PM Modi degree case: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has moved the Gujarat High Court seeking a review of its March order where it had set aside an order of the Central Information Commission (CIC) that had directed the varsity to “search for information” regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s degrees.
Following a brief hearing on Friday, Justice Biren Vaishnav admitted Kejriwal's review petition and posted the matter for hearing on June 30. The High Court also issued a rule to the respondents, Gujarat University, Central government and former Chief Information Commissioner M Sridhar Acharyulu.
PM Modi's degree is not available
In his review petition, one of the key contentions raised by Kejriwal is that contrary to Gujarat University's claim that Modi's degree is available online, no such degree is available on the university's website.
"While the court had recorded that PM Modi's degree is available on the varsity's website following submissions to that effect by Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, representing the university, upon a scan of the said website...(it) is found that the said degree is not available, but a document referred to as OR (Office Register) is displayed," the review petition moved by Kejriwal said.
Pointing that Mehta had only orally submitted on the day of the hearing, that too for the first time, that the degree is available on the website, Kejriwal has pleaded that there was thus no opportunity for him to verify the oral submission and that OR cannot be considered as degree as was claimed by the varsity.
Kejriwal has also challenged the cost of Rs 25,000 that was imposed on him by the court for persisting with the matter of PM Modi’s degree, in his review petition.
Submitting that the petitioner had not filed any application for any information and only wrote a letter in April 2016 in response to a letter by CIC, Kejriwal has added that he “never requested the CIC to treat him as an applicant for the purposes of the said information,” and that CIC had instead taken up the proceedings suo motu. Kejriwal has sought a review of the judgment and a stay on the implementation, operation and execution of the verdict until final disposal.
Gujarat HC quashes CIC order
Earlier on March 31, Justice Vaishnav had set aside the CIC order and ruled that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) need not furnish the degree and postgraduate degree certificates of Prime Minister Modi.
HC imposes Rs 25,000 fine on Delhi CM
The High Court also imposed costs of Rs 25,000 on Delhi Chief Minister who had sought details of the certificate of the Prime Minister's degree.
In April 2016, then CIC Acharyulu had directed Delhi University and Gujarat University to provide information to Kejriwal on Modi's degrees. The CIC order had come a day after Kejriwal wrote to Acharyulu saying he has no objection to government records about him being made public.
Kejriwal, in the letter, had wondered why the commission wanted to “hide” information on Modi's educational qualifications. Based on the letter, Acharyulu directed Gujarat University to give records of Modi's educational qualifications to Kejriwal.
The Gujarat University had objected to the CIC's order saying "irresponsible childish curiosity" of someone cannot become public interest under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
PM's degrees "already in public domain"
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the university, had told the HC in February there was nothing to hide in the first place because information about the PM's degrees was "already in the public domain" and that the university had placed the information on its website on a particular date in the past.
In his review petition, Kejriwal said no such degree of PM Modi is available on the varsity's website. Instead, a document referred to as "Office Register (OR)" is displayed, which is different from a "degree".
"The applicant submits the said degree is not found on the official website of the Gujarat University and, hence, the judgement suffers from the error apparent on the face of the record and permitting them would lead to failure of justice," Kejriwal said in his petition.
The AAP chief further said the university's lawyer had made an oral submission about the degree being available on the website of university on the last day of the hearing and that too without providing any document, due to which the statement could not be verified immediately at the time.
(With agencies input)