Fundamental rights are enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution from Articles 12 to 35. Fundamental Rights in Part III is rightly described as the Magna Carta of India. The fundamental rights are aimed to promote ideal of political democracy in India. They prevent the establishment of an authoritarian and despotic rule in-country and to protect the rights and liberties of people against the invasion by states. The fundamental rights are guaranteed to all persons without any discrimination. They uphold the equality and dignity of individuals, the larger public interest and unity of nation.
Internet being an ocean of information helps in developing informed citizens. An informed citizen is more aware of its fundamental rights. They help in keeping the excesses of the Government in check, thus, preventing the establishment of a despotic rule in the country. With the Right to Freedom that guarantees the Freedom of Speech and Expression as fundamental right, there has also been demand to declare Right to Internet as a fundamental right in view that people must have access to internet while exercising their Rights of Freedom and Speech.
Need for Recognising Right to Internet as a Fundamental Right
It is time that we recognise the Right to Internet access as a fundamental right. Internet broadband and mobile internet services are a lifeline to people in India from all walks of life. While the internet is certainly a main source of information and communication, it is so much more than that and people working in the technology based economy like the thousands of delivery workers for Swiggy, Amazon etc., and the cab drivers of Uber and Ola depend on the internet for their livelihoods. It is a mode of access to education for students who do courses and take exams online. Access to the internet is important to facilitate the promotion and enjoyment of the Right to Education.
The internet provides access to transport for millions of urban and rural people; it is also a mode to access to health services online. More than anything, it is a means for business and occupation for thousands of small and individual owned enterprises which sell their products and services online. Thus, the access to the internet is a right that is very similar to what Supreme Court held with respect to the right to privacy in the Justice KS Puttaswamy judgement, a right that is located through all our fundamental rights and freedoms. These include the Right to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association; freedom of trade and occupation and the Right to life, education, health, livelihood, dignity and privacy under Article 21.) declared the Rig!
Current Status of Right to Internet
Kerala High Court in Faheema Shirin vs State of Kerala (2019 to Internet access as a fundamental right forming a part of the Right to Privacy and the Right to Education under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
In present digital world where almost every service is being digitised, it is important to recognise the Right to Internet access as an independent right. Cour observed that the internet acts as a learning tool and nobody can impose restrictions on it, citing discipline.
Human Rights Council of the United Nations also regards the Right of access to the Internet as a fundamental freedom and a tool to ensure the Right to Education. Also, the Supreme Court has declared that access to the internet is protected under Article 19 of the Constitution. In response to a plea against the suspension of internet services in Jammu and Kashmir since last August, the court affirmed that the Right to freedom of speech and expression, as guaranteed to all citizens under the first section of that article, covers the right to go online. In effect, even if left unsaid, this would make internet access a fundamental right.
Challenges Before Uniform Internet Access
Though, the recognition of such a fundamental right is laudable, it does have reasonable restrictions’ under specified circumstances. The judgement gave administration space to restrict internet access on the condition that it’s proportionate to the problem identified. This formulation seems fuzzy and could provide enough scope for administration to justify internet snap-offs in various cases.
Further, a digital divide in the economy would render a sizeable proportion of the population unable to enjoy the fundamental right to Internet. This will eventually lead furthering of social disparities. Moreover, the rising number of cyber related crimes would leave more people susceptible in absence of proper guidelines related to the Right to Internet access.
Internet itself is a great force which has shackled the monotony and global order by its brute force. Anything which has power can be used in both good and bad ways. As we know internet can be a boon and bane at same time. It rests with the people after recognising internet as fundamental right how to utilise the power that comes with internet. Both good and bad powers have large implication on the lives of people. As both Supreme and High Courts through various judgements in country have to strike balance between rights of individuals and right of state, preservation of balance should be of utmost importance to enable individual to become a balanced and responsible citizen.
The Right to Internet access and digital literacy will empower citizens with increased access to information, services and the creation of better livelihood opportunities.
Thank you very much for reading this article“What is Fundamental Rights on INTERNET, Meaning, Internet, Access”