The Delhi University on Tuesday once again opposed a plea filed by RTI activists in the Delhi High Court seeking to be heard in a matter related to the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mysterious educational qualifications. The DU had challenged a Central Information Commission (CIC) direction to allow inspection of the university’s records of all students who passed BA examination in 1978.
The Delhi University in March this year had told the High Court that it could not disclose the BA exam records of 1978 under the RTI Act since they were held in a fiduciary capacity. The university had filed the affidavit challenging the CIC order in January 2017 directing the 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 university on Tuesday claimed before Justice Rajiv Shakdher that the intervention application by three RTI activists namely Anjali Bhardwaj, Nikhil Dey and Amrita Johri was filed in the matter for “gaining cheap publicity.”
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Tushar Mehta, who was representing the DU, vehemently opposed the plea of the RTI activists saying it could not be a public platform and these were cheap publicity stunts, reported IANS.
“With all seriousness I am opposing it. Can this be a public platform? Can this be a platform for gaining cheap publicity? These are cheap publicity stunts,” Mehta was quoted by the news agency..
Three activists on Tuesday had told the Delhi High Court that they wanted to prevent a wrong interpretation of the RTI Act while opposing Delhi University’s action of rejection of an RTI application seeking inspection of records of students who had passed the BA degree exam in 1978.
The court was hearing a Delhi University plea filed last year seeking setting aside of the CIC order, saying the “impugned order, which is per se contrary to the Act, has far-reaching adverse consequences for DU and all universities in the country who hold degrees of crores of students in a fiduciary capacity.”
Later Bharadwaj took to Twitter explaining why their intervention was legitimate in Modi’s degree row. She wrote, “Key grounds of intervention- 1.Results are not personal info. DU displays results of 100s of exams online as do universities globally 2.Exemptions cited by DU not applicable for info relating to matters older than 20 yrs (S. 8(3) of RTI). ASG didn’t counter these arguments.
“Govt adopting delay tactics & opposing disclosure of results of 1978 unnecessarily raises suspicion & doubt about veracity of PM’s election affidavit. If results of exams held recently can be disclosed without undermining privacy, surely results of 1978 can’t be secret!”
She went on to add, “This is not just about DU results of 1978. If Delhi HC agrees with DU, citizens will not be able to access info about results under RTI. Imagine parents wanting to verify that doctor operating on their kid has a medical degree, will not be able to seek necessary information!
“Given the rot in the education system- fake degree scams, VYAPAM and recruitment scams- we need greater transparency through RTI to ensure accountability and rule of law. Secrecy promotes corruption, wrong doing & abuse of power.”
Bharadwaj also alleged that Mehta had hurled personal attacks on them calling them ‘busy bodies’ and ‘meddlesome interlopers seeking cheap publicity.’ She wrote, “Today in Delhi High Court hearing on disclosure of DU results of 1978 (year PM Modi claims to have graduated) ASG Tushar Mehta opposed our intervention. Made no legal arguments only personal attacks- called us “busy bodies”, “meddlesome interlopers seeking cheap publicity.”
Modi’s degree has been an enigma for quite some time. While his party said that the prime minister had passed his BA exams in 1978 from the Delhi University, they failed to produce credible evidence to substantiate their claims. The CIC had arejected 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.
Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu, who had earlier ordered the Delhi University to allow inspection of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s educational qualifications, was later removed from his responsibility for the HRD ministry.
Aam Aadmi Party in particular has consistently been pressing for Modi’s degrees to be made public.
Faced with widespread embarrassment, the BJP had taken an extraordinary step in 2016 when both the party president, Amit Shah and the then Finance Minister Arun Jaitley held a press conference to flash what they claimed were copies of Modi’s degress. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had described the copies of the prime minister’s degrees published in newspapers forged.