If educational details are protected as personal information, it leaves lot of scope for manipulation, corruption and misrepresentation, the Commission observed.
The Central Information Commission has categorically held that academic/educational qualifications at land mark stages like 10th class, Intermediate, Graduation, Post-Graduation or Ph.D. and clearing of every annual examination, which promotes the student into next year, arepublic documents and every member of public shall have access to it.
The Information Commissioner Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu has held that, if the information being sought is about passing/failure/clearance of examinations or possession of the Degrees/ certificates after passing the examinations, such details need to be provided under RTI Act. But if the information sought is about failures, such as memorandum of marks or details of about number of appearances, the PIO can straight away reject the same, unless the applicant pleads and establishes larger public interest or comparative public interest.
This observation by the Commission is on an appeal by one Subhash Chandra Tyagi whose application seeking information relating to candidate Mr. Kamal Tyagi was rejected by CBSE stating that that the information pertains to third party and is personal information of third party, without whose consent it could be given.
DEGREES ARE NOT PRIVATE OR THIRD PARTY INFORMATION
The Commission observed: “Once a student passes an examination and qualifies to secure a degree, the degree and passing details cannot be treated as private or third party information.Passing an examination is a qualification and awarding the degree such as 10thClass, 12thClass or Intermediate, graduation or post-graduation, is a public document generated by a public institution.The academic institutions awarding such degrees underastatutoryauthorityaredischargingtheirstatutorydutiessuchasregisteringthe qualification details and degree related information. “
‘IN LARGER PUBLIC INTEREST’
The Commission also observed: “When there is an apprehension or doubt about validity or existence of a qualification, it is necessary to verify genuineness of the same.If verification proves that it is a genuine degree, it vindicates the qualification of the candidate.If it is proved to be a wrong degree, it will serve a larger public interest.Hence the degree or academic-qualification-related-information need to be accessible to the citizen.”
‘To prevent cheating, the transparency is the proper method’
The Commission held: “academic/educational qualifications at land mark stages like 10th class, Intermediate, Graduation, Post-Graduation or Ph.D. and clearing of every annual examination, which promotes the student into next year, are the public documents.If a student is suspected to have manipulated his promotion from one to next year, another has every right to seek its verification and it is the duty of the public academic body to clear the apprehension and take necessary action, if apprehension is proved correct.If educational details are protected as personal information, it leaves lot of scope for manipulation, corruption and misrepresentation. It is in larger public interest, we need to avoid it. To prevent cheating, the transparency is the proper method. “
EVERY MEMBER OF PUBLIC SHALL HAVE RIGHT TO KNOW GENUINENESS OF DEGREE
The commission further observed: “How can a graduate consider his degree as private and personal information, and why it should be considered as someone’s personal data. There is no basis for such understanding. If BA degree is a requirement for studying MA, the student who wants to study MA has to prove that he graduated. If he does not have that qualifying degree and manipulates to secure admission MA, every genuine graduate has a right to doubt the admission and to demand the disclosure of graduation details.For higher education or employment, he has to reveal his details of education details. If a candidate wants to treat the patients as doctor he has to prove medical graduation. Every person has a right to know genuineness of his degree or education. Hence, all the qualifying examinations and degrees are public information and every member of public shall have access to it.”
Disposing of the appeal, the Commission held: “The Public Authority/CBSE and its PIO is directed to take guidance from the above reasoningandverifywhetherappellantisseekingtheinformationaboutpassingofthe candidate or failure, and if the information being sought is about clearance of examinations or possession of the 10th and 12th class certificates after passing the examinations, such details need to be provided under RTI Act, to the appellant.If he is seeking information about failures, such as memorandum of marks or details of about number of appearances, the PIO can straight away reject the same, unless the appellant pleads and establishes larger public interest, as required u/s 8(1) (j) or comparative public interest, as mandated under section 8(2) of RTI Act. “
Read also the Live Law report about order by CIC wherein it directed the PIOs of Delhi University and Gujarat University, Ahmadabad to make best possible search for the information regarding degrees of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Read the order here.