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RIGHT TO ACCESS INTERNET IS FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT

This Article is written by Shanti Gupta, a student of Indian Institute of Legal Studies, Siliguri.



Introduction

Part III of the Indian Constitution says that the government cannot take individual fundamental rights for any reason. There is no doubt that the law-making power is with the legislature but these laws making has to be subjective to Article 13. The government has the power to limit individuals' freedom under certain circumstances, like when they have committed a crime. And every law made by the government is subordinate under Article 13 for Judicial overview and judicial review.

Right to Access Internet

In Faheema Shirin vs. State of Kerala, where the Kerala High Court declared the right to Internet access as a fundamental right forming a component of the right to privacy and the right to education under Article 21. The court ordered to re-admit a student. This student had been expelled from the faculty hostel for using the mobile phone beyond the restricted hour. Then the Court have observed and found that the right to access to the Internet may be fundamental freedom and a tool to make sure right to education, so a rule or instruction which impairs the said right of the scholars cannot be permitted to face within the eye of Law. So the bench contends the use of mobile phones amounts to a violation of fundamental right, which is the right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The Kerala High Court held that the right to have access to the Internet is part of the Fundamental Right, i.e., the Right to Education as well as the Right to Privacy as under Article 21 of the Constitution.


Restriction on Article 19(1)(a)

The Court citing the Supreme Court’s observation in the case of S. Rangarajan Etc vs. P. Jagjivan Ram[1], wherein it was held that fundamental freedom under Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted just for the aim mentioned within the Article 19(2) and not for all the world and the restriction must be justified on the envelope necessity and not the quick stand of convenience or expediency. Article 19(2) provides for reasonable restriction over Article 19(1)(a) in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India. Mainly, the reason being the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign State, public order, decency, or morality or in relevancy contempt of court, defamation, or incitement to an offense. If anybody is being hampered, we all know that these are the only reasons why we can put reasonable restrictions on the use of the internet or anything like that.


Digital Inequality

Now we will talk about a different kind of inequality in our society today, which is digital inequality. Recently Faheema Shirin vs. the State of Kerala[2], Kerala High Court declared the right to Internet access is a Fundamental Right. So here we will talk about digital inequality also because inequality is a concept that underpins most intervention focused on social justice and development. It resembles the mythological serpent Hydra in Greek mythology. As the state attends to deal with one aspect of inequality, many new aspects keep coming up. Some of them are only available online. So, this leads to a new kind of equality, which is digital inequality where social and economic backwardness is exacerbated because of information poverty, lack of infrastructure, and lack of digital literacy also. According to the report by Deloitte 'digital India' unlocking the trillion-dollar opportunity. Reports say that in mid-2016, digital literacy in India was less than ten percent. Now we are moving to a global economy where knowledge of digital processes will transform how people work, collaborate, consume information, and entertain themselves. This aspect has been acknowledged in the Sustainable Development Goals as well as by the Indian government and has held to the digital India mission.


Benefits of Digital literacy

Offering service online has cost-efficiency benefits for the government and also allows citizens to bypass lower-level government bureaucracy. However, within the absence of Internet access and digital literacy enabling that access, there will be a further exclusion of enormous parts of the population, exacerbating the already existing digital device. But moving governance and service delivery online without the requisite progress in Internet access and digital literacy also does not make economic sense. For instance, Common Service Centres, which operate in rural and remote locations, are physical facilities that help in delivering digital government services and informing communities about government initiatives. While the state could be saving resources by moving services online, it also must spend resources since an outside chunk of citizens cannot access these services. The government has acknowledged this and has initiated certain measures during this regard. The Bharat Net program, attending to have an optical fiber network in gram panchayats, is to act because of the infrastructural backbone for having Internet access all across the country.

The vision of the Digital India programme, 2015 is to transform India into a digitally empowered society and know-how economy. Restraining one to get admission to net how we were capable of making sure digitally empowered society. India asserts itself in live performance of the world's biggest developing economies, as according to a document posted by way of means of Digital Empowered Foundation shows that 30% of our populace lags on primary literacy and three times that for virtual literacy. Digitally converted society and offerings will enhance the financial and social scenario. However, the project has consistently missed all its deadlines while the prices involved have doubled. Similarly, the National Digital Literacy Mission has barely touched 1.67% of the population and has been struggling for funds. Several nations like Costa, Rica, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Spain, have followed legal guidelines that require the nation to paintings to make certain that the Internet gets entry to is wide to be had OR stopping the nation from unreasonably limiting a people get entry to statistics and the Internet. We need to now no longer restrain from getting entry to the net, we were dwelling in a statistics society. The right to net get entry to and virtual literacy will alleviate the scenario and permit residents to avail higher possibility and lifestyle style. This can cause hindrance because internet access and digital literacy are obsessed with one another, and the creation of digital infrastructure must go hand in hand with the creation of digital skills.


Importance of digital literacy

There is the economics behind this digital literacy because moving governance and service delivery online, without the requisite progress in Internet success and digital literacy does not make economic sense. So for instance there are Common Service Center (CSC). Common Service Centre operates rural in far-flung places and our physical facilities which assist in delivering digital government services. Now as a State may be saving resources by moving services online it has also spent resources. Since a large chunk of residents cannot get access to those services. There exist significance of digital literacy, internet access, digital literacy has implications beyond access to government services. Thus, digital literacy all allows people to access information and services collaborate, navigate, socio-cultural networks. The definition of literacy, today must include the ability to access and act upon the resources and information found online. The courts have usually interpreted Article 21 as a wide spectrum of rights taken into consideration, incidental or quintessential to the right to life. Recognizing this right may also make it simpler to demand accountability from the state, as well as to inspire the legislature and the executive to take a greater proactive role in furthering this right. For what we call an information society and equal access to the Internet, it creates and reproduces socio-economic exclusions. It is especially important to apprehend the right to Internet access and digital literacy to alleviate the situation and permit residents increased access, to information services and the creation of better livelihood and opportunities.


Conclusion

It is in the hand of the government to do things. A fine duty to create infrastructure for a minimum standard and best of Internet access in addition to capacity building measures which might permit all residents to be digitally literate and a negative obligation which prohibiting it from accomplishing in conduct that impedes, obstructs, or violates one of these rights. The courtroom docket has usually interpreted Article 21 as a huge spectrum of rights taken into consideration incidental and crucial to the right to life.

[1] 1989 SCR (2) 204, 1989 SCC (2) 574. [2] WP(C)No.19716 OF 2019(L).

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