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Law Changing with Changes in the Modern World-Faheema Shirin R K V/s Kerala

The technology in these modern times has been an indispensable part of human life. It is something that drives us humans just like we drive cars or scooters. One technology is the use of Mobile Phones and the Internet, something that was a luxury for some time being, later became an essential part of one's life.

It's something that we cannot part with. In the recent Landmark, Judgment labeled Faheema Shirin R. K v State of Kerala & Ors WP (C) No. 19716 of 2019 (L) held that the Right to use the Internet associates with the Right to Education and Right to Privacy under Article 21 of our Indian Constitution. The statues overlooked in this case are Article 15, 19, and 21,[1] the Fundamental Rights of every individual citizen residing in India. Violating it results in having a legal remedy for the same.

Decision dated 19th September 2019
Bench: The Honorable Smt. Justice P. V Asha

Brief Facts
The appellant is a female student, doing her 2nd year BA UG course at the Sree Narayaguru College -University of Calicut. As per the University of Calicut rule, those students who are not unable to stay home to come students shall stay in college aided hostel, thus she stays at the hostel aided by the college.

The regulations of the hostel, the occupants could not use mobile phones or laptops from 10 pm to 6 am. Later this rule was updated restricting the time from 6 pm to 10 pm, the petitioner along with other inhabitants met the deputy warden to speak about the difficulties they faced owing to the curtailment, but she didn't acknowledge the same.

The warden later sent a WhatsApp message to the Hostel occupants' group that those who can't adhere to the rules could vacate the hostel. Upon seeing this, Shirin (Petitioner), contacted the Principal and gave a letter requesting to relax the hostel rules. She even wrote a letter that she won't abide by the new rules of not using mobile phones from 6 pm to 10 pm.

The principal called her parents to college to tell that she should vacate the hostel as she didn't concede to its rule, thus gave a datum subjecting her to evacuate the hostel soon and they also conducted a meeting with the other residents of the hostel by telling them about the action taken against one of their inmates for not cooperating with the rules of the hostel and made all sign a letter of willingness to abide by the rules of the hostel.

The petitioner upon receiving this presented a leave note on making her impossible to travel 150km to attend the classes. The petitioner then went to the hostel to collect her belongings to exit the hostel but found the room locked and hostel people in charge not letting her do so.

The Respondents were – The State of Kerala, University Grants Commission (UGC), University of Calicut, Principal of Sree Narayanguru College, Deputy warden, and Matron of the hostel. They stated that the toted change effected by the plea of parents.

Issues:
  1. Whether the glitch inflicted by the hostel authorities on using mobile phones when exercising discipline violates the petitioner's Fundamental Rights?
  2. Whether not abiding by the rule result from drumming out of the hostel?
  3. Does the maneuvering of Mobile phones from 6 pm -10 pm effectuate indiscipline?

Contention of Plaintiff

The plaintiff argued that the diminution inflicted were only for girls hostels, thereby tots to biases on gender, in transgression with UGC issued instructions. She also says such restrictions imposed on their education hampers their growth and ability for accessing standard learning for women. It is also her case that the denial of the right to acquire knowledge through the internet and a prohibition on the use of mobile phones deprives her access to the source of knowledge, also harmful to the quality of education available to women.[2]

The above curtailment violates the principles of Conventions on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, 1979 (“CEDAW”), and the Beijing Declaration along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[3]requiring the state to take action against such discrimination.

As per article 19(1)(a), the right to use the internet is a part of the right to freedom of speech and expression and the restrictions enforced do not come under reasonable restrictions mentioned in Article 19(2) of the Indian Constitution especially in the current modern world, the government has allowed access to use the internet to all citizens as a basic human right. These limits have annexed her right to privacy guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.

Being a major, nobody has the authority to interfere with her authority in her freedom to use mobile phones. Even the changes effected at the request of other parents, break hers, and other occupants of the hostel's freedom.

She plunged upon a circle of judgments of Apex Court i.e. K S Puttaswamy v Union of India,[4]PUCL v Union of India,[5]Shreya Singhal V Union of India,[6] also the judgment of Kerala High Court in Anjitha K Jose & Ors[7]claiming that the cutback ensued as well as her ousting from hostel infringes her basic fundamental rights to education, right to privacy, and right to freedom of speech and expression.

Contention of Respondents
They argued ardently that on taking admission the petitioner and her father was informed about the rules of the hostel and to oblige by it, they were thus admitted by signing a document containing the rules and regulations of the hostel and agreeing to obey the same. And the new updating made in the rules was because of the imprudent objection from the parents on the usage of mobile phones, consequently, a meeting was held by the deputy warden about the time restriction made from 6 p. m to 10 p. m. The sole aim was to make sure the student gives time for study purposes as well as be disciplined and don't squander with technology.

They contended their argument in the light of Sojan Francis V MG University,[8] Pavitran V. K. M v State of Kerala,[9]Unniraja v Principal Medical College 1983 etc. stating that in order to ensure discipline as well as to keep up academic excellence the College and Hostel Authorities have the prime power to control, regulate, and rule the educational institutions.

Judgement
  1. The question to be conveyed was the restrictions ensued infringes the fundamental rights to freedom, privacy, and education, and not abiding by these restrictions results in disarray. The court upon reviewing the case noted that the right to reach the internet is one's autonomy and violating it would infringe one's fundamental right given under the Indian Constitution.
     
  2. UN General Assembly on 14th July 2014 adopted the right to access the internet, a resolution passed by the Human Rights Council to give access to the internet for various opportunities also for education purpose worldwide, thereby requiring the states to encourage and open the door for the same- to develop information, communication, and technologies in all countries. Thus, it plays a significant role in advancing the right to education.
     
  3. As mentioned by the respondent, it's correct that the Principal of College has the prime authority in controlling and regulating the functions of colleges including the staff, teachers, and students. The same applies to Hostel authorities requiring to issue guidelines that do not cause any intrusion or disruption to its functioning. But when such authority is given, it should also take into fact that an individual's rights are not violated upon such policies or rules. Thus, if one parent has compelled to restrict the use of phones, they cannot impose the same on all students, causing unreasonable cutbacks that lead to invading in one's privacy as seen in this case.
     
  4. In this case, the right to privacy of the petitioner as being violated just the way in the case K. S Puttaswamy- the telephone tapping of politicians an inseparable part of life, personal liberty, and dignity. However, here the rule of banning mobile phones from 6 p. m to 10 p. m and abdicating the phone to the warden to maintain discipline, is unreliable. It's contrived this rule violates the petitioners' right to privacy and affecting her and other student's futures who are striving to build their career by gaining knowledge to compete. Therefore, such restrictions cannot be imposed in the name of bringing discipline. It's also noted the using mobile phones do not amount to indiscipline unless students obstruct the privacy rules of others therein.
     
  5. As per the University Regulations as well as the UGC Regulations, the college must run a hostel to enable the students to live near the college to enable them to have enough time to concentrate on their studies. Therefore, it expects the hostel authorities to enforce only those rules and regulations which is acceptable by the public and law. Enforcement of discipline shall not be by blocking the ways and means of the students to acquire knowledge.[10]
     
  6. In this panorama, as per the decree passed, the college must admit the petitioner back to the hostel without further slowdown.

The court when passing the judgment relied upon the landmark judgment Viashaka & Ors V State of Rajasthan & Ors[11]- women empowerment case in bringing guarantee against any forms of discrimination in the workplace, the court decided the case based on International Conventions and norms specified in Fundamental Rights of the Indian Constitution, due to the absence of implementation of domestic laws.

The propositions laid down in S. Rengarajan & Ors V P Jagjivan Ram,[12]Anuj Garg v Hostel Association of India[13]- which implied that State authorities must reform with changes, also, it should clinch children with modern technologies to face the upcoming digitalized world.

Finally, the case judgment justified in favor of the Petitioner (Shirin) granting her legal remedy to exercise her fundamental right being a citizen of India.

Case Comments
The Court's decision is a symbol showing how it changed together with modern lives. It gives a distinctive Fundamental Right by expanding its rights in Freedom of Speech and Expression under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. The verdict stretches this right by vindicating International Declarations that the right to get access to the internet is radical liberty and interlinked with the right to education and the right to privacy.

This shows how our Indian Courts advanced and that their acumen corroborated with modern times and policies. It also tries to uphold the quality of education given to women without any gender bias and giving equal opportunity to all. Ultimately, the verdict paves a way for promoting online learning as a vital part of one's life, making the right to ingress the internet in inference with the right to education. Thereby, bracing up our Indian Constitution.

End-Notes:
  1. https://www.constitutionofindia.net/constitution_of_india/fundamental_rights/articles
  2. https://lawphoria.blogspot.com/
  3. https://www.women.gov.hk/en/enabling_envir/cedaw_and_beijing_platform_for_action.html
  4. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/127517806/
  5. (1997)1 SCC 301
  6. (2015) 5 SCC 1
  7. (2019) 2 KHC 220
  8. (2003) 2 KLT 582
  9. 2009(4) KLT 20
  10. https://lawlex.org/lex-bulletin/case-summary-faheema-shirin-r-k-vs-state-of-kerala-and-others/20510
  11. http://ncwapps.nic.in/pdfReports/Sexual%20Harassment%20at%20Workplace%20(English).pdf (JT 1997 (7). SC 384)
  12. (1989) 2 SCC 674
  13. (2017) 10 SCC 1

    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Sinu Sunil Kattikaran

    Awarded certificate of Excellence
    Authentication No: OT29313868851-19-1020

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