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How Kejriwal turned an RTI query against him to seek details on PM Modi's degrees

Somi Das | Updated on: 4 May 2016, 13:01 IST

A day after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote to the Central Information Commission, accusing it of concealing information on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's education qualifications, the CIC has ordered the Prime Minister's Office to submit details of his degrees.

Without wasting any time to claim credit for having created an impact, Kejriwal tweeted out the CIC order.

A cursory reading of the order shows how cleverly Kejriwal used an RTI query - seeking to know how he was allowed to change his address during the 2014 Assembly poll nominations - to seek details about the Prime Minister's educational qualifications.

Here's what the original RTI was all about:

In March 2016, Neeraj Saxena filed an RTI with the Chief Electoral Officer of Delhi. The RTI questioned as to why Kejriwal had submitted Form 8A (ID-467402) - dated 17 November, 2014 - to transpose his name at 514 VBP House, Rafi Marg, New Delhi, only to withdraw it and file another Form 8A (ID467401) - dated 8 January, 2015 - to change the address to BK Dutt Colony, New Delhi - stating that he has been residing at the address for five months.

The CIC questioned as to why Arvind Kejriwal should not be declared a public authority as he is an MLA.

During the hearing of this case, Kejriwal said that he was ready to put all his details in the public domain. He also demanded to know why the apex information body did not apply the same rule to get information on Modi's educational qualifications - which have been a matter of public interest for a long time.

In a letter to the CIC, Kejriwal wrote: "I have no objections to my record being made public. But I have learnt that you have blocked information on Narendra Modi's degree. The entire country wants to know the truth. Despite that you refused to release details of his degree. Why did you do this? It is wrong".

While contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, PM Modi had declared that he held a Bachelors of Arts degree from the Delhi University (1978)and a Masters degree from the Gujarat University (1983). Previous attempts at getting information on the Prime Minister's degrees from Delhi University have failed.

The CIC order that Kejriwal shared sheds light on why the University failed to make Modi's documents public. The order states:

"In Hans Raj Jain v. Delhi University, CIC/SA//2014/001424, Mr. Hans Raj filed a complaint (not second appeal) against Delhi University for not furnishing the information sought, within time. In that complaint case the CPIO of Delhi University explained that the admission details are generally available based on the roll no. of candidates. The information sought is too general as the complainant wanted to know details of all candidates bearing name starting with letters M(Modi) and N(Narendra).

The CPIO represented that it will be very difficult to search with the starting letters of the names. Even with the full name Narendra, it may not be possible to secure the details especially when there no mention of specific roll number along with the year­number in which degree was allotted."

In the order, the CIC also makes it clear that it was not imperative for the Prime Minister to reveal details of his educational qualification. The order states:

"Just because the public is interested in it, it does not mean that it is in public interest. There is no educational qualification prescribed for contesting any electoral position under law. The election to Lok sabha or Prime Ministership cannot be questioned on the point of educational qualification."

Despite this contention, the CIC goes on to order the Prime Minister's Office to furnish relevant documents because:

"When a citizen holding the position of Chief Ministership wants to know the degree related information of the Prime Minister, it will be proper to disclose. Hence, the Commission requires the PMO to provide specific number and year of the degree and PG degree to the Delhi University and the Gujrat University offices."

First published: 4 May 2016, 13:01 IST
Somi Das @Somi_Das

Somi brings with her the diverse experience of working in a hard news environment with ample exposure to long-form journalism to Catch. She has worked with Yahoo! News, India Legal and Newslaundry. As the Assistant Editor of Catch Live, she intends to bring quality, speed and accuracy to the table. She has a PGD in Print and TV journalism from YMCA, New Delhi, and is a lifelong student of Political Science.