Responding to a writ petition by a student of a college in Kerala challenging restrictions on usage of cell-phone in the hostel, the Kerala High Court ruled Thursday that right to access the internet ‘becomes the part of right to education and right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India’.
The single bench of Justice PV Asha was hearing a petition by a third-semester female student of Sree Narayana College in Kozhikode who was forced to vacate from the girls’ hostel as she had challenged the restrictions on mobile phone usage. The hostel rules also allegedly barred undergraduate students from accessing laptops in the hostel. The petitioner also claimed that the restrictions were discriminatory on the basis of gender as they were not similarly applicable in the boys’ hostel. The institution is an aided college affiliated to the University of Calicut.
The court ruled, “When the Human Rights Council of the United Nations have found that right to access to internet is a fundamental freedom and a tool to ensure right to education, a rule or instruction which impairs the said right of the students cannot be permitted to stand in the eye of law.”
In the case, references were also made to the budget speech of Kerala Finance Minister TM Thomas Isaac where the right to access the internet was termed a human right. The minister had stressed that the government was ensuring that every citizen would be given access to internet to further their boundaries of knowledge and learning.
The judge said, “The mobile phones which were unheard of once and later a luxury has now become part and parcel of the day to day life and even to a stage that it is unavoidable to survive with dignity and freedom.”
On the argument of the respondents as to how students can rely on the college library for their studies, the court said, “A student above the age of 18 years shall be given the freedom to choose the mode for her studies provided it does not cause any disturbance to others.”
The judge concluded that the restrictions on the usage of cell-phones and the directions to surrender it during study hours was ‘absolutely unwarranted’ and advised for counselling to students and parents on the art of self-restraint. The court also ruled that the petititoner be re-admitted to the hostel without any delay.