Fundamental rights are basic rights needed for human beings to live. Fundamental rights help to eliminate poverty, inequality, and curb major problems faced in our society. Fundamental rights help in the empowerment of human beings. Fundamental rights are inserted in our Constitution and dealt under Part III of it. In the Constitution, there are six basic fundamental rights mentioned. Right to Life and Personal Liberty, Right to Equality Before Law and Equal Protection of Law, Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression, Right against Exploitation, Right to Freedom of Religion, Right to Employment and Enhancement of Minorities. In the pandemic period, the whole world economy is suffering from depression. Jobs and employment problems have been a problem these days. The youth of India is suffering from anxiety and fear of their future. Due to this pandemic, more than 50 per cent market, businesses have landed in the internet market. Businesses, as well as the corporate sector, hold all over activities in online mode as well as online webinars, meetings. The major economy of India is openly active on the internet. Internet access and good internet connections are becoming essential tools for surviving for daily activities. Internet access not only plays a crucial role in businesses, it helps in accessing information sources worldwide. We can achieve high-quality education goals and low-cost education with the help of the internet.
Today, we see that since the month of April the Government of India implemented lockdown in India. In the last six months, the Government of India reopened businesses in a slow process. Schools and colleges are conducting their online classes for students. Internet access is essential for attending online classes, webinars held by subject experts and educational study. However, the rural areas of our country do not have access to the internet yet. More than 40 per cent of the backward population does not know how to use the internet and the importance of the internet in present situations. Access to the internet is needed in India in the present scenario.
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CONSTITUTION OF INDIA: FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND EXPRESSION, EDUCATION AND PRIVACY
Every citizen of India has the freedom of speech and expression. It means the right to express one’s own convictions and opinions freely by words of mouth, writing, printing, pictures or any other mode. It includes the expression of one’s ideas by any communicable media or visible representation (Eg: Signs, gestures, etc.). The freedom guaranteed under Article 19(1) is available to citizens only and not to a foreigner or an alien enemy. The term ‘citizen’ under Article 19 means a natural person but not a legal person like a company or corporation.
Freedom of opinion and expression states that internet access co-relates to this Article of the Constitution. Every citizen of India has freedom of opinion and expression. Citizens of India can express their own thoughts freely without any hesitation. Businesses, education, online markets as well as the corporate sector landed on the internet in these pandemic days.
Article 21A of the Constitution of India deals with the right to education is the fundamental right of every citizen of India. Children of India have the right to education till the age of 14 years. Under this Article, every child of India has the right to attain compulsory education till the age of 14 years. In the interest of education and employment, internet access is essential for empowerment.
Article 21 of the Constitution deals with the right to personal liberty but the right to privacy is included under Article 21. Right to privacy deals with the right to internet access. If the internet access links with education and uses in businesses, trade, personal enhancement then it deals with the personal liberty of human beings.
In this period of the pandemic, internet access is essential for achieving advanced educational goals in life. Online classes and webinars of students are dependent on the internet. Good internet access and information diffusion lead to the empowerment of human beings. Article 19 (1) of the Constitution deals with speech and expression of India. Speech and expression through the Internet are a new generation information diffusion landed over the informative world.
INTERNATIONAL LAW: RIGHT TO INTERNET ACCESS
The United Nations General Assembly concluded in the month of November 2015, that right to internet is an essential fundamental right of every citizen in the world. Internet access is essential for the advancement of education and personal needs’ fulfilment in life. In August 2012, the Internet Society did a survey among more than ten thousand internet users from 20 countries, of which 83% users strongly agreed to legalize the right of internet access as a basic human right, with 13% on the opposite opinion.
Article 13 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has regulated civil freedom of opinion and expression: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” Nowadays, unlike traditional media, the internet allows people to seek, receive and impart information rapidly and with extremely low cost.
The United Nations General Assembly states that the right to development is a third-generation human right in developing countries. Recognition of the close relationship between the right to internet access and basic human rights by international laws.
Aniruddha Bhasin v. Union of India
The court held that right to internet access, also known as the right to Education. In this case, suspended internet broadband connections are temporarily permissible but permanently shutdown is abuse of power. Right to internet access is an integral part of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 21A of the Constitution states that Right of Education is essential for every citizen of India. Right of freedom to choose trade and profession over the Internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19(1) of the Constitution.
Faheema Shirin v. State of Kerala
The High Court of Kerala delivered the judgement on this case, right of internet access is recognized as right of privacy and right of education under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The court ordered the college to modernize policies so they do not discriminate based on gender or undermine student’s access to educational resources. Finding the restrictions to be “absolutely unwarranted”.
PUCL v. Union of India
Right to the internet deals with the right to life and personal liberty . Civil liberties are essential for human development. The internet aids the citizens to express their opinion on a global platform and therefore is covered under the ambit of Article 19(1) (a) of the Constitution.
Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India
The case held that every human being has the right to personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Any competent authority of government cannot curtail the right to personal liberty of any individual citizen of India except in cases of public order emergency. Maneka Gandhi is registered by citizen of India by birth and has the willingness to travel abroad but Order issued by government authority for not issuance of Passport to travel abroad in case of public order is unconstitutional and violates Article 21 of the constitution which deals with personal liberty. Because travel abroad in Individual own willingness is related to personal liberty. There is no any question arising of public order.
Internet Access is essential in our life because it is a source of information diffusion and plays a vital role in the development of our life. Golden triangle of the Constitution of India includes right to life and personal liberty, right to freedom of speech and expression and right to equality before law under Articles 21, 19 and 14 of the Constitution of India, respectively, but if one section of society easily access Internet and other section of society is unable to access internet then such situation leads to digital inequality and causes inability to use of freedom of expression. Clearly such circumstances violate provisions of Articles 21, 19 and 14 of the Constitution of India.
The United Nations General Assembly of Human Rights states that the internet is an essential human right and advice to countries presented in assembly needed to make net access the Fundamental Right of every citizen. In these pandemic days, not only net access but good connection to the Internet is essential for our education as well as business and other activities. Major backward areas of India do not have access to the internet yet. Lack of infrastructure and lack of digital literacy cause they are not able to use the net. Administration wanted to make a plan in the interest of public policy and deliver internet access to every citizen of India.
- Utkarsh Sharma, Right to Internet Access and Fundamental Right available at: www.legalserviceindia.in (last Visited on 21st December 2020).
- Writ Petition No. 1030/2020.
- Writ Petition No. 19716/2019.
- AIR 1997 SC 568.
- 1978 SCR (2) 621.
BY MANISH KHADAKBAN | YASHWANTRAO CHAVAN LAW COLLEGE