Access to internet is a part of Right to Education, a fundamental right: Kerala High Court

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Kerala High Court on Thursday ordered that the third semester BA student of Sree Narayanaguru College, Chelannur, Kozhikode be re-admitted after she was expelled from the college hostel for not abiding by the restrictions imposed by the college administration on use of mobile phone from 10 pm to 6 am in the hostel.

Justice PV Asha who wrote the judgment for the court found the restrictions unreasonable. She observed: “Rules and regulations require reforms to cope up with the advancement of technology and the importance of modern technology in day to day life. As per the University Regulations as well as the UGC Regulations, the college is bound to run a hostel to enable the students to reside near the college in order to enable them to have sufficient time to concentrate in their studies. Therefore, the hostel authorities are expected to enforce only those rules and regulations for enforcing discipline. Enforcement of discipline shall not be by blocking the ways and means of the students to acquire knowledge”.

The issue before the High Court was whether the restrictions imposed by the hostel authorities on use of mobile phones while enforcing discipline infringed the fundamental rights of the petitioner, even assuming that such modification was brought about at the request from the parents.

Accepting the contention of the petitioner that the apex court in Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan & Ors (1997) 6 SCC 241] held that in the light of Article 51(c) and 253 of the Constitution of India and the role of judiciary envisaged in the Beijing Statement, the international conventions and norms are to be read into the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution of India in the absence of enacted domestic law occupying the fields when there is no inconsistency between them.

Going by the aforesaid dictum laid down in the said judgment, Justice Asha held that the right to have access to the internet becomes the part of the right to education as well as the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.


Positive aspects of the mobile phone


The High Court enumerated the positive aspect of mobile phones. “The facilities to access internet, which was initially possible only through desktop computers, later in the laptop, is now available in mobile phones which are handy and portable; with more and more applications, connectivity became feasible for everyone everywhere even among the common man. Apart from the facilities to read E-news papers, e-books, etc. one can undergo online courses also sitting at home or hostel and it is pointed out that there are courses under SWAYAM recognized by the UGC, which students can undergo even when they are undergoing regular studies in colleges….”, said the High Court.

While enforcing discipline, the High Court said, it is necessary to see the positive aspects of the mobile phone also.

Relying upon the earlier decision of the High Court of Kerala in Anjitha K. Jose & Anr. v. State of Kerala &Ors, Justice P V Ashareiterated that the restriction should have a connection with the discipline and when there is nothing to show that there was an act of indiscipline on account of the usage of mobile phone by the petitioner, that cannot stand.

Pertinently, Justice Asha observed, “the fact that no other student objected to the restriction or that all others obeyed the instructions will not make a restriction legal if it is otherwise illegal. No student shall be compelled either to use mobile phone or not to use a mobile phone. It is for each of the students to decide with self-confidence and self-determination that she would not misuse it and that she would use it only for improving her quality of education”.

“The only restriction that can be imposed is that they should not cause any disturbance to other students. While acting in the exercise of the right to privacy, persons like the petitioner shall also see that such exercise does not invade the right to privacy of another student residing in the hostel especially in her room”, held Justice Asha.

The counsel for the College had vehemently argued that in the absence of any challenge to the rules and regulations, the petitioner could not be heard to challenge the action taken in accordance with the rules.

Negating the contention of the college, Justice Asha said: “When it is already found that such an action infringes the fundamental freedom as well as privacy and will adversely affect the future and career of students who want to acquire knowledge and compete with their peers, such instruction or restriction cannot be permitted to be enforced”.

The court also referred to the decision of the Supreme Court in Charu Khurana v. Union of India (2015) 1 SCC 192, to state that women still face all kinds of discrimination and prejudice and the days when women were treated as fragile, feeble, dependent and subordinate to men, should be a matter of history.

The court made clear that the petitioner or her parent shall not do any act in a manner humiliating any of the respondents or any other teacher or warden or matron in the hostel or college. The petitioner or any other inmate shall also see that no disturbance is caused to others by the usage of mobile phone in the hostel, the court said.

[Read the Judgment]


The Leaflet