The Central Information Commission has directed Delhi University to allow inspection of records related to all the students who had passed BA degree in 1978, the year in which, according to the University, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also cleared the examination.
The Commission rejected the contention of the Central Public Information Officer of the University that it was a third party personal information, saying it finds “neither merit nor legality” in it. It directed the 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….”
RTI applicant Neeraj had sought to know from the University the total number of students who appeared in Bachelor of Arts, Year 1978, besides result of all students who appeared in the examination along with their roll number, name of the students with father’s name, marks and result pass or failed. Denying the information, the Central Public Information Officer of the University had responded that the information requested is treated as “personal information of the students concerned, the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest”. Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu, however, said, “With regard to question whether disclosure of such identification related information causes invasion of privacy, or is that unwarranted invasion of privacy, the PIO has not put forward any evidence or explained possibility to show that disclosure of degree related information infringes the privacy or causes unwarranted invasion of privacy”.
During the hearing before the Commission, CPIO Meenakshi Sahay said there are 2,00,000 students in “this year’s BA programme, and unless the subject of BA programme is specified, it will be difficult to give the information sought such as the number of students appeared, failed, passed, etc in the year 1978”. She also said 1978 results were not in digitised form. Neeraj said it is the past practice of Delhi University to publish such results on the notice board and at times in newspapers also, which means the information sought was available with the public authority and was published or put in public domain without any limitations mentioned by the CPIO.
The issue of 1978 DU degree records cropped up after Aam Aadmi Party raised questions about the degree of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, triggering a controversy. “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,” Delhi University Registrar Tarun Das had said last year after the row erupted. The Commission said, “There are two frequent questions coming up before the Commission: whether degree related information of a particular student is his or her personal information or third party information, and whether such information was given to University in fiduciary capacity, as contented by public authority.”
Acharyulu said a University conducts various courses of education openly and registers the graduation of candidates which is a public activity. “If the degree related information sought is about a celebrity or an ordinary man, the access to information has to be provided by the public authority. The PIO did not come up with any basis for considering the degree related information of the students as third party information, except claiming so,” he said.
Stating that CPIO should have applied her mind before denying information, Acharyulu ordered that the Commission finds neither merit nor legality in the contention of the University that the degree related information about students was third party information. “The Commission finds no basis for considering the educational qualification related information as personal to the particular candidate,” he said.
The academic institutions awarding such degrees under a statutory authority are discharging their statutory duties such as registering the qualification details and degree related information, he said.