There are currently no proposals to make internet a fundamental right, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad informed the Lok Sabha on December 4, while responding to questions raised by BJP MP Harish Dwivedi. Worse, Prasad did not reveal if the government is even planning on declaring internet a fundamental right. Dwivedi had also asked Prasad about the reasons behind not making internet a fundamental right, and the time it would take for the government to make internet a fundamental right. Prasad did not address either of these questions.
While this might seem shocking, Prasad’s response shouldn’t come as a much of a surprise given that internet has been shut in the newly formed union territory of Jammu and Kashmir for 4 months now. Congress MP Ghulam Nabi Azad, had said in Rajya Sabha, on November 20, that this “unprecedented” internet ban is widely affecting education and healthcare in the region. Due to the shutdown, aspirants from Jammu and Kashmir who are preparing for the highly competitive National Eligibility Entrance Examination (NEET) are finding it difficult to even fill the online application form.
Thus far, the government of India has cited national security for depriving citizens of Jammu and Kashmir of internet. Home Minister Amit Shah had said in Rajya Sabha last month that “when it is the matter of India’s security, Kashmir valley and its people’s security, and a fight against terrorism, we have to set our priorities,” while responding to questions on when internet services in Jammu and Kashmir would be restored.
Prasad’s response also contradicts Kerala’s High Court recent judgement which recognised the access to the internet as a fundamental right. The Court had said that access to mobile phones and the internet is an important facet of life, and it is “unavoidable to survive with dignity and freedom,” without the access.
Here is why we think why the right to access the internet as a fundamental right is important:
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