The Central Information Commission (CIC) Friday directed Delhi University and Gujarat University to search and provide information on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degrees to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The order comes a day after Kejriwal criticised the CIC saying while it wanted him to provide information regarding his electoral photo identity card, it was “obstructing information” about Modi’s degrees.
Taking the unusual step of considering Kejriwal’s response as an “application under RTI in his capacity as a citizen”, Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu also directed the Prime Minister’s Office to provide “specific number and year” of Modi’s degree and PG degree to Delhi University and Gujarat University “so that it will be easy for them to search and provide any documents relating to it”.
Reached for comment after the order, Acharyulu said: “I cannot comment anything about my order.”
In a tweet, Kejriwal said, “We welcome CIC decision. All speculations wud be put to rest now.”
In the order, while underlining that “not prescribing the educational (degree based) qualification for contesting electoral offices is one of the great features of Indian democracy” and “what is needed is education not degrees”, Acharyulu said “when a citizen holding the position of Chief Ministership wants to know the degree related information of the Prime Minister, it will be proper to disclose”.
“The Commission directs the PIOs of Delhi University and Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, to make best possible search for information regarding degrees in the name of “Mr Narendra Damodar Modi” in the year 1978 (Graduation in DU) and 1983 (Post Graduation in GU) and provide it to the appellant Mr Kejriwal as soon as possible,” he said, adding that “the time limit is not prescribed keeping in view the difficulty in searching without specific number”.
Acharyulu said “educational qualification related information about public authority or public servant or political leader occupying constitutional position is not hit by any exception under Section 8 of the RTI Act. It cannot be stated as personal or private information also. In fact, the information about educational degrees of Prime Minister is already in public domain”.
He recalled that “in an interview to a senior journalist, Mr Rajiv Shukla, Mr Narendra Modi explained that he completed High School and on the advice of an elderly personality, he obtained degree and PG through external examinations without stepping into the colleges”.
“This generated a lot of curiosity among the people, who expressed their feelings in various social media and newspaper websites in the form of comments. The curiosity cannot be equated with public interest. Just because the public is interested in it, it does not mean that it is in public interest. There is no educational qualification prescribed for contesting any electoral position under law. The election to Lok Sabha or Prime Ministership cannot be questioned on the point of educational qualification. Where there is a prescribed educational qualification for a position, and its existence was doubted, its disclosure will be in public interest,” the Information Commissioner said.
The order comes in the wake of a CIC order and Kejriwal’s “written submission” where he stated that while he was ready to share information sought by an RTI applicant, the CIC must also order disclosure of education qualifications of the Prime Minister.
In the case of Hans Raj Jain, who had sought details of students who graduated in 1978 with names starting with letters N (Narendra) and M (Modi), the CPIO of Delhi University said “it will be very difficult to search with the starting letters of the names… even with the full name Narendra, it may not be possible to secure the details especially when there is no mention of specific roll number along with the year number in the degree was allotted”.
The response of the CPIO was upheld by the First Appellate Authority. Thereafter, Jain again approached the CIC in November 2015. In its order dated April 11, 2016, Acharyulu closed the matter saying “it is too difficult to search such names if roll number is not provided as data is maintained roll number-wise”.