The Central Information Commission on Tuesday directed the Central Board of Secondary Examination to allow inspection of class 10th and 12th school records of Union Minister Smriti Irani, rejecting CBSE’s contention that it constituted “personal information”. The office of Union Minister of Textiles and the Holy Child Auxilium School, Delhi, from where she claimed to have passed out, have also been directed by the Commission to provide the roll number or reference number of Smriti Zubin Irani to CBSE, Ajmer, which possesses the records for the years 1991 and 1993 “to facilitate search from huge records which is yet to be digitized.”
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The Commission rejected the argument that the information was “personal information” and thus cannot be disclosed. “The Commission directs the respondent authority, the CBSE, to facilitate inspection of relevant records and provide certified copies of documents selected by the appellant free of cost, except personal details in admit card and mark sheet, within 60 days from the date of receipt of this order,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said in his order.
Acharyulu was recently divested of the charge of HRD ministry but retained CBSE by Chief Information Commission R K Mathur barely few days after he ordered inspection of BA records of Delhi University pertaining to 1978, the year in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi passed out. Rejecting CBSE’s argument that it was a personal information, Acharyulu said it is not correct to say that once a student passes an examination and qualifies to secure a certificate or degree, information about result will be his personal information.
“Disclosure of the details of a particular candidate contained in the degree or certificate register cannot cause any unwarranted invasion of privacy of the certificate holder,” he said. The Information Commissioner said if admit card contains personal information like address, contact number and email id, it is the personal information of the candidate and need not be given.
“The CPIO has not put forward any material or justification to say that such disclosure of academic qualification related information shall cause unwarranted invasion of privacy of Smriti Irani in this case,” he said. Acharyulu said even in marks sheet, if any such information is incorporated, it could be denied.
“But result or contents of certificate, division acquired, year and number along with father’s name cannot be treated as personal or third party information,” he said. Acharyulu said the academic institutions while awarding such academic qualification certificate for class 10th and 12th are discharging their statutory duties and registering the qualification details.
He said when a public representative declares his educational qualifications, the voter has a right to check up that declaration. “Smriti Zubin Irani being an elected MP and holding the Constitutional office of the Union Minister, is a public authority under RTI act. Under the RPA, 1951 she must have fulfilled her statutory responsibility to submit an affidavit declaring educational status. The information to be furnished under a statute cannot be claimed to be given in fiduciary capacity,” the Information Commissioner said.
In an exhaustive order, Acharyulu said if it is proved that elected public representative has given wrong information about their education, financial status and crimes, in the affidavits, it would invalidate the election which has observed by Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice Anil Dave and Justice L Nageshwar Rao. “The RTI Act has provided right to access which is similar and supplementary to the voter’s right to information about certificates and degrees of the contestants upheld by the Supreme Court and the Parliament in 2002,” he said.
The Information Commissioner rejected the contention of CBSE that the information is yet to be digitised and they will have to divert resources to dig out information form voluminous records. “The excuse of the practical difficulty in searching from huge volume of records for the year 1991 and 1993 to furnish the information sought…is not valid. The PIO cannot make RTI applicant to wait until the digitization of 1991 records. They have to adhere to 30 days timeline as per RTI Act to provide information sought,” he said.