New Delhi: In an unusual move, Central Information Commission on Friday directed Delhi University and Gujarat University to provide information on degrees earned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had criticised the functioning of the transparency panel.
Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu also directed the Prime Minister's Office to provide "specific number and year" of the degrees of Prime Minister to his alma mater-- Delhi University and Gujarat University-- to make it easy for them to locate these records.
"Not prescribing the education (degree based) qualification for contesting electoral offices is one of the great features of Indian democracy. What needed is education and not degrees.
However, 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," Acharyulu said in the order as he treated explanation from Kejriwal as an RTI application.
The Information Commissioner said, "The Commission directs the CPIOs of Delhi University and Gujarat University to make best possible search for the 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."
The genesis of the case is in two previous CIC orders and a scathing letter from Kejriwal to Acharyulu where he demanded that while he was ready to share information sought by RTI applicants, the CIC must also order disclosure of educational qualifications of the Prime Minister.
In the case of Hans Raj Jain, who sought the details of the students who passed in 1978 with names starting from N (Narendra) and M (Modi), the Delhi University had claimed that it will not be possible to search from lakhs of external students unless roll number was provided.
The case was closed by Acharyulu as under "complaint proceedings" in RTI Act disclosure of information cannot be ordered by the CIC and to levy penalty there should be malafide on the part of the Central Public Information Officer which could not be proved.
In another case related to one Neeraj Pandey, who sought information about electoral photo identity card of Delhi Chief Minister, Acharyulu had sought explanation from Kejriwal why he as an MLA be not declared as Public authority under the RTI Act and why his party too was not brought under the Act.
Kejriwal in his response did not object to disclosure of information about him but raised a demand for information about Prime Minister's educational qualifications referring to Hans Raj Jain case, Acharyulu noted.
"He stated that while CIC wanted Mr Kejriwal's information to be given, CIC was obstructing the information about degrees of Mr Modi, the Prime Minister. He expressed surprise over this and also doubted objectivity of the Commission," Acharyulu said.
He 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 said.
Citing an interview of Modi with journalist Rajeev Shukla, where he gives details of his educational qualifications, the Information Commissioner said it generated lot of curiosity among the people.
"The curiosity cannot be equated with public interest. Just because 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," Acharyulu said.
Acharyulu said where there is a prescribed educational qualification for a position and its existence was doubted, the disclosure will be in public interest which is not the point in this case.
The Information Commissioner quoted a comment of his father M S Acharya, a freedom fighter, when Telugu University wanted his educational qualifications for being eminent journalist.
"He took pride in saying,'I studied 'Raghu Vamsha' and 'Megha Doota', 'Kumara Sambhava' of Maha Kavi Kalidas. They are not degrees offered by Universities so what. They offer better education than many degrees awarded by the Universities," Acharyulu said.
Quoting from Constituent Assembly debates, Acharyulu said H V Kamath noted the extent of illiteracy in the country and the dangers it presented, an expressed regret that the franchise itself had not been restricted on grounds of literacy.