A 19-year-old college student in Kerala who was expelled from her hostel for refusing to submit her mobile phone between 6 pm to 10 pm has fought her way legally against the hostel rule. The Kerala High Court on Thursday ruled that the hostel rule was unreasonable and unwarranted, ordering authorities to re-admit her in the hostel.
Faheema Shirin, a second-year student of Sree Narayanaguru College in Kozhikode, was expelled from her hostel for refusing to deposit her mobile phone with the warden between 6 pm to 10 pm. The rule was introduced in the college in June. Before that, women students in the hostel had to deposit their mobile phones and laptops with the warden between 10 pm to 6 am.
"We use mobile phones and internet for a lot of reasons including academics. I have always been using internet for my studies, assignment and research. Not having access to phone during peak self-study hours was restrictive and that's why I refused to submit my phone with warden between 6 pm and 10 pm. I also had the full support of my father," Faheema Shirin told NDTV.
In her petition before the Kerala High Court, she argued that the hostel rule infringed her fundamental right to freedom of expression, right to privacy and right to education.
"Relying on the budget speech made by the Finance Minister, it is stated that the state government has proclaimed steps for making the internet accessible to all citizens recognizing the right to internet as a human right... Being an adult she (Faheema Shirin) claims that nobody has any authority to interfere with her freedom to use the mobile phones. It is argued that the forceful seizure of mobile devices have invaded the right of privacy of the hostel inmates", the student said in her petition.
After being expelled, Ms Shirin was commuting almost 120 km every day from her home to the college and back. Now that she has a high court verdict in her favour, things are set to change
The college has said that it was complaints by parents that prompted them to take such a decision for women hostelers.
The college also said that 39 students had agreed to surrender their phones between 6 pm and 10 pm.
"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 towards me and have welcomed the court verdict. This will benefit all of us and is a first in Kerala", Faheema Shirin told NDTV.
Her 46-year-old father, a freelance photographer, says he stood by her not just for her sake but for an entire generation. "This is not about me or my daughter. Our generation cannot be imposing barriers on the next. We need to guide them and enable them to explore their own boundaries. Everything cannot be about imposing rules and restrictions," Haksar RK said.
The legal aid was given to the family by Legal Collective of Students' Rights, an organisation run by law students and professionals.