. Between these dates, there were three landmark judgements which led to the Right of the Internet.
Faheema Shirin R.K. vs. State of Kerala,
In this case, Faheema Shirin is a college student who states that the girls’ hostel in which she stays lays down a rule that there shall be no use of mobile phones from 6 pm to 10 am in the hostel premises. To oppose such restriction she filed a case in the High Court of Kerala. Justice P.V. Aasha was the judge deciding on this matter. The Court gave its decision by taking into consideration the learning process, and development of the students.
It was held, Right to Access the Internet is a fundamental right and is protected under Article 21 of the Constitution of India which talks about Right to Privacy and also the Right to Education.
Anuradha Bhasin vs. Union of India,
This case was filed on 10th January 2020 and challenged the ban on the internet in Jammu & Kasmir from 4th August 2019. The petitioner further stated that restriction on physical movement along with online communication violates Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Right to the Internet is a part of Article 19(1A) of the Constitution of India.
It was held by the Supreme Court that due to immediate threat or security concern a temporary ban on services of the internet is permissible but banning of the internet for an indefinite time is not correct. The balance between national security and human rights should be maintained.
After this judgement was delivered then the low speed of 2G internet was allowed in Jammu & Kashmir.
Foundation of Media Professionals vs. Union of India,
In this case, the ban on 3G and 4G services of the internet in Jammu & Kashmir was challenged. This case is popularly known as the 4G case. It was stated that banning of internet services violates Right to Education, Right to Profession, and Right to Health.
The Supreme Court issued directions to resume 4G services and a committee was set up. After discussions, Centre resumed 4G services in a limited area on a trial basis from 15th August 2020 in Jammu & Kashmir.
Hence, Right to the Internet is a fundamental right without which any development in today’s fast-growing and modern world is impossible. It is protected under Article 19(1A) of the Constitution of India. In India, the internet is a medium of expression and for carrying out a trade or any profession or business only. The Internet has manifested into various other aspects of our life. With the government promoting the idea of ‘Digital India’ it has become an enabler of various economic activities, consumer activities, financial activities and so on. Hence, it can be said that the apex court took a very narrow view while upholding the internet to be fundamental concerning freedom of expression and freedom of trade.