Smriti Irani education row takes fresh twist after school disclosure

Amid the controversy about Union Minister Smriti Irani's educational qualifications, the School of Open Learning has told the Central Information Commission that had asked Delhi University not to disclose this to a Right to Information applicant.

The Commission has now directed the School of Open Learning (SoL) to produce before it all the records related to the education of Textiles Minister Irani .

A fresh show cause notice has been issued to the Central Public Information Officer of DU for having failed to produce the records before the Commission as directed.

Irani's qualifications have been questioned after a petitioner alleged she had given contradictory information in her affidavits filed before contesting elections in 2004, 2011 and 2014.

In her affidavit for the April 2004 Lok Sabha elections, Irani had said she completed her BA in 1996 from DU's School of Correspondence (as SoL was then called), whereas in another affidavit of 11 July 2011 to contest the Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat, she said her highest educational qualification was BCom Part I, a petitioner had alleged in a city court.

The matter was dismissed by the court on the ground that considerable time had lapsed in filing the complaint.

The issue is, however, still alive before the Central Information Commission where an applicant had filed an appeal, saying he was not given information about Irani's educational qualification by the SoL.

During a hearing, SoL's Central Public Information Officer O P Tanwar said considering that it was a third party information he had consulted Irani about the disclosure.

"In her response (she) raised objection against (sic) disclosure and requested the public authority not to reveal her educational qualification. The CPIO pleaded that information sought was given by the former HRD Minister in fiduciary capacity and hence could not be divulged as per Section 8(1)(e)," Information Commissioner  said in his order.

The petitioner had sought to know from the School of Open Learning whether the minister had obtained BA degree in 1996 and passed BCom Part I in 1994 from Delhi University.

He had also asked for photocopies of her hall ticket and marksheets, besides admission form with enrollment number, in case she enrolled herself for the course but did not obtain the degree.

The petitioner sought to know if the Union minister was enrolled with the University in 2013 why did she not take any examination.

The SoL cited two exemption clauses - personal information and fiduciary information - under the RTI Act to deny the information.

The petitioner filed a complaint and asked the CIC to institute an inquiry into "unjustifiable and illegal" denial of information sought by him.

"The question before the Commission is whether the appellant is asking (for) information which is given by the student (Ms Smriti Irani) to the School of Open Learning or whether School of Open Learning has given the degree to its student...," information commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu saidhis order.