ndsharma's blog

If education is ‘personal information’, then why not criminal record?

Posted on: February 22, 2017

The Delhi High Court has not helped further the cause of transparency in public life by staying the direction of the Central Information Commission (CIC) to Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to permit examination of Class XII records of Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani. The High Court order was based on a petition filed by the CBSE which had claimed that the records were ‘personal information’.

It defies comprehension how someone’s educational qualifications can be ‘personal information’. The matter was raised earlier before a Metropolitan Magistrate who had also dismissed the petition with the argument that the ‘complainant (petitioner) may not have filed it if she was not a Central Minister’. The Magistrate had also noted ‘a great delay of 11 years’ in filing the complaint.

If one’s educational qualification falls in the category of ‘personal information’, then one’s criminal record should also be treated as ‘personal information’. After prolonged deliberations, the Election Commission of India has made it mandatory for aspirants to enter Parliament or a Legislature to make public all information about the prospective candidate including educational and criminal records.

The Election Commission has not taken it upon itself to scrutinise the accuracy of the particulars given by a candidate. It is left to the alert citizens to find through proper channels if the information given by a candidate is true or false.

The Metropolitan Magistrate’s argument that information about Smriti Irani’s educational records was being sought only because she is a Central Minister is also specious. People are interested in finding out the veracity of her claims only because she is an important public figure.

Forgery is fast becoming a norm rather than exception in India and is quite visible in educational fields. The Vyapam Scam of Madhya Pradesh Government can be cited as an example in which politicians, bureaucrats, judicial officers, police officers and free-lance racketeers joined hands for decades and destroyed careers of honest, hardworking youth. Smriti Irani’s stubborn resistance to her educational records being made public only confirms the suspicion that there may be something fishy about her educational claims. The Judiciary’s attitude can, at best, be described only as retrograde.

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