Kerala High Court holds right to access internet as a part of right to privacy and right to education – Kerala High Court has declared right to access the internet a fundamental right forming part of right to privacy under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. It has further held it to be a part of right to education. The Court held the same while allowing a writ petition filed by a student challenging restriction on the usage of mobile phones in a girl’s hostel. The restriction had hampered their studies, rendering them deprived of access to information. The decision came in the light of similar understanding upheld by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. The Court also accepted the contention of violation of fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. The Court found no nexus between the restriction and the same being in the alleged interests of the students’ discipline. Earlier, the Kerala state government had recognised right to internet as a human right in 2017. (Faheema Shirin R. K. v. the State of Kerala and ors. [W.P. (C) No. 19716 of 2019 (L)], order dated 19 September 2019)
Supreme Court issues notice on plea to end caste discrimination in campuses – The mothers of Rohit Vemula and Dr. Payal Tadvi filed a PIL before the Supreme Court seeking measures to end caste-based discrimination in higher educational institutions. The Court issued notice in the PIL on 20 September 2019 to the central government and the UGC. Senior Advocate Indira Jaising submitted that the UGC regulations against caste discrimination are not implemented and Equity Commissioner have not been appointed in as many as 288 universities. The PIL notes the rampant prevalence of caste-based discrimination in universities, institutional apathy to such discrimination, failure to prevent such discrimination, and non-compliance of existing rules and regulations. It further states that existing norms fail to adequately address the existence of caste-based discrimination in universities and also fail to provide an unbiased complaint redressal mechanism. The petitioners have sought direction to all universities and higher educational institutions for the establishment of Equal Opportunity Cells, disciplinary action against victimisation of students and staff who file complaints alleging caste-based discrimination, and necessary grant of interim relief to prevent creation of hostile environment against complaining individuals.
Supreme Court seeks report on alleged illegal detention of children in Jammu and Kashmir – On 20 September 2019, the Supreme Court sought a report from the Jammu and Kashmir Juvenile Justice Committee on the alleged illegal detention of children in Jammu and Kashmir. The Committee is to submit its report in a week. Notice has also been issued to the Centre on the plea filed. The directions came while considering a PIL filed alleging illegal detention of children in Jammu and Kashmir, in the aftermath of the revocation of the state’s special status and subsequent reorganisation. While considering the reason for directly petitioning the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi observed that in a report received from the Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court no hurdles in accessing the High Court was stated. However, Justice Bode and Justice Nazeer noted conflicting reports about the situation. [Enakshi Ganguly and anr. v. Union of India and ors., Writ Petition (Civil) No. 001166/2019), order dated 20 September 2019]
Supreme Court reiterates that classification should never be arbitrary, artificial or evasive – Reading down section 32F of the Maharashtra Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, the Supreme Court reiterated that the lay may recognise ‘degrees of harm’ but the classification should not be arbitrary, artificial or evasive. The impugned section provided that the cultivating tenant in cases where the landlord is a minor, a widow or a person subjected to a disability, does not statutorily become owner of the agricultural land cultivated personally by him on Tiller’s Day, when the landlord is divested of title and the tenant is vested with title to agricultural land which he cultivates with his own efforts. The bench held the impugned section to be read in conformity with Article 14 of the Constitution. The classification was not entirely struck down but words were read down to hold that the successor-in-interest of a widow is obliged to send an information to the tenant of cessation of interest of the widow to enable temamt ro exercise his right of purchase. [Vasant Ganpat Padave (D) v. Anant Mahadev Sawant, [Civil Appeal No. 11774/2018 with Civil Appeal Nos. 11775-117798/2018], order dated 18 September 2019]
Supreme Court issues notice on plea challenging Jharkhand High Court Order declining to quash FIR for sedition registered against Adivasi activists – The Supreme Court has issued notice a petition challenging a Jharkhand High Court order which had declined to quash an FIR for sedition registered against four Adivasi activists, who allegedly incited violence by making Facebook posts in support of the Pathalgadi movement, a tribal tradition of erecting stone slabs to demarcate the area of their village’s jurisdiction. The petitioners were alleged to have incited the Munda tribal persons in Khunti village to attack police officers. The High Court had refused to quash the FIR filed observing the Facebook posts evidenced to be a prima facie intention to commit sedition. The special leave petition filed against the High Court judgment submits that the petitioners had no link with the attack allegedly carried out by villagers. It was further submitted that posting of any messages on Facebook cannot itself be regarded as an act of cyber terrorism.
Centre tells Supreme Court that right to abortion must be balanced with state interest to protect health of mother and foetus – While responding to a petition filed seeking to liberalise existing abortion provisions in the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, the Union government submitted that a pregnant woman does not have the absolute right to abort pregnancy. In its reply on 11 September 2019, the Centre submitted that the right to abort must be balanced against the state interest to protect health of mother and life of the foetus. The government further noted that they sought to reduce mortality rates caused by unsafe abortions and that through the amendments it would be easier for ‘vulnerable women’ seeking abortion to get legal access. The government also made reference to the 2014 amendment bill to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, a 2019 redraft of which exists. The Supreme Court petition seeks to increase the timeline to terminate pregnancy from current ceiling of 20 weeks to 26 weeks, given substantial risk of child being born with deformities or abnormalities. [Mrs. C & Mrs. Y v. Union of India ors., [W. P. (C) No. 308/2014]
Madras High Court holds that social media companies cannot avoid liability for damage caused through it – Madras High Court has held that social media companies cannot escape liability for damage caused to society through fake news or rumours spread through their platforms, and said that they need to be held accountable for such misuse by users. The Court noted that such fake news and hate speech can reach hundreds of people, consequently having psychological impact on them leading to even unrest. The plea to allow petitioner to alter original prayer to link social media accounts with any government verified ID to check cybercimes was not entertained. The Court noted that doctrine of right to privacy cannot outweigh greater impact on peace of society. Additional government pleader submitted that the petition to transfer cases involving similar issues to the Supreme Court was moved on the basis that Aadhar linking of social media was being contemplated while the High Court had not entertained such prayers. The matter stands adjourned to 1 October 2019. [W.P. Nos. 20774 and 20214 of 2018, order dated 20 September 2019]
Lawyer submits before the Bombay High Court that there is no evidence against Arun Ferreira in Bhima Koregaon case – Activist-lawyer Arun Ferreira’s counsel submitted before the Bombay High Court on 20 September 2019 that prosecution had no incriminating evidence against Ferreira in the caste-based violence that had taken place in Bhima Koregaon, Pune. It was further submitted that he was being targeted owing to his acquaintance with the Indian Association of People’s Lawyers and Surendra Gadling, and that he was named an accused only in the supplementary charge sheet filed by the Pune police. Ferreira has worked for tribal rights and has spent 5 years in Nagpur jail after being booked under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. He was acquitted in all cases registered against him. Counsel also pointed out anomalies between claims made by the police given lack of corroborative record.
Kerala High Court holds that failure to comply with prescribed time limit by sanctioning authority vitiates sanction – Kerala High Court discharged alleged Maoist leader Roopesh of charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and sedition under the Indian Penal Code, on the ground of irregularities in order granting sanction for prosecution. and non-application of mind in sanctioning order regarding provision criminalising sedition. Without a valid sanction order cognizance of offence of sedition could be taken. The judgment came when Court considered three revision petitions filed by Roopesh challenging orders of the Session Court which had dismissed his applications seeking discharge. The Court held that the procedure prescribed under the UAPA has to be mandatorily and strictly followed, and that the provisions cannot be considered in a liberal manner to the detriment of the accused resulting in failure of justice. The sanctioning authority and the state are expected to stick to the time frame postulated, given the stringent provisions of the UAPA. [Roopesh v. State of Kerala and ors. [Crl. Rev. Pet. No. 732/2019], decided on 20 September 2019]
- (IPA Service)