is freely printing a fundamental right for PhD students?
A fundamental right? No. But charging for printing borders on the ridiculous. – Printing is a necessity, not a right.
Think of it in economic terms. A PhD is a job (there are a few peculiarities, and it’s also part of a student’s education, but nevertheless you ultimately are doing a job, which consists of doing research). If preventing you from printing makes your job harder, the institute has a financial interest in removing that obstacle.
What company charges employees for office supplies? The concept is ludicrous. Why not charge them rent for their cubicles as well? Printing publications, drafts and reports for reading is simply a fundamental part of doing research – unless your institute sponsors ebook readers; and even then your PhD will probably involve filling out forms for HR etc.
If your institute suspects that printing is predominantly used for non job related purposes then that may be a problem that needs addressing (and the same goes if the institute suspects that printing could be reduced without impacting performance – lots of companies have tried paper-free offices but so far I haven’t heard of any resounding success, at least not in science). But charging students for printing is still unacceptable since it obstructs them from doing their jobs.