This article on “The Need for a Separate Right to Internet Access as a Fundamental Right?” is written by Amit Bhuyan, an intern at Legal Upanishad.
The Internet is the medium of sharing information via a network of computers around the world. It is an integral part of gaining knowledge and also to earn. Its importance can be stated as-
- Performance of daily tasks in a faster manner.
- Highly efficient and accurate.
- Shopping from sellers around the world.
- Socialize with different people.
- Banking and money management.
Now, these are important and positive points but are the Internet all good? Does it need to be a fundamental right? We shall discuss it in detail.
Right to Internet access under Article 21
As we know the importance of the internet for studies during and post-pandemic. It has dramatically increased and many state governments like Pondicherry, J&K, and Haryana along with several other states give laptops and tablets free of cost to students. Now, this shows the importance and need of the internet for students to study and excel.
Now keeping its importance in mind, the court accepted that the right to internet access has been part of the fundamental right to life and liberty, including privacy under Article 21. The court added that “it constitutes an essential part of the infrastructure of freedom of speech and expression”.
Article 19 (1) (a) and Article 19 (1) (g)
Access to the internet and to do business is related to the two constitutional rights of Article 19 (1) (g) which talks about freedom of speech and expression and article 19 (1) (g) dealing with practicing any profession. As these are fundamental rights, and so people need to be able to access the internet free to share their views and do business or trade of their choice.
Now the internet can be used for any purpose. From conducting business to seminars, to gaining knowledge and research, the law permits only the “meaning access” to it. The meaning of meaning access would be to obtain or retrieve (computer data or a file) which are not barred by law.
Do People Get To Access Internet?
Though the internet has been considered a fundamental human right, around 4.95 billion people access the internet in January 2022 which is equal to 62.5% per cent of the world’s total population but still 37.5% of the world population, a huge amount of people is still not been able to access to the internet. Now in this digital world, it’s sad to know that people are deprived which ultimately means that there is inequality in opportunity and this does affect development.
India had more than 749 million internet users across the country. This figure is projected to grow to over 1.5 billion users by 2040. The penetration rate to the internet has decreased to 45% in 2021 from 50% in 2020, which shows that a huge amount of people in India is still out of reach of the internet.
As the use of the Internet is increasing, there are many positive benefits from it, but it is only being misused and crimes are committed with the use of the internet, this is known as Cyber Crime. The types of crimes committed via the internet are-
- Identity theft- The criminal gets the user’s personal information and uses it for many purposes like stealing money, fraud, changing passwords and blocking access to the real user, spamming, organizing criminal activities and many more. For example- the Fake Facebook Account, several fake accounts with pictures of different people are used to lure a person and take money from them.
- Phishing- Malicious emails are sent, generally with some offers including discounts or limited period offers with links or attachments. People end up clicking on the links which ask for a change in the password and/or phone number and/or change in the payment method, thus the criminal gains the information.
- Tele calling/Social Engineering- Criminal will call you or send an email pretending to be an officer or an employee to gain the trust of the victim, and then information is gained from the person.
- OTP Fraud- This blazing topic and a risk people need to be careful of in not to share the OTP with anyone. The person will act as a legal bank employee or any person of repute asking for the OTP for some formality, and if they get access to it then they will steal the money from the victim’s bank account.
- Cyberstalking- The Internet or any such technology is used to stalk or harass the respective person. It may lead to threats, libel, defamation, sexual harassment, or other actions in which to control, influence, or intimidate their target.
- Cyberbullying- The use of cell phones, instant messaging, e-mail, chat rooms or social networking sites to harass, threaten or intimate the targeted person. It includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.
- Botnets- A botnet is a collection of internet-connected devices that includes pc, mobile phones, the internet of things and a server that is controlled by a common malware used by remote hackers.
- Prohibited Content- This includes highly offensive, sexual content, violent videos, criminal videos, and videos related to terrorist activities.
It consists of laws related to legal informatics and supervises the digital circulation of information, e-commerce, software and information security. Violation of it would be dealt with based on where he left and where he broke the law. IT act states the different types of violations and their punishment which are included in Sections 66c, 66d, 66e, 66f, 67, 379, 420, 463 and 468. The main object to be used is a computer to fall under IT Act. The punishment includes both fines and imprisonment based on the severity of the offence.
The Bank NSP Case- In this case, a management trainee of the bank was engaged to be married. The couple used the company’s system to send many emails. However, they broke up and the girl used fraudulent means to create emails and send emails using ids she created to the boy’s foreign clients. The girl used her bank’s computer system in doing so, due to which the boy’s company lost a lot of clients and took the bank to court which the bank was held liable.
Bazee.com case- The CEO was put behind bars in December 2004 because a cd containing objectionable material was being sold on the website of his company. As discussed earlier, prohibited and objectionable materials are not allowed to be sold anywhere.
Bomb Hoax Mail- In this case the offender was just a minor of 15 years from Bangalore who sent a hoax email stating “I have planted 5 bombs in Mumbai, you have two hours to find them”. Now, this created chaos and immediately the concerned authorities are contacted who traced the IP address and the boy was arrested in 2009.
We have seen how important is the use of the internet but how deadly and stressful it can get really fast. We need to know and keep track of the minors on how they use the internet. Proper Guidance is required and even senior people need to be made aware of the positive and negative use of the internet along with the laws. There are laws but it needs to be implemented properly and accurately. Many people are scared of being defamed even to report, there needs to be a system where they are assured of their privacy along with giving the assurance that the wrongdoer would be caught and punished soon.
There are strict laws that deal with offences over the internet. The use of the internet has changed into a much-needed technology to progress and developed. Every action and reaction in cyberspace has some legal and cyber legal angles. As the right to Internet access is also very important, the crime rate is also increasing and even the younger generation falls into it as a wrongdoer or a victim. Both of it is a huge letdown to the progress of the country. However, with proper guidance, the use of the internet has been a boon and this is only possible with strict laws and an enforcement workforce.