We've all experienced restrictions on TV, mobile phones and the Internet usage as minors. My parents, for example, had a no-gadgets-after-lights-out rule in the house. But can you imagine putting up with such restrictions as an adult, college going student?
This was the reality of the students of Sree Narayanaguru College in Kozhikode, where the usage of cellphones was banned from 6 pm to 10 pm this June, and students were asked to deposit their cellphones and laptops with the hostel warden.
When 18-year old Faheema Shirin, a second-year student of BA literature, refused to do so and put down her objections in writing, she was expelled from the hostel.
“Earlier, these facilities were banned from 10 pm to 6 am. Although we objected to it too, the ban didn’t affect us too much since it mostly spanned our sleeping hours. But when the new ban timings covering our study hours were announced, I stood up for our rights, since we often needed the Internet and mobile phones during this period of day,” Faheema told a leading news outlet.
After she was expelled from the hostel, Faheema was forced to undertake a three-hour-long commute every day from her home, which was 120 km away from her college. So she decided to take action. “I had never dreamt of taking my own college to court. But faced with such a predicament (an evening Internet and cellphone ban), I thought suing the college was better than buckling under pressure,” she said.
Her father, Haksar R.K. (pictured below), a freelance photographer who believes that kids should be encouraged to stand up for her rights, supported her. The Legal Collective for Students’ Rights, a voluntary organisation of lawyers, provided her with free legal aid. She petitioned before the Kerala High Court, and argued that the hostel rule infringed her fundamental right to freedom of expression, right to privacy and right to education.
On Thursday, the Kerala High Court ruled that the hostel's restriction was unreasonable and unwarranted, ordering authorities to re-admit her in the hostel. "I am of the view that imposing such restrictions is unreasonable and therefore the respondent shall readmit the petitioner in the hostel without any further delay," Justice P V Asha said in her order.
"No student shall be compelled to use a mobile phone or not use a mobile phone. It is for each… student to decide with self-confidence and self-determination that she would not misuse it….” the court-ordered. The court also directed the college hostel to re-accommodate her.
Faheema is pleased with the judgement and plans to return to her hostel after the end of her festive-season break. "I am extremely happy. My friends in college and the hostel are also happy. They didn't really challenge the rules, but they were supportive of me and have welcomed the court verdict. This will benefit all of us and is a first in Kerala," she said.
We are so proud of Faheema for standing up for her rights as a woman and a student! She is certainly an inspiration to her peers, and we hope this will help teens across the country to speak up for themselves and take action when required.
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