In the case of Roopesh vs. State of Kerala, the Petitioner, Roopesh, an undertrial accused who has been under judicial custody for the past 5 years, filed an application seeking the grant of internet access for legal research. Roopesh states that he has been prosecuted for 39 cases in various courts. Since he appears as the party ‘in person’ in most of the cases, he sought internet access for legal research. It was noted that most of the cases against him have matured for trial, so he would have to refer to the judgments of the constitutional courts and various statutory provisions.
Further, Petitioner inter alia cited the case of Anuradha Bhasin vs. Union of India wherein it was observed that law should adapt to the technological development and accordingly mold its rules so as to cater to the needs of the society. The Petitioner also submitted that the right to use the internet had become a fundamental right protected under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Though he is an undertrial prisoner, he is entitled to all the fundamental rights, which are an enforceable reality but restricted only by the fact of imprisonment.
The High Court, while noticing the argumentative skills of the Petitioner who also was discharged from charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act as well as sedition in one of the cases against him, stated that providing internet access to one prisoner it could cause a negative outcry for false internet access claims by the inmates, which could not all be met by the prison authorities. The Court directed the Petitioner to make requests to the member secretary, Kerala State Legal Service Authority, and High Court of Ernakulam for providing adequate legal aid, including the facility to provide limited and controlled access to the internet for legal research. The Petitioner was granted the use of an internet facility for a duration of 45 minutes every week to access only the official websites and any useful 8 search engines for accessing any of the permitted websites.