Delhi University (DU) on Tuesday once again tried to deflect the demand for disclosure of the varsity’s BA exam record of 1978, the year Prime Minister Narendra Modi had graduated. Notably, it resorted to dubbing the plea filed by RTI activists as a "cheap publicity stunt".
While an affidavit submitted by Registrar T.K. Das had made similar attacks on the main intervenor last month, Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on Tuesday accused all the three applicants – RTI activists Anjali Bharadwaj, Nikhil Dey and Amrita Johri – of being "nothing but busybodies or meddlesome interlopers… surreptitiously trying to intervene in the present matter".
During the hearing, when the Intervention Applications were vehemently opposed, Justice Rajiv Shakdher opined that legal points had been raised by them, and that at the least, their services could be utilized as amicus curiae. The matter has now been posted for hearing on 23 August.
It was in December, 2016 that the Central Information Commission had rejected the contention that exam records were third party information, and had directed DU 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”.
DU had then challenged this order before the High Court, reasserting that exam records are third-party information held in a fiduciary relationship, and these cannot be provided to citizens under the RTI Act.
The Intervention Applications now draw the attention of the Court to Section 8(3) of the RTI Act, which provides for the lifting of most of the exemptions if the information sought pertains to matters that are over twenty years old. They then submit that since the information sought pertains to the year 1978, the exemptions relating to fiduciary relationship cannot be invoked.
They further explain, " In this case the issue is furnishing of information under the RTI Act about the result of all students who appeared in Delhi University’s Bachelor of Arts, Year 1978, with Roll number, name of the students with father name, marks and result pass or failed...The information given by students to a University in order to appear for an exam is given under the obligations and criteria laid down by the University and therefore, certainly cannot be held to be given in a fiduciary capacity.
Similarly, the granting of marks and results by the University is also the obligation, statutory or otherwise, of the University and hence it cannot be said that the University shared the information about the awarding of marks or result in a fiduciary capacity. Therefore, the plea that the information about awarding of result is held in a fiduciary capacity is without merit and is not in keeping with the interpretation of what constitutes a fiduciary relationship, as defined by the Hon’ble Supreme Court."
Moreover, the Applicants rely on the University's practice of publishing results on their website and notice boards, and submit, "Therefore, since the University itself has been following the practice of proactively disclosing results, it does not lie in the mouth of the University to now say that it considers such information as “personal information”. In fact the unrestricted public broadcast of graduating ceremonies shows that the University deems it to be a public activity and certainly not one which would cause unwarranted breach of privacy of those receiving their results/degrees from the university."
They then assert that the varsity's sudden attempts at denying such information "raises suspicion that the University is not only duplicitous but is also attempting to conceal information".
Besides, the Applicants also highlight the larger issues of wide-spread fraud, corruption, malpractices, cheating, and misrepresentation about one’s qualifications. They thereby contend that denial of such information under the RTI Act would be significantly detrimental to public interest.