Modi degree: HC quashes order asking Gujarat University to provide details, fines Arvind Kejriwal
The Central Information Commission, the top appellate body under the Right to Information Act, had passed the directive in 2016.
The Gujarat High Court on Friday quashed a 2016 order of the Central Information Commission asking the Gujarat University to provide details about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s educational qualifications to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Live Law reported.
The Central Information Commission is the top appellate body under the Right to Information Act.
Justice Biren Vaishnav of the High Court imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on Kejriwal and asked him to deposit the money with the Gujarat State Legal Services Authority within four weeks. The High Court also refused to accept a request by Kejriwal’s counsel to stay the judgement.
In the order, the judge said that the Delhi chief minister had made a mockery of the RTI Act, Live Law reported.
“Insistence of Arvind Kejriwal to get the educational degree of Prime Minister Narendra Modi through RTI route, when the same is already available in the public domain, creates doubt on Kejriwal’s bonafide and motive...he doubtlessly used an appeal against him to kick start and trigger a controversy not falling within the purview of the RTI Act for the objects and purpose this court need not go into,” he added.
The High Court stated that elected political leaders are fairly educated and that the line between those well-educated and “less educated” is thin.
“Much depends on the character of the individual, in the sense of devotion to the duty and the concern of the welfare of the people,” the order said. “These characteristics are not the monopoly of the well-educated persons.”
Reacting to the verdict, Kejriwal in a tweet wrote: “Doesn’t the country even have the right to know how educated their PM is? He vehemently opposed showing the degree in the court. Why? And those who demand to see their degree will be fined? What is this happening? Illiterate or less educated PM is very dangerous for the country.”
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, Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party alleged that the degrees are fake.
In 2016, the Central Information Commission was 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 then decided to consider Kejriwal’s response as an RTI application in his capacity as a citizen.
During the hearings in the case last month, the Gujarat University had opposed the Central Information Commission’s order saying that someone’s “irresponsible childish curiosity” cannot be deemed to be in the public interest under the Right to Information Act.
“In a democracy, there won’t be a difference if a person holding the office is a doctorate or an illiterate,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the university, had said. “Also, there is no public interest involved in this issue. Even his privacy is affected.”
He had also claimed that there was nothing to hide as information about the prime minister’s degrees was “already in the public domain” and the university had also placed information on its website on a particular date in the past, according to PTI.
The Gujarat University had argued that it holds information about the degree in a fiduciary capacity or relationship of trust with another entity.
Mehta had 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”.
“Just because the public is interested in it, it cannot become public interest,” Mehta had said. “Court’s interpretation has established that educational qualification is personal information, whether it is of a politician or any other person.”