Friday, July 3, 2020
 News Details
Restore Internet connectivity

B L Saraf

Access to internet is basic right – Kerala High Court
We have come to witness a strange phenomenon. Probably, it has something to do with the times we live in: that when some disturbances occur in any part of the country – minor or major – internet connectivity becomes the foremost causalty. Public authorities snap it at the first available occasion as if to work as panacea of all the ills. May be in certain situations and for shorter durations it is desirable. But net’s prolonged blackout, in much case, proves counter -productive, and, in effect, does quite the opposite of what is actually intended. Absence of a legitimate and authentic source of information leaves field open for the rumor mongering. Remember, in Kashmir we have a pristine and ever blooming rumor market which flourishes in every situation.
Thanks to the Kerala High Court, we hope things may change for the better . Now that right to access to the internet being held to be a part of human rights State authorities may revise this policy of shutting down the internet connectivity, just at the drop of a hat. Citizenry may get some relief. Because, we live in world where life without internet has become meaningless . We get all such information and education through this medium as is required to gain knowledge and hone one’s skills, much needed for the personal and societal advancement. It is precisely for this reason and in appreciation of rule of privacy that Kerala High Court has stepped in and struck a blow for the internet connectively.
The Kerala High Court in an order of far reaching implications, passed on September 19, has held that right to have access to internet is part of fundamental right to education as well as the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution. Elaborating the point, the Court observed, ” When Human rights Council of the United Nations has found that the right to internet is a fundamental freedom and a tool to ensure right to education, a rule of instruction which impairs the said right of the students cannot be permitted to stand in the eyes of law .” The Learned Judge relied upon the decision of Supreme Court rendered in Vishakha’s case ( Air 1997 SC3011 ) where in it was held that in light of Article 51 A (c ) and Article 253 of the Constitution and the role of judiciary envisaged in the Beijing Statement (international conference on elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, 1979 ) the international conventions and norms must be read into the fundamentals rights in India” in the absence of enacted domestic law ” in the field.
The matter came up before the Court on a prayer of girl hosteller who, along with other students, was forbidden by the college authorities to use mobile phone between 6 pm to 10 pm, daily.
Ever since their ascendance to the helm of affairs in New Delhi, PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah have been emphasizing the need of national unity. This is worth appreciating. Earlier it was about Article 370 and now it is the turn of ” one national language .” The HM called upon country men to inculcate use of Hindi language as a national medium to communicate officially as also in private dealings as and when required. This statement has generated a counter argument and some states -particularly in south – have shown resistance to the move .
World over, this is still an unsettled issue whether one language is able to foster national unity. On the contrary we have cases were insistence on one language as common medium of instructions and communication has resulted in dismemberment of the countries. Birth of Bangladesh in our neighbor hood is one such shining example . Arabic has not been able to unite Arabs Well, it is the other debate not germane to the present topic.
The dilution of Art 370, we are told, has furthered the cause of national integration, now, that J&K stands permanently merged with the Indian Union. Then there is a paradox. In essence real unifier, in present times, are the net connectivity and mobile telephony. Both stand snapped in Kashmir. We are further informed that Government, in eagerness to save human lives and the property, has restricted the channels of information and communications. That may be a reason valid for a limited time, only. It cannot go on for the months together. People can’t be denied internet connectivity for a longer period. Apart from that, the situation assumes a contradictory trait. As, rightly pointed out by the Kerala High Court, internet is of immense use to the people for variety of reasons. In any case, after this judgment we hope Government will restore net connectivity and allow people in Kashmir enjoyment of this fundamental human right.
Before parting, a word about Pakistan’s so called love for media freedom in J&K ! Pakistan PM Imran Khan has been complaining around the world that there is no media freedom in Kashmir. Ironically, the country has nothing to boast of when it comes to the press freedom. Pakistan government is about to take away powers of regulating the media from ‘autonomous ‘ Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority and the Press Council of Pakistan and debar them from exercising powers to deal with the cases filed against the journalists. It proposes to hand over them to Special media tribunals or “media courts “, to be created soon, which will “deal with all media-related cases.”
The move has come under serious criticism. Human Rights Commission for Pakistan has said it is” deeply concerned “at the Government move. “Given the Governments woeful record on the press freedom,” the commission ” urged the Government to refrain from putting further pressure on the media.” Senator Mustaffa Nawaz Khokhar of PPP told media “all those journalist who are critical of the Government will be taken to task under the proposed tribunals.” People in Pakistan are seriously questioning the democratic credentials of PM Khan and his PTI. For Imran it can be said “the lady is protesting too much.”
Imran Khan should, in his country’s interest, ‘lay off ‘ on the Kashmir front and be tough on the elements in Pakistan that go on terror financing. Media reports are rife that Pakistan is very close to being “blacklisted” by FATF.

(The author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge. Feedback- [email protected] )

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