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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

‘Accessing internet a part of right to education’: Kerala HC strikes down mobile ban in college hostel

“When the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has found that right to access to Internet is a fundamental freedom and a tool to ensure right to education, a rule or instruction which impairs the said right of the students cannot be permitted to stand in the eye of law”, the judgement reads.

education Updated: Sep 20, 2019 15:59 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India
Kerala
Representative
Representative(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
         

In a landmark judgement, the Kerala High Court has directed readmission of a girl student expelled from a college hostel for opposing a regulation on use of mobile phones, noting that the right to access Internet is part of the Right to Education and Right to Privacy under the Constitution. The court also held that discipline shall not be enforced by blocking ways and means of students to acquire knowledge.

In her judgement on Thursday, Justice P V Asha said, “When the Human Rights Council of the United Nations has found that right to access to Internet is a fundamental freedom and a tool to ensure right to education, a rule or instruction which impairs the said right of the students cannot be permitted to stand in the eye of law”.

“As pointed out by the learned counsel for the petitioner, the Apex Court has in Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan & Ors. held that in the light of Article 51(c) and 253 of the Constitution and the the role of judiciary envisaged in the Beijing Statement, international conventions and norms are to be read into fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution in the absence of enacted domestic law occupying the fields when there is no inconsistency between them. “Going by the aforesaid dictum laid down in the said judgment, the right to have access to Internet becomes the part of right to education as well as right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” the court said.

The court gave the judgement on a writ petition filed by a third semester B.A girl student of an aided college under the Calicut University, challenging her expulsion from the hostel.

In her petition, she had said the inmates of the hostel were not allowed to use their mobile phone from 10 pm to 6 am within the hostel and that undergraduate students were not allowed to use laptops also in the hostel.

The petition said from June 24, 2019 onwards the duration of the restriction in using the mobile phones was changed from 6 pm to 10 pm.

Such restrictions were imposed only in the girls hostel.

The petitioner said it amounted to discrimination based on gender, in violation of guidelines issued by UGC, which prohibits gender discrimination.

In its order, the high court said the total restriction on the use of mobile phones and the direction to surrender it during the study hours was absolutely unwarranted.

“When it is already found that such an action infringes the fundamental freedom as well as privacy and will adversely affect the future and career of students who want to acquire knowledge and compete with their peers, such instruction or restriction cannot be permitted to be enforced,” the judgement said, citing various judgements of the Supreme Court and the High Court.

The court said while enforcing discipline it is necessary to see the positive aspects of the mobile phone also.

It said the restriction should have connection with discipline and when there is nothing to show that there was any act of indiscipline on account of the usage of mobile phone by the petitioner, that cannot stand.

The fact that no other student objected to the restriction or that all others obeyed the instructions will not make a restriction legal if it is otherwise illegal, the court said.

“No student shall be compelled either to use mobile phone or not to use mobile phone. It is for each of the students to decide with self-confidence and self-determination that she would not misuse it and that she would use it only for improving her quality of education,” the judgement said.

Noting that as per the university regulations as well as the UGC regulations, the college is bound to run a hostel to enable students to reside near the college in order to enable them to have sufficient time to concentrate in their studies, the court said, hostel authorities are expected to enforce only those rules and regulations for enforcing discipline.

“Enforcement of discipline shall not be by blocking the ways and means of the students to acquire knowledge”, it said.

The court said it was of the view that imposing of such restrictions is unreasonable and therefore the respondent shall re-admit the petitioner in the hostel without any further delay.

The court, however, made it clear that the petitioner or her parent shall not do any act in a manner humiliating any of the respondents or any other teacher or warden or Matron in the hostel/college.

The petitioner or any other inmate shall also see to it that no disturbance is caused to others by usage of mobile phone in the hostel, the court said.

First Published: Sep 20, 2019 15:52 IST

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