On Modi’s degree, Gujarat University says ‘childish curiosity’ not in public interest under RTI
The university told the Gujarat High Court that the prime minister’s privacy would be affected if details about his degree were to be disclosed.
The Gujarat University on Thursday opposed a request to furnish details about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s educational qualifications, contending before the High Court that someone’s “irresponsible childish curiosity” cannot be deemed to be in the public interest under the Right to Information Act, Live Law reported.
The university has filed an appeal against a 2016 order of the Central Information Commission directing it to provide information about the degrees earned by the prime minister to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The commission was at the time dealing with an application about Kejriwal’s electoral photo identity card. In response, the Aam Aadmi Party chief had said that he was willing to provide the information, but then Modi should also be asked to disclose details about his educational degrees. The commission decided to consider Kejriwal’s response as an RTI application in his capacity as a citizen.
The BJP has claimed that Modi was awarded a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the Delhi University in 1978 and a Master of Arts degree from the Gujarat University in 1983. However, the AAP has claimed that the degrees are fake.
Appearing for the university at Thursday’s hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the court that while there was nothing to hide, the university cannot be forced to disclose the information.
“In a democracy, there won’t be a difference if a person holding the office is a doctorate or an illiterate,” he argued, according to Bar and Bench. “Also, there is no public interest involved in this issue. Even his privacy is affected.”
Mehta said that the university has already put out Modi’s degree in the public domain, and that he was only arguing on the principle of whether the RTI Act can be used to satisfy someone’s curiosity.
The university also argued that it holds information about the degree in a fiduciary capacity – in a relationship of trust with another entity. Mehta cited Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act which states that information held in a fiduciary capacity cannot be disclosed “unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information”.
Justice Biren Vaishnav of the High Court reserved his verdict on the petition.