The petitioner, Faheema Shirin, is a female student at Sree Narayaguru College (affiliate of the University of Calicut) who was residing at the Women’s Hostel run by the college. The hostel authorities implemented new regulations at the Hostel which restricted the use of mobile phones within the hostel from 10:00 pm to 6:00 am and then from 6pm to 10pm, while the use of laptop by undergraduates was prohibited.
Upon receiving the notification of the new rule, Shirin complained to the Hostel Authorities that the restrictions on the usage of mobile phones was inconvenient and requested to convene a meeting to discuss the same. When her efforts were rebuffed, she took the matter to the Principal of the college requesting to relax the restrictions. Thereupon. Shirin was asked to give her reluctance in abiding the hostel rules in writing and her parents were asked to meet with the Principal. In the meeting, they were informed that if Shrin did not comply with the Hostel’s rules and regulations she would have to vacate her room immediately. The residents of the Hostel were also asked to furnish a document stating their willingness to comply with the restriction. Shrin was served a notice to vacate the hostel within 12 hours and thereafter when she arrived to vacate her room, the door was locked and the Hostel Authorities did not allow her to take her belongings. The loss of housing was also detrimental to Shirin as she would have to travel nearly 150 km every day making it impossible for her to attend her college classes.
Justice P.V. Ashaigh, Court of Kerala
The Kerala High Court upheld the right to have access to the internet is a part of the fundamental right to education along with the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.The Court observed that the internet acts as a learning tool and nobody can impose restrictions on it, citing discipline.
The petitioner argued that the restriction on the use of internet amounted to a violation of the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.
The Kerala HC in response cited the Supreme Court judgment in the S. Rengarajan and others v/s P. Jagjivan Ram case (1989) that the fundamental freedom under Article 19(1)(a) can be reasonably restricted only for the purposes mentioned in the Article 19(2).
The restrictions under it must be justified on the anvil of necessity and not the quicksand of convenience or expediency.
It is noteworthy that the Human Rights Council of the United Nations also regards the Right of access to the Internet as a fundamental freedom and a tool to ensure the right to education.