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Deemed university not covered under RTI Act unless government-controlled, Delhi HC

June 28,2024

New Delhi: A deemed university is not a “public authority” which is covered in the ambit of the Right to Information (RTI) Act unless it is under the control of or is financed by the government, the Delhi High Court has said. The court’s order was passed on a petition by an RTI applicant seeking information with respect to the details of students, including roll number, name and father’s name, who completed MSc in Chemistry through distance learning from 2007 and 2011 from Vinayak Mission University, a deemed university.

The chief information commissioner (CIC) refused to provide the information on the ground that the institute was not a “public authority” and the data pertained to its internal administration.

Stating that there was no reason to interfere with the decision of the CIC, Justice Subramonium Prasad noted that the RTI Actdeals with entities, including non-government organisations, which are owned, controlled or substantially financed by the government and merely because a university has been deemed to be a university, it would not be considered a public authority under the act.

“It is not the case of the Petitioner that the Respondent University is either a government authority or a non-government organisation which is substantially financed by the government, either directly or indirectly. The Respondent No. 3 university, thus, cannot be held to be a ‘public authority’ under Section 2(h) of the RTI Act and will not be amenable to the provisions of the RTI Act,” the court in its order said.

“It has also been recently held by a Full Bench of the Bombay High Court…that merely because a university has been deemed to be a university by virtue of a notification under Section 3 of the UGC Act, it will not be considered a public authority under the (RTI) Act,” the court recorded.

The petitioner contended that being the custodian and a “public authority”, UGC should be held to be duty bound to supply the information to him.

The court, however, observed that the information sought by the petitioner was “personal” in nature and exempted under the RTI Act, and he has also not shown any material to indicate what was the public interest that would outweigh the concerns of privacy.

“In the absence of any larger public interest justifying the disclosure of such information, this court is not inclined to accede to the information sought for by the Petitioner,” it opined.

“This court, therefore, does not find any reason to interfere with the decision of the CIC denying to give information as sought for to the petitioner on both accounts i.e., the respondent university being a deemed University is not a public authority in the absence of any material advanced by the petitioner to show that the respondent university comes under the direct control of the Government or financed by the Government, and secondly, the information sought for will result in unwarranted invasion of privacy of all the individuals concerned and without there being any larger public interest involved which will outweigh the privacy of the persons whose information has been sought for,” the court held.

Source: Economic Times

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