Internet as a Fundamental Right

A basic requirement of human beings for sustainability is brought under and simplified as the Fundamental Rights. At no place and under no situation, the Constitution of India allows its violation. But apart from all the present rights in the present growing world, a new right is to be included which is the right to the internet. Does this mean that an individual cannot sustain if all the rights are guaranteed but he is not allowed to access the internet? Normal life cannot be continued without the internet? Is the right to access the internet a fundamental right?

There arise many questions on hearing the judgment of a case that is filed after the activity of the government in the shutdown of the broadband and other communication modes in a particular region. This article deals with all these questions including the facts of the case mentioned and the prevailing situations in some parts of the nation.

Introduction

The present world witnessed the change of bringing the entire world into the palm of the user in a fraction of second. Such a massive change is because of the widening in the usage of the internet. No field of work in the present is a non-user of the internet. Either directly or indirectly they are the subscribers of the internet. Huge platforms that connect people such as social media, news channels, and various other industries develop their product and enter the internet platform to establish their identity in the world.

Such a huge base plays its role in the education system, economic system, communication system, etc. In the field of education, many online courses hold their position in providing knowledge for the students; practically the students gain more knowledge and experience than offline learning. The students of the past century were well versed only in their field of work and at the same time were satisfied with their work within their society. This left them in a different atmosphere and the society made them strive hard to enter into a sustainable position.

The present generation students gain knowledge about all fields, society, tasks, and gain an idea of how to sustain in a new society at their growing stage. But this usage when viewed from the other side, people who can pay for the connectivity uses the internet for good and bad, but people who are in a position to not afford such packages lack in gaining knowledge in the field.

Education stands a right to be acquired but the mode of education gets lagged in certain aspects. Further discussion deals with the right to use the internet, the reason for its development, whether the internet is good or bad, and so on.

Internet usage, Good or Bad?  

Anything introduced has its positives and negatives attached to it at the time of its introduction. Internet as a good when discussed has made its role in the field of education and other fields as discussed above. Few are: in the field of economy, the introduction of online advertisements and trade helps businesses to reach different regions without considering the territorial boundaries. A business started in any country has its application/website which provides knowledge about the business, and every other information in that database may be viewed by all persons who require such information.

In the field of the e-market, the past generation practiced buying and selling commodities in a certain specified place. But the present generation witnessed all buying and selling shift online. The product may either be perishable or non-perishable but it has its presence on the internet.   The users also wish to buy through such an interface. Though the internet is just a service provider and the actual sales and other activities are initiated by other organizations it is commonly known as the internet.

The same boon when viewed with its negative roles is nowhere less to its advantage. In the field of education, students gaining knowledge in an atmosphere that is similar to school psychologically have strong and deep knowledge of concepts. Students who have less grasping power and students who have high grasping power made to sit in a commonplace and the knowledge is provided. But in online coaching, the interaction within the students reduce, and the students with poor grasping power suffer a lot, and at last, the knowledge stands only a temporary gain.

In the field of the e-market, physical checking of goods gives permanent satisfaction and the quality accepted by the user is chosen by the user itself in case of perishable goods. Online sales, however, give a virtual appearance of the goods and reduce the talent of the individual to choose the best among the product. Thus, we can conclude that the usage of any platform such as the internet or any other inventions, the good or bad is acquired by the usage of the user according to the limits.

Using the Internet a Fundamental Right

The Constitution guarantees every citizen of India with certain fundamental rights and at no time can they be violated by any law. Those rights are the minimum needs that a citizen must be provided for his sustainability. When the Special Status given to Jammu and Kashmir was canceled the government imposed all forms of restrictions and internet shutdown in order to avoid any riots and other damages.  Can the internet be considered as a minimum requirement for the sustainability of the individual? The answer falls to be “YES” from the Supreme Court Judgment in early 2020 in the case of Anuradha Bhasin & Ors v. Union of India[1].

In the above-mentioned case, the Supreme Court came to such a conclusion after considering all the prevailing fundamental rights and stated that the freedom of trade and commerce can be done through internet and such activities are constitutional protected Article 19(1)(g) and such usage is subjected to restriction under Article 19(6). Similarly, for the right to speech and expression mentioned under Article 19(1)(a) can also be executed through the internet platform subject to certain conditions.

As the internet stays a base in some aspect of fulfilling the citizen’s fundamental right it can also be a basic right guaranteed by the Constitution. Such a move violated the fundamental rights that are to be expressed directly and indirectly. In such a situation the court viewed the rights as mentioned under Article 19(1) and concluded that the internet stays as a platform in implementing the fundamental rights, thus it can be a guaranteed right. The United Nation also supports such an act of making internet usage a fundamental right and had passed a resolution in June 2016.

Present Situation in North East and Rural India

Though the internet is a massive platform that grows daily, some places in India lag in users of the internet. India witnessed the drastic improvement in usage and users of the internet in the last 5 years after the entry of the telecom industry giant “Reliance”. But it does not solely lie in the telecom industry but also over the other technological growth. Even after a period of 4 to 5 years, the growth in India is heterogeneous. The growth is high in the mid, north, and south parts of India, but very slow in South East and rural parts of India. People in such areas are also eligible to enjoy the right to usage of the internet.

In recent times, the number of users in rural India increased more than the number of users in urban regions. It is noticed that such an increase is due to cheap data plans and the availability of devices to access at an affordable price. To boost up the increase in users and to provide internet to all citizens, the Government of India initiated a project known as the Bharat Net Project. It is a center-state collaborative project. Currently, it has been implemented by the Department of Telecommunications. This project aims to facilitate the fields of banking, health, education, and other services through the internet in the rural part of India and to connect all Gram Panchayats in the country and provide high-speed data.

Status of Accessing the Internet in India

India witnessed three landmark cases which explicitly states that using the internet stands as a right to the individual that cannot be grabbed at any situation. In Faheema Shirin.RK v. State of Kerala and Ors., the Kerala High Court stated that usage of the internet stands as a part of a fundamental right that cannot be curbed under any situation.

In Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, the Supreme Court accepted that online is a medium where the right to speech and expression can be exercised. The third case was Anuradha Bhasin v. Union of India, in which the Supreme Court passed the judgment that the internet medium enjoys protection under Articles 19(1)(a) and 19(1)(g) and for the remaining rights, it is to be accepted with the test of proportionality.

A notable point is that the first country to accept the internet as a legal right was Finland. Though it is confirmed through the judgment, the parliament has initiated its steps long before in making the judgments effective. Some of the steps are the Bharat Net project, Digital India Project to make India digitally empowered and knowledgeable.

Usage of the internet during the Pandemic

TheInternet has shown its wide arms and helped every society during the pandemic. One of the most unforgettable pandemic situations is the year 2020 which is currently combating the deadly COVID 19. The whole economy has taken a downfall and the educational system is suffering in covering all its students for providing knowledge and even more. These are the times when the internet was used the most in all parts of the world. The usage of the e-market helped the sellers and buyers in developing their economy, while the students were guided by online classes for continuing their education. The above discussed are only a few fields that utilized the platform but numerous fields are unnoticed and not discussed that also made use of the internet.

Conclusion

The internet may be fundamental right or not, the point is that the present developing world is supported by an extra pillar known as the internet. As at present everything is used via the internet, making it a fundamental right is a useful move, but when the same is dependent wholly thinking of the negative part of the internet makes the users hesitate in using such medium. As the internet is a medium that is accessed in cyberspace (a place where all the data gets stored and information passes) any activity of hacking such base may collapse the nation’s security and lead the nation into the track of threat.

Thus, it can be concluded that similar to all other inventions internet also has its own uses and negatives, creating a digital economy and providing internet to all citizen considering it to be a fundamental right is important, but more than that using it with safe is must, proper laws must be implemented so that the right to privacy may not be violated.

FAQs

  1. Is the right to internet a fundamental right in India?
  2. Is the internet good or bad for people?
  3. How has the internet helped during the Pandemic?
  4. What is the status of internet access in India?
  5. How has the government worked to ensure access to internet all across the country?

References


[1] Writ Petition (Civil) No 1031 of 2019

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