This article on ‘The Constitutional right to internet access in India‘ was written by Anjuli Gupta, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
This article works on introducing the topic “the constitutional right to internet access”. The article focuses on aspects related to rights that cover internet access and areas or jurisdictions regarding the same, the concept and thought behind the same, and the uses and advantages of internet access, etc. The topic will also cover basic information that could be covered under the same and it’s constitutional right associated with it. The Internet is used to gain information through a computer. The internet has made it possible so that any information could be made known to people all around the world. It made it possible to access education, financial as well as health-related services easily.
What is Internet access?
The term “internet” means accessing information through the medium of a computer using the network that is common worldwide. It is a computer network that is universal and provides or gives access to information to all with the help of the mode of an interconnected network of TCP/IP (Transmission Control Protocol/ Internet Protocol).
Recently everything is being operated digitally, to be able to make use of the same and to access such features or facilities; the internet plays a crucial role, and with the ease which one uses “Internet” shows how important it has become for the common folk in today’s times.
Right now, the use of the internet and its importance could be displayed in today’s banking facilities and a person can even make transactions and transfer money without being physically present to make a transaction in the bank instead of using internet bank facilities, which would do all the work. Take e.g., a person who can buy and sell easily through using an e-commerce platform which was unheard of a few years back, now it’s as easy as browsing and making online payments and goods or services could be received by the person easily without any hassle.
It does not end only with just usage, it’s more than a mode for buying and selling, it’s an important mode that provides a lot of data and Intel and basic, advanced information which would be very difficult to receive or maybe impossible if it had not been made available through the internet. The Internet is considered an important vehicle for the promotion of any even if not all information that provides any person to learn any information that may be of use to him.
In 2016, United Nations General Assembly’s Human Rights Council informed that the “Right to Internet Access is an essential human right and acts as an important tool that allows a person access to Freedom of Speech and Expression.”
Article 13 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights declared that the “Right to Internet Access is essential fundamental Right as Similar to the Right to Education” freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”
The constitutional right to internet access in India
The internet has created a network that enables access to any or all services such as education-related information or services like online coaching or test series that can be availed online or be it health-related tips or getting your appointment fixed online or any news or information that relates to finance sector or availing services related to it.
The internet has become a necessity or need that is required in life its importance for the same could be seen by the way in the case of Anuradha Bhasin vs. Union of India and Ors where the hon’ble court held that “the freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business or occupation over the medium of internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19(1) (a) and Article 19(1)”. The hon’ble court also held that the suspended Internet broadband connections could be permissible temporarily but a permanent shutdown would be treated as an abuse of power.
Right to Internet Access covers an essential part of Article 21 of the constitution of India. Article 21 A of the constitution of India states the Right to education but the same also works with the Right to Internet Access.
In the case of Fahima Shirin Vs State of Kerala, the high court of Kerala was the first ever high court that recognized the importance of the right to internet access and that the right internet access is an important part and plays a crucial role in the application of “Right to Privacy” and “The Right to Education” under Article 21and 21A of The Constitution.
During the lockdown, internet access played an important role in making education accessible all across the globe and was a platform that is still in very much use its importance could be seen in India‘s initiative to make India digitally viable as could be seen in its campaign of “Digital India” launched by the Government of India.
In the case of PUCL vs. Union of India, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that:
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution covers as well as guarantees the “right to freedom of speech and expression”. Freedom may include one’s right wherein one may express his views or opinion freely by making the use of the medium of writing, printing, picture, or orally or in any other manner. It was also expressed that the internet is an aid that allows the citizens the right to express their views on a global platform and the same is covered under art 19(1) (a) of the constitution of India.
Although internet access is not a fundamental right, it has become an essential or integral part of life and is covered under other fundamental rights and it could be exercised at the time requirement while exercising another fundamental right. Internet access is not a separate right but could be exercised by using other fundamental rights.
For India, it’s high time that India’s legislation considers the importance of internet access and makes changes in regards to appointing “internet access” as a separate right where its usage, as well as its restrictions, could be mentioned and framed in such a way that the citizens of India be able to access the same and be able to avail services that are so much a part of the internet. The internet is now a part of life and more so after the lockdown reign which made it a requirement in an everyday life.
Any or all including small activities are also easily done through the internet be it paying for services etc. any information could be easily accessed through the internet, but the sad part is that in India there are still people that don’t even own a smartphone leave that aside some are even not having a simple keypad phone.
The internet is a knowledge-sharing platform and a medium that enriches one’s life by providing useful information a platform to redress any issues faced by him in society or in everyday life to make changes so that everyone could access the internet and be able to freely study and gather notes and receive education etc. to be made possible that the person that uses the internet has its ID so that when one does wrong he could be traced and then penalized or punished for violation of any law.
The Internet is used to gain information through a computer. The term “internet” means accessing information through the medium of a computer using the network that is common worldwide. The internet has created a network that enables access to any or all services such as education-related information or services like online coaching or test series that can be availed online or be it health-related tips or getting your appointment fixed online or any news or information that relates to finance sector or availing services related to it.
In the Anuradha Bhasin vs. Union of India and Ors case, the hon’ble court also held that the suspended Internet broadband connections could be permissible temporarily but a permanent shutdown would be treated as an abuse of power. Although internet access is not a fundamental right it has become an essential or integral part of life and is covered under other fundamental rights and it could be exercised at the time requirement while exercising another fundamental right. Internet access is not a separate right but could be exercised by using other fundamental rights.
- Khadakban, M .V.jan22,2021. Right to Internet access: Essential fundamental right. Retrieved from https://thedailyguardian.com/right-to-internet-access-essential-fundamental-right/
- Utkarshshara .(n.d.). Right to Internet and Fundamental Rights. Retrieved from https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-2967-right-to-internet-and-fundamental-rights.html
- Rouf .Z.05.06.2021. The need for a separate Fundamental Right to Internet in India. Retrieved from https://www.barandbench.com/apprentice-lawyer/the-need-for-a-separate-fundamental-right-to-internet-in-india