For the first time ever, Supreme Court of India has declared that Internet access is a basic fundamental right for all Indians; and this right cannot be curtailed and blocked at any cost.
This is one of those watershed moments for Internet activists in India because from now on, this verdict and announcement by Supreme Court can be used in those cases, wherein this Right to Access Internet was curtailed, using legal loopholes.
The bench led by Justice Dipak Misra has said that Right to Internet Access is a part of Fundamental Right of Expression. As per their statements related to an on-going case, the bench said that every Indian citizen has “the right to be informed and the right to know and the feeling of protection of expansive connectivity”
Not only that, the Bench also described Internet as a “virtual world” and a “world which is invisible in a way,”. As per the bench, if any entity tries to curtail this right, then it will be illegal.
Limits of Right to Internet Access
However, the Right of Internet Access is permissible, until and unless it doesn’t ‘encroaches into the boundary of illegality’.
The bench was hearing arguments related to the on-going case of pre-natal sex determination advertisements, which appear on search engines in India.
As per our constitution, sex determination is banned in India, and any online advertisement which promotes such services are illegal.
As per the Bench, The Right of Internet Access stops when this right is abused to access such content and ads because it directly violates Section 22 (prohibition of advertisement relating to pre-natal determination of sex) under the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) (PCPNDT) Act of 1994.
The Bench said, “To elaborate, if somebody intends to search for ‘medical tourism in India’, he is entitled to search as long as the content does not frustrate or defeat the restriction postulated under Section 22 of the Act,”
Search Engines Assure ‘No Sex Determination Ads’
During the arguments, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have assured Supreme Court that no sex determination advertisements would appear on their platform.
To stop such content, a nodal officer would be appointed for each state, who will continuously monitor such content; and in case any content does appear by mistake, it would be notified to the search engines, and would be pulled down within 36 hours.
Interesting, Govt has said that such checks to monitor violation of Section 22 should only be applied to paid advertisements or content published in the form of indirect advertisements.
After Supreme Court’s declaration of Internet as a Fundamental Right, what major changes can it bring in India? Do let us know by commenting right here…
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