NEW DELHI: Central Information Commission's directive to Banaras Hindu University to admit a student in MPEd course and slapping it with a penalty of Rs 25,000 has landed the information watchdog in an unsavoury court battle, with questions being raised whether it had the powers of a judicial court beyond the ambit of RTI Act.

BHU has flatly refused to obey the CIC's admission diktat while Allahabad High Court has stayed the penalty. And the case is mired in personal allegations going back and forth. Under a cloud is more than the legality of information commissioner O P Kejariwal's admission-and-penalty order, as it is alleged to be motivated by his 'bitter experience' with BHU before joining the elite commission. It is alleged that Kejariwal was denied a position in the university for which he had lobbied hard and the order was a result of his personal pique. While Kejariwal denied all "personal allegations," he admitted to TOI that the order may be an "error in semantics."

The controversy, rooted in the CIC ordering BHU to admit a student, Dhananjay Tripathi, in MPEd, arises out of the death of his friend and fellow student Yogesh Rai, allegedly due to medical negligence. It led to protests from students asking for a copy of an internal inquiry into the charges of medical negligence. Tripathi filed a plea under RTI.

During the hearing at CIC, Tripathi was denied admission in MPEd course for which he had applied. He charged BHU with victimisation for taking up Rai's case. Kejariwal dispatched an official to look into the charges and, based on his report, on November 9, 2006, passed the now-contested order, directing BHU to admit Tripathi immediately with complete attendance after having earlier slapped the penalty.

Can the CIC order admission into a university? Kejariwal concedes, "It may be an error in semantics." He, however, justified the order, "Seeing the way BHU tried to scuttle the information process convinced us to direct them to admit the applicant."

BHU challenged Kejariwal's order in the high court with personal allegations. As it emerged, the former CEO of Prasar Bharati was interested in being with BHU after quitting as director, Nehru Memorial Museum. He lobbied for it and prepared a case whereby he would donate collections of an Indologist, Fred Pinn, bequeathed to him, for a lifetime post. Well known space scientist U R Rao too put in a good word for him.
CIC lands in court battle with BHU-India-NEWS-The Times of India