The Centre has declined to make public a panel’s report on the death of research scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad University. Replying to an RTI query, it said that the file concerned is “under submission” and copy of the report cannot be provided. “The file concerned is under submission. Therefore, copy of report cannot be provided at this point of time,” Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry said in reply to the RTI query filed by PTI. It did not cite any provision of the Right to Information (RTI) Act in declining the information. A government department is expected to mention relevant provision of the RTI Act under which information is being withheld.
The HRD Ministry had in February appointed a Commission of Inquiry under Justice (retired) Ashok Kumar Roopanwal to look into the events at the University of Hyderabad, culminating in the death of Vemula. It was also tasked with reviewing the existing grievance redressal mechanism for students at the university and to suggest improvements. The Commission was asked to submit its report within three-month time.
The panel has submitted its report to the HRD Ministry. Recent media reports have claimed that the Commission has raised questions on Vemula’s Dalit status and attributed his suicide to personal reasons. University authorities too have been absolved of any blame for Vemula’s death as the Commission has held that they were not working under political pressure, the reports said.
Vemula’s suicide had triggered a huge political furore with the then HRD Minister Smriti Irani coming under attack along with Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya for having written a letter related to the matter. The Commission in its report is understood to have emphasised upon proper grievance redressal mechanisms and equal opportunity cells so that unfortunate incidents like Vemula’s suicide can be prevented.