Delhi High Court orders DU to respond to RTI Activists intervention pertaining to Modi’s educational records

Delhi High Court orders DU to respond to RTI Activists intervention pertaining to Modi’s educational records
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New Delhi: Justice Rajiv Shakdher of Delhi High Court has allowed the RTI activists to intervene in the matter pertaining to details of DU’s graduated students in the year 1978 in which PM Modi is said to have graduated.

The plea to intervene in the matter was filed by Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey and Amrita Johri which was opposed by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

While Mehta opposed their plea stating that activists from the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information should not be allowed to intervene in the case, counsel appearing for the activists told the court it is an issue of grave public importance and any interpretation by the court in this regard would have serious ramifications on the RTI regime in the country.

Delhi High Court allowing the intervention highlighted similar interventions in matters relating to the appointment of the chief information commissioner of the Central Information Commission (CIC) under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act.

The RTI activists have contended that the Delhi University’s challenge to the CIC order directing the University to disclose its students details who have graduated in BA degree in 1978 was bad in law noting that the University erred in citing various provisions of the RTI Act in an effort not to disclose the information pertaining to the graduated students dated 20 years back.

The activists said while other prominent universities readily provide the information, Delhi University is making efforts in hiding the details challenging the CIC order’s on the grounds that it violated the RTI Act’s provision pertaining to privacy (Section 8(1)(j)) that it is in possession of the information being sought in a fiduciary capacity under section 8(1)(e) of the Act since CIC had allowed inspection of DU’s 1978 BA Batch’s degree records.

Central Information Commissioner M .Sridhar Acharyulu had earlier ordered the inspection of DU’s 1978 BA batch’s degree records on 21 December 2016.

The University then contended that disclosure of the 1978 BA batch records would invade the students privacy and that such information “has no relationship to any public activity or interest”.

Replying to the University the CIC allowing the inspection of records held that the university could not provide any evidence or explain how and why such information could cause any “invasion of privacy”.

After passing an order of inspection, M. Sridhar Acharyulu was divested of the charge of human resource development ministry.

The Chief information commissioner later issued a notice to Acharyulu allowing him to retain the power to intervene in HRD ministry matters, while the RTI activists urged the reasons behind the move to be disclosed.

Meanwhile CM Kejriwal alleged PM of influencing the departments. He wrote to the CIC accusing him of influencing the departments in not releasing his graduation details.

The CIC then directed both Gujarat University (GU) and Delhi University in releasing PM Modi’s graduation details and his roll numbers treating Kejriwal’s letter as an RTI application which later confirmed what Modi had stated about his education details in his election affidavits.

As per the records given by the universities, Modi has completed his BA with third division from Delhi University in 1978 and finished his MA in ‘Entire Political Science’ with a first division in 1983, the copies of which were later flaunted at a press conference by Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley.

AAP leader Ashutosh demanded BJP to produce an affidavit since Modi’s name in the marksheets and his degree were different, and the only process of changing the names is through an affidavit. Ashutosh has also pointed out that the final year mark sheet was awarded in 1977 while the degree states Modi graduated 1978.

The BJP responded saying that PM Modi could not pass his examinations in 1977 and therefore had taken the final year exams in 1978 for which degree was awarded in 1978.

DU moved to Delhi High Court opposing CIC order. The Court had then stayed the CIC order directing the disclosure of Modi’s educational records on January 23, 2017.

In its petition, Delhi University had stated that the CIC had directed the “University of Delhi to facilitate inspection of relevant register where complete information about result of all students, who have passed in Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), in the year 1978 along with roll number, names of students, father’s name and marks obtained is available and provide certified copy of the extract of pages from the register”.

The Delhi University, therefore, “sought exemption from provision of the said information under Section 8 (1)(e), (j) and Section 11 of the Act”, citing different clauses under RTI pertaining to privacy.

The Court had also stated that the University had contended it had “no difficulty” in providing information on three points but objected to the fourth point which demanded personal information of all students.

Meanwhile, the RTI activists stated that while various prominent universities give the details its only Delhi University which does not want to disclose the details basing on incorrect interpretation of law since it had previously dealt with the same scenario pointing out that the university had at the time of obtaining the stay ignored section 8(3) of the RTI Act, which provides for the lifting of most of the exemptions if the information sought for pertains to matters that are over 20 years old.

The next hearing is listed on 22 May 2018, reported the Wire.