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Anuradha Bhasin v/s Union Of India 2020: Affirming Internet Access As A Fundamental Right

This case is associated with the societal issue of internet access as a fundamental right. In August 2019, the central government of India suspended all telecom services in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), including internet services, citing reasons of national security. This led to a significant disruption in the lives of the residents of J&K, affecting various aspects such as education, healthcare, and businesses that rely on the internet.

The case brought to light the debate on whether the freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business over the Internet is a part of the fundamental rights under the Constitution of India. The societal issue here is the balance between national security and individual rights, particularly in the context of internet access. The case raises important questions about the role of the internet in modern society and its status as a fundamental right. It also highlights the tension between security concerns and personal freedoms in the digital age.

Case Name: Anuradha Bhasin v/s. The Union of India
Court: Supreme Court
Date Of Decision: 10th January 2020
Coram: Justice N.V. Ramana, Justice V. Ramasubramanian

On the 4th and 5th of August 2019, a series of events unfolded in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The central government suspended all forms of telecommunication, including internet and mobile services. Following this, the President of India issued Constitutional Order 272, effectively revoking the special status of J&K. Simultaneously, the District Magistrate imposed restrictions on movement and public gatherings under Section 144 of CrPC, due to fears of a breach of peace. These actions had a significant impact on the lives of J&K residents, particularly journalists who faced movement restrictions.

In response to these events, Ms. Anuradha Bhasin, the executive editor of Kashmir Times, filed a petition. She argued that the internet shutdown and movement restrictions violated the right to freedom of press and profession under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. A similar petition was filed by Ghulam Nabi Azad, seeking to quash any orders that resulted in the shutdown of any modes of communication. The two petitions were combined for final disposal.

These events set the stage for the case, which examined the legality of the internet shutdown and movement restrictions in J&K. The case brought up important questions about the balance between national security and individual rights, especially in relation to internet access.

Whether the action of the government in prohibiting the access to the internet is valid?

Judgement Of The Court:
The Supreme Court, in its judgement, affirmed that the rights to freedom of speech and expression and the freedom to practice any profession or carry on any occupation, trade or business over the internet are protected under Article 19 (1) (a) and Article 19 (1) (g) of the Indian Constitution, respectively. This essentially means that the court recognized internet access as a fundamental right, integral to a democratic society for its proper functioning.

The court acknowledged that while the government does have the authority to suspend internet services, such an action must be justified with a demonstration of its necessity. Moreover, the suspension should not be indefinite and must have a defined duration. This is a crucial aspect of the judgement as it sets a precedent for future cases where internet access might be curtailed. It ensures that any suspension of internet services is subject to scrutiny and must be proportionate and necessary.

This judgement is significant as it underscores the importance of internet access in the modern world. It brings to light the need to strike a balance between maintaining national security and upholding individual rights. In a world where the internet has become a vital tool for communication, education, business, and more, this judgement serves as a reminder of its role as a fundamental right. It also highlights the responsibility of the government to ensure that this right is not infringed upon lightly.

To conclude, the Anuradha Bhasin v/s Union of India 2020 case is a landmark judgement that emphasizes the importance of internet access as a fundamental right and sets guidelines for its suspension. It is a significant step towards ensuring the protection of individual rights in the digital age.

Written By: Akshaya Zavar

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