In a landmark ruling, the Kerala high court has held that right to access the internet is part of right to education and right to privacy. It said female students cannot be prevented from accessing internet on mobile phones during study hours at college hostels.

Justice P V Asha gave the ruling on a petition filed by Faheema Shirin R K, a third-semester degree student of Chelannur Sree Narayana College in Kozhikode, challenging the regulation in her college hostel that students should not use mobile phones during study hours (6pm-10pm). The college had claimed that the restriction was imposed after requests from parents to curb misuse of mobile phones.

The judgment cited a SC ruling in a separate case, in which said that international conventions and norms are to be read into the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution in the absence of enacted domestic laws in certain fields, as long as there is no inconsistency.

Quoting Articles 51(c) (fostering respect for international law and treaty obligations) and 253 (legislation to give effect to international agreements) of the Constitution and the role of judiciary envisaged in the Beijing Statement (UN principles on equality of men and women), the HC said access to internet has become part of the right to education as well as right to privacy under Article 21.

The college had contended that it hadn’t restricted the use of laptops, but the court said not all students would be able to afford a mobile phone as well as a laptop. It also pointed out that the purpose of restriction — to prevent misuse — would not be achieved as misuse was possible with laptops, too.

The court said the restriction on use of internet would be out of place, and that such restrictions could not be imposed even at the parents’ request as students