Men have started the journey from the stone age and have reached to modern age witnessing many phases of time with innumerable inventions, but the internet has brought a revolution to bring uncountable, unmeasurable changes to the lives of the people. Internet which everyone, educated or uneducated, rich or poor, uses and realizes its importance. In today’s modern world, the internet has influenced almost every aspect of daily life. Education, a unique field, has been greatly impacted by the internet. All the information has been spread in the air which can be accessed by anyone with a click and has made life easier and reduced the rush of information. It has provided faster-connecting links to the loving ones irrespective of the fact in which corner of the world he is present. With connectivity, people have come in contact with each other and so have influenced each other’s culture and tradition which can be seen in the shift of people towards westernization. At the same time, it has reshaped our social values in a progressive manner as people get engaged with different societies and makes bond, and develop a new culture that is not uncommon in the modern age.
We live in the age of the Internet, also it has become an important part of our life that we can’t live without it. Besides, the internet is an invention of high-end science and modern technology. Apart from that, we are connected to the internet 24 *7. It is very difficult to estimate the area that the internet cover. Every second millions of people remain connected to it with any problem or issue. The Internet has staggering amounts of information available about almost every one of us. Every website we visit, the search engines we use, and even the products we buy, profiles us, or some part of us to say the least. With this, the concerns of our private information being shared by third parties, without our knowledge or consent and its use for a commercial purpose have been raised again and again most countries are trying to come up with legislation governing the extent to which the private data can be collected and used.
Internet Access A Part Of Fundamental Right
In Anuradha Basin Vs. Union Of India And Ors – Apex Court in its recent judgment observed that freedom to practice any profession or carry on any trade, business, or occupation over the medium of the internet enjoys constitutional protection under Article 19(1)(a) and Article(1)(g), but the restriction of such fundamental rights should be according to article19(2) and (6) of the constitution, inclusive of the test of proportionality. Internet is an imperative tool for trade and commerce and plays an important role in carrying e-commerce business as it provides a virtual platform to a business that is more affordable.
The apex court in Maenka Gandhi Vs. Union Of India observes that the procedure that deals with the modalities of regulating, restricting, or even rejecting a fundamental right falling within Article21 has to be fair, not foolish carefully designed to effectuate, not subvert the substantive right itself.
Internet access has become a basic necessity for students as information has become more accessible to them. In Faheema Shirin Rk Vs. The State Of Kerela And Others Hon’ble High Court stated that the Right To Access the Internet is a part of the Right To Education and Right To Privacy under Article 21A and Article 21 of the Constitution Of India respectively. Internet access not only enhances the opportunities for students to acquire knowledge but also enhances the quality of education.
Law Governing Internet Shutdowns
The procedural mechanism contemplated for restrictions on the Internet is found under the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act), the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (Cr. P.C), and the Telegraph Act, 1885 (Telegraph Act). Section 69A of the IT Act read with the Information Technology (Procedures and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 allows blocking of access to information. The aim of the section is not to restrict/block the internet as a whole, but to block access to particular websites on the internet.
Prior to 2017, any measure restricting the internet generally or even shutting down the internet was passed under Section 144, Criminal Procedure Code (Cr. P.C). The position has changed since 2017, with the passage of the Suspension Rules under Section 7 of the Telegraph Act. The Rules state that an order passed there should be a reasoned order. The order should be forwarded to a Review Committee which has been set up under the Suspension Rules, within one working day. The Review Committee should undertake a periodic review of the orders passed and record its findings of whether the order issued under the Suspension Rules is in accordance with the provisions of the main statute, viz., Section 5(2) of the Telegraph Act.
The orders under consideration are subject to the satisfaction of the Government or the authority concerned as to the existence of a “public emergency.” A “public emergency” has been held to mean that which raises problems concerning the interest of the public safety, the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or the prevention of incitement to the commission of an offense.
The orders should be made freely available, through some suitable mechanism, since it affects the lives, liberty, and property of people. This should also be should be amenable to judicial review. The restrictions contemplated under the Suspension Rules are temporary in nature. The same must not, therefore, be allowed to extend beyond that time period which is necessary.
Going by the more substantive vision that the socio-democratic theory of free speech espouses, the right to the internet needs to be recognized expressly by the state. Concomitant to expressing recognition of the right, there is a pressing need for the state to intervene and regulate the market and lay down the policy with regard to meaningful access to the internet. The state largesse aimed at improving the conditions of internet access further depends on whether the state chooses to roll out a number of schemes and programs such as Digital India and the like in this regard, on whether it chooses to regulate the market of data connectivity and by passing on the obligation to the non – state actors.
Therefore, we see that the right to access the internet in India is making strides at a great pace. In these trying times of the pandemic when education and most of our day-to-day activities are hugely dependent on access to the internet, it becomes pertinent and the most opportune moment for this right is to be recognized by the state for the upliftment of the masses as a social measure.