Friday, September 22, 2023

PM PG degree row: Gujarat High Court reserves verdict; SG says RTI being misused to settle scores

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The High Court of Gujarat on Thursday reserved verdict on an application filed by the Gujarat University against the Central Information Commission’s direction to furnish copies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degree certificate to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The Single-Judge Bench of Justice Biren Vaishnav reserved his verdict in the petition after hearing arguments from both sides.

Appearing for Gujarat University, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the CIC order directing the public information officer (PIO) of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the PIOs of Gujarat University and Delhi University to furnish details of Modi’s graduate and postgraduate degrees affects the PM’s privacy.

Mehta contended that while there was nothing to hide, the university could not be compelled to disclose the information.

He argued that in a democracy, it did not make much of a difference if a person holding the office was a doctorate or an illiterate. Besides, there was no public interest involved in the issue.

The SG contended that the University cannot be asked to furnish the information to ‘satisfy’ someone’s ‘childish and irresponsible curiosity’. Besides, the information sought had nothing to do with the PM’s role as a public figure, he added.

Mehta said that as per the provisions of the RTI Act, information sought must be related to the public activity. He further said that for example, they cannot ask what breakfast he (SG) had, but can seek details regarding the amount spent on the same. The SG alleged that the RTI Act was being misused for settling scores.

Representing Kejriwal, Senior Advocate Percy Kavina contended that there was no childish or irresponsible curiosity.

He said they were only seeking degree certificate of the Prime Minister, not his marksheet. The Counsel further said that the nomination form for the elections also sought information on educational qualification of a candidate.

Kavina claimed that the degree was not available on the Internet, as argued by the SG.

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