By Sidhartha Dutta
The controversy over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's degree refuses to die down. Delhi University's School of Open Learning (SOL), from where he is said to have passed out in 1978, says it doesn't have records for that year as these are maintained only for one year.
In response to an RTI query by this IANS correspondent seeking a list of students who had qualified for a BA degree in 1978, the SOL said: "The data is not maintained in the branch in the order as desired by the applicant."
Replying to two other queries on the results of students who qualified for the same degree in 1978, including their roll numbers, names and father's names, the SOL said: "No such list is maintained in the branch. As per weeding rules of the university, spare copies of the published result are kept only for one year."
A consolidated reply from the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), Meenakshi Sahay, on the same query said: "The information sought by the applicant was endorsed to the Dean (Exam), OSD (Exam), Joint Registrar (Degree) and Section Officer (Information) of the University, who are the deemed PIOs under section 5(4) and 5(5) of the Right to Information Act, 2005."
"Further, relevant input, received from the Dean (Exam), OSD (Exam), Joint Registrar (Exam), indicates that the University, otherwise, treats the data of the students pertaining to the examination taken by them while pursuing a course in the University as personal to the students concerned which can be disclosed only to the student concerned," she added.
"The disclosure of such information has no relationship to any public activity or interest. Disclosure of such information is exempt under section 8(1)(j) of the Act," she further said.
The quoted exemption in section 8(1)(j) says: "Information which relates to personal information the disclosure of which has no relationship to any public activity or interest, or which would cause unwarraned invasion of the privacy of the individual..."
The university's examination branch III (i) and IV replied in similar vein.
"It appears that the information sought by the application is such that it is treated as personal information of students, having a fiduciary relation with the University."
Earlier, the Central Information Commission (CIC) had 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".
The CIC had also slapped a fine of Rs 25,000 on the CPIO for rejecting an RTI application seeking details of Modi's graduation degree.
Information Commissioner M. Sridhar Acharyulu also pulled up the CPIO, saying the refusal to provide the information sought reminded him of the saying "penny wise, pound foolish".
Acharyulu was divested of his charge days after he passed his order.
The Delhi High Court had later stayed the CIC order directing Delhi University to allow inspection of records of all students who had passed the BA degree exam in 1978.
(Sidhartha Dutta can be contacted at email@example.com)