Gandhinagar, November 8: Denied information by a Gandhian institution, a Gandhian seeks refuge under the Right To Information (RTI) Act, 2005, to get his grievance redressed.

Gandhian and a senior Congressman Harisinh Chavda, representing Banaskantha in the Lok Sabha, had sought information from the Ahmedabad-based Gujarat Vidyapeeth regarding a departmental inquiry against an officer in October 2005. Chavda had also sought a copy of the one-man inquiry commission report that was set up following his complaint regarding certain irregularities at the prestigious Gandhian institution set up way back in 1920 by the Mahatma himself.

On October 28, 2005, Chavda applied under the RTI Act seeking Vidhyapith’s response on a set of nine questions pertaining to the functioning of the deemed university. The same day Vidyapeeth Registrar responded by claiming that they did not have clear instructions from the University Grants Commission (UGC) on what information can be shared.

Subsequently, on November 11, 2005, the registrar denied information pertaining to questions 1 to 4 as it came under the definition of information excluded under Section 8 of the Act. On November 28, the registrar furnished information regarding questions 5 to 9 in Chavda’s questionnaire. Not satisfied, Chavda filed an appeal with the State Information Commission, in which he contended that Section 8 of the RTI Act did not apply to the information sought and that the denial was intentional. Also, the answers to points 5 and 6 provided by the registrar were misleading and incorrect.

When the petition came up for hearing before State Chief Information Commissioner (SCIC) R N Das, the Vidyapeeth contended that the varsity being an institution substantially financed by the UGC, it came under Section 2(h)(d)(ii) of the RTI Act, exempting it from the jurisdiction of the SIC. The argument was that as the Central government was the appropriate authority in relation to the Vidyapeeth, only the Central Information Commission (CIC) could sit in judgement in this case. Chavda, however, contended that while the Vidyapeeth did get substantial funds from the Central government, it was a Trust registered under the Bombay Trust Act, 1952, and also got grants and financial assistance from the Government of Gujarat.

This qualified the SIC to have jurisdiction over the case.

Hearing the case on October 6 and 20, Das delineated two issues to be addressed: one, whether the SIC had jurisdiction over the case, and two, whether there has been a denial of information.

Upholding Chavda’s contention, the SCIC held that the Gujarat Vidyapeeth, though substantially financed by the UGC, was a public authority that also received funds from the Gujarat Government, and thus came under the jurisdiction of the SIC.

In his judgement of November 6, Das allowed the petition of Chavda and ruled that with the departmental inquiry already over, points 1 to 4 in Chavda’s complaint be responded to within 15 days; as also a copy of the inquiry report of the one-man commission be furnished to Chavda within 15 days.

Gandhian seeks refuge under RTI