The terminology ‘Internet’ can be referred to as any set of computer networks that communicates using the Internet Protocol (IP). The Internet is recognised as a specific network consisting of the global network of computers that use the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) and the Internet Protocol (IP) to identify the routes to those communications. It also connects billions of web servers and helps in better mass communication.
The worldwide usage of the Internet
The statistics report states that approximately 60% of the world population does not enjoy any right to the internet. When the talk is about the least developed nations of the world then only one person among 10 has access to the internet. Even in today’s time, most countries restrict the content their citizens can view on the internet. Moreover, in today’s fast transforming and technology prone world it is almost impossible to not accept digitalisation and avoid using the internet. Thus, in the year 2016, UNHRC (United Nations Human Rights Council) declared that the Right to the Internet should be made a fundamental right. Especially in the times of pandemic most of the businesses have shut down but few businesses are running at a small-scale solely based on the internet connections. Thus, shutting down the internet will do great damage to human society and it must flourish without any barrier.
Reasons that make the Internet Shutdown a Bane
The Right to the Internet is a fundamental right that is guaranteed and assured under the provisions laid down in our Indian Constitution. So, violating the fundamental rights of any individual in our country is a punishable offence, and the justice system does not grant such orders as it will motivate others to do the same.
If the internet is shut down then the economy of our country will gradually fall because due to the pandemic situation most of the communication, deals, and other policies are being proposed and finalised via the digitalisation mode, and failing to which the deals will collapse the economy will fall apart.
The shutting down of the internet will result in a stop of inflow and outflow of liquid cash as the money markets such as the stock market, bitcoin, etc. will crash. Such events are not beneficial in a country’s growth and huge losses will occur.
Many small-scale businesses that are solely running via the online mode will have no place to settle and will be doomed. This will result in the closing of many business places and incur losses to the country.
Due to the pandemic conditions, all the educational institutions are continuing academic courses online. Moreover, students of the professional field are using websites such as Unacademy, Byjus, Vedantu, etc. In case, the internet is shut down all the activities will reduce to a residue.
Mental health problems
In today’s modern world, people are accustomed to the use of the internet 24/7, and stoppage of which will result in a lot of mental health problems such as hallucination, depression, anxiety, boredom, restlessness. There would remain no source of entertainment that will make human health suffer in leaps.
Right to the Internet in India
In the last 10 years our country, India has faced nearly 400 internet shutdowns. The longest shutdown which has taken place to date was in Jammu and Kashmir which was from 4th August 2020 to 4th March 2020 that is a total of 213 days. This shutdown was due to the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution of India, 1949. This revocation led to the division of the State of Jammu Kashmir into two Union Territories namely, Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. Along with this division, Section 144 of The Code of Criminal Procedure was also imposed in the State of Jammu & Kashmir for security reasons which prohibit the assembly of more than four people. Between the dates of the internet shutdown, there were three landmark judgements that led to the Right of the Internet.
Faheema Shirin R.K. vs. State of Kerala,
In this case, Faheema Shirin was a college student who states that the girl’s hostel in which she stayed laid down a rule that there shall be no use of mobile phones from 6 pm to 10 am inside 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 the 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 & Kashmir 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 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 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, the Centre resumed 4G services in a limited area on a trial basis from 15th August 2020 in Jammu & Kashmir.
Hence, the 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.