Right to internet: Kerala High Court's order raises questions on Jammu and Kashmir

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NEW DELHI: The Kerala High Court on Thursday ruled that access to internet is a fundamental right under the Constitution, which has raised questions as to whether the complete internet shutdown in Jammu and Kashmir for over a month now is a gross violation of fundamental rights of the state’s residents.

India having the second largest number of internet users in the world, communication restrictions not only affect the daily lives of residents but also have a huge impact on the students who might lose out on important communication from their schools/colleges outside, which in turn might hamper their career.

“UN declared internet as a fundamental right way back in 2016. But residents of Kashmir have never got this right not only this time, have been deprived of the right every time citing law and order,” said advocate D K Mahant.

“On one hand, the government wants us to move to digital economy, but citizens in Kashmir cannot use their own money.”

Echoing the same sentiments, Nikhil Pahwa, co-founder of Save The Internet said, “What is happening in Kashmir is a violation of fundamental right.” Supreme Court lawyer Anas Tanvir said, “The Kerala HC ruling highlights the discrimination being meted out to Kashmir.

With communication shutdown, the fundamental rights of Kashmiris are being infringed daily. This is akin to collective punishment.”

The writ petition:

A student of Sree Narayana College in Kozhikode filed a writ petition challenging restrictions on usage of mobile phone and bar on undergraduate students from accessing laptops in the hostel.  The petitioner also alleged gender discrimination in enforcing the restrictions.

Hearing the plea, a single bench of Justice PV Asha ruled 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”.

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