The latest assertion of Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in Rajya Sabha on Thursday that the misconception about the right to the Internet being a fundamental right needs to be cleared and his attempts to justify the snapping of internet services for maintaining law and order and national security have further complicated things.
The Supreme Court last month had stated that access to the internet is a fundamental right. It had further stated that the government authorities have no right to deprive its residents of fundamental rights except under certain conditions clarified in our Constitution. The observations of the court came on a plea in connection with Internet blockade in Jammu and Kashmir since August 5 – after the revoking of Article 370 in the Union Territory.
Constitutional experts say Indian constitution makes the right to freedom of speech and expression a fundamental right for all citizens. It has been listed in Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution. The Supreme Court has on many occasions expanded the scope of the right to freedom of speech and expression.
The court observation had made the constitutional provision to keep the citizens updated with the latest happenings with the help of innovation and technology. But the latest claims of Prasad have given more reasons to security agencies to trouble residents on the pretext of maintaining law and order in the country.
The misuse of the law to muzzle the voice of country residents against government authorities has already been earning bad name for government authorities as many states have been repeatedly been witnessing shut down of internet facilities. On the other hand, the misuse of the internet to promote anti nation agenda of terrorist outfits has also been rising and it’s a grave concern for security agencies. The uncontrolled flow of information and reach of the internet is being exploited by anti nation elements.
Indiscriminate use of norms to keep the residents away from the internet is a direct assault on the fundamental rights of residents. Government authorities must frame clear norms to maintain a balance between national security and fundamental rights of residents.