CIC Rap: DU official fined Rs 25K for rejecting RTI query on PM Narendra Modi’s degree

Be it Modi’s educational degree or his expenses as prime minister, the regime’s efforts have been sinister and persistent: withhold information. The question then is, Is Critical information on the prime minister Modi being withheld from the public? (Also Read Sabranindia’s What is secret about PM Modi’s Public Expenditures?)

Modi Degree

The Central Information Commisison has ruled that Delhi University will have to provide a copy of the records of all students who completed their BA degree in 1978 — the year when the university said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had cleared the examination.

Last year, the university had denied these records to an RTI applicant, saying that it was the “personal information of the students concerned, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest”.

In another ruling on a related case, the CIC fined the university’s Public Information Officer Rs 25,000 for denying information under RTI on the Prime Minister’s degree on the grounds that the mandatory postal order of Rs 10 was not addressed to the correct authority.

The Central Information Commission (CIC) has slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on Delhi University's Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) for rejecting an RTI application seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi's graduation degree.

The authenticity of Prime Minister Modi’s BA degree was questioned by Aam Aadmi Party leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal last May. He had claimed that Modi’s degrees were fake. Defending Modi, his party, the BJP, had produced copies of what they said were the Prime Minister’s degrees.

The commission did not find any merit or justification in her argument, stating that the fee was not a material factor to throw out an RTI request.

The Chief Information Commission, M. Sridhar Acharyulu, in a recent order, pulled up CPIO Meenakshi Sahay of Delhi University and said the rejections reminded him of the saying “penny wise, pound foolish”.  In another order dated December 21, the CIC has clearly reasoned how the degrees of those in public authority fall under the public domain. The Commission has clearly said that matters relating to the education of a student — current or former — fall under the category of public information. Several judgements were cited in the 13 page order of the CIC that may be read here.

In this order, the CIC says, “Commission directs the respondent authority, Delhi University, to facilitate inspection of relevant register where complete information about result of all students who passed in Bachelor of Arts, in year 1978 along with roll number, names of the students, father’s name and marks obtained as available with the University and provide certified copy of the extract of relevant pages from the register, free of cost, before 30.12.2016.”

While a copy of the order has been posted on CIC website, the RTI applicant, Neeraj Sharma, said he was yet to receive the records from the university. “I will write to them or go there and inspect the records if that is needed,” said Sharma.

In the case where a fine was imposed on DU's CPIO, the commission was hearing a plea filed by Delhi-based lawyer Mohammad Irsad, whose RTI query seeking inspection of Modi’s degree was rejected on the ground that the Indian Postal Order (IPO) was not marked in favour of the Registrar of the university.

The commission, directing the “public authority” to recover an amount of Rs 25,000 from the salary payable to Sahay, said that after hearing the story that thousands of rupees had been spent in a legal battle for a postal order of Rs 10, “the proverb ‘penny wise, pound foolish’ has to be rewritten as ‘rupee wise and thousand foolish’ “.

Sahay in her defence argued that there was no malice in rejecting the RTI application and that she had to follow the policies laid down by the university. The commission did not find any merit or justification in her argument, stating that the fee was not a material factor to throw out an RTI request.

It said it was “vexed with non response” from the CPIO to a number of its notices and thus found it a fit case to impose penalty.

Calling the CPIO’s action “pathetic”, the commissioner said in the order that “such a simple request for information has been dragged to the level of second appeal, building heaps of documents with multiple files”.

The commission also slammed Delhi University for “spending huge amounts of money and consuming precious time of public servants”, including the commission.

It also asked the “public authority”, without defining it, to facilitate sufficient training to the entire staff, including the CPIO, in the matter of RTI law so that they do not reject applications in a routine manner without application of mind.

The commission recommended that officials be provided with the latest books on the RTI Act as well as classic text books on administrative law. It suggested they should also be given the books “Right to Know” by late professor S.P. Sathe and “Five-point Someone: What Not To Do At IIT” by Chetan Bhagat.

BJP leaders had stated last year that Modi had completed his BA in political science from the distance learning programme of the university in 1978. This was later corroborated by the Delhi University registrar, Tarun Das.



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