Gujarat HC Sets Aside CIC’s Order Asking GU to Provide Info on PM Narendra Modi’s MA Degree
NEW DELHI : The Gujarat high court has set aside a 2016 order of the Central Information Commission to the Gujarat University, asking it to provide information on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degrees to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on the latter.
An order to the Gujarat University to reveal details of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degrees was set aside today by the High Court, which said the information is not relevant to the PM’s role. Gujarat High Court Justice Biren Vaishnav also fined Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ₹ 25,000 for asking for these details when they are already in public domain.
Mr Kejriwal, tweeted: “Does the country not have the right to know how educated their Prime Minister is? They vehemently opposed revealing his degree in court. Why? And the person asking to see the degree will be fined? What is happening? An uneducated or less educated PM is dangerous for the country.”
Justice Biren Vaishnav ordered Kejriwal to submit the penalty with the Gujarat State Legal Services Authority within four weeks. The Gujarat University had challenged the CIC’s order on the grounds that it was passed without a notice having been served on it by the CIC, LiveLaw reported. The university claimed that Dr Sridhar Acharyulu, then the CIC, had suo motu issued the order while considering an application on Kejriwal’s electoral identity card, even though no proceedings were pending before him.
“The insistence of Arvind Kejriwal to get the educational degree of PM Modi through RTI route, when the same is already available in the public domain, creates doubt on Kejriwal’s bonafide and motive. Arvind Kejriwal doubtlessly used an appeal against him to kickstart and trigger a controversy not falling within the purview of the RTI Act for the objects and purpose this court need not go into,” Justice Vaishnav said in strong remarks.
In 2016, responding to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader’s RTI (Right to Information) request for details on the Prime Minister’s education, then Central Information Commission M Sridhar Acharyulu, as reported by Live law, directed the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Gujarat University and Delhi University to furnish information on PM Modi’s graduation and post-graduation degrees.
The Gujarat University put up PM Modi’s degree on its website immediately, but at the same time, challenged the Information Commission’s order as a matter of principle. The ruling BJP also shared copies of what it said were the PM’s degrees – a Bachelor of Arts from Delhi University and a Master of Arts in Political Science from Gujarat University. Mr Kejriwal had then claimed there were “glaring discrepancies” in the documents. In the Gujarat High Court last month, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that the two universities should not be compelled to disclose the information.
“In a democracy, there won’t be a difference if a person holding the office is a doctorate or an illiterate. Also, there is no public interest involved in this issue. Even his privacy is affected,” the top government lawyer said, insisting that the information on the PM’s degrees had no bearing on his role.The Solicitor General also said any information requested under RTI should be related to public activity. Mr Kejriwal’s lawyer countered that election nomination forms listed educational qualifications and it was a legitimate ask. “We are asking for a degree certificate, not his mark sheet,” said Percy Kavina.
The court order adds to the controversy over AAP’s aggressive campaign highlighting the PM’s education. The party has put up posters in many cities targeting PM Modi. The BJP accused the Delhi Chief Minister of misrepresenting facts and acting out of “frustration” over corruption allegations against his ministers.”The history is repeating itself today…It is not a new thing for Kejriwal or his party,” said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.
The Aam Aadmi Party, especially at around 2016, would be vocal in its distrust of Modi’s claims about his educational qualifications.
Acharyulu considered Kejriwal’s note an “application under RTI in his capacity as a citizen” and directed the Public Information Officer of the Prime Minister’s Office to provide copies of Modi’s Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees. Gujarat University, from where Modi has claimed to have done his Masters in ‘Entire Political Science’, was also directed to provide a copy of the degree to Kejriwal.
The Delhi University authenticated Modi’s Bachelor’s degree. “We have checked our records and it has been authenticated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degree is authentic. He cleared the examination in 1978 and was awarded the degree in 1979,” The Wire had quoted Tarun Das, then DU registrar, as having said.
The DU has challenged another 2017 CIC order asking it to allow inspection of BA records of 1978, the year Modi is said to have passed the exam. The case is ongoing at the Delhi high court. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued on behalf of Gujarat University that the RTI Act was being “misused to settled scores and taking a childish jab at opponents,” reported. SG Mehta also said that the university had already placed the degree in the public domain.Court arguments focused on whether the RTI Act can be used to “satisfy someone’s curiosity.”
Mehta also cited Section 8 (1) (j) of the RTI Act which encapsulates that information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual, cannot be got unless the authorities are convinced that the larger public interest is satisfied through its disclosure.He said the university was holding the degree records in its fiduciary capacity and thus was exempted from disclosing this information under the above Section of the Act.
(Bureau Report with Media Inputs).