New Delhi: Jawaharlal Nehru University has refused to make public report of the preliminary inquiry conducted by three professors in the controversial events of 9 February which lead to the arrest of JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar and two other students.
The University cited exemption clauses of Section 8(1)(g) and 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act saying that “the matter of incidents that took place on February 9, 2016 and subsequent developments relating thereto are under investigation at the University level.”
While section 8(1)(h) exempts information disclosure which can impede an ongoing inquiry, 8(1)(g) is against disclosure which could endanger the life or physical safety of any person or identify the source of information or assistance given in confidence for law enforcement or security purposes.
The University, while refusing the information to activist Paras Nath Singh, did not give reasons as to how disclosure would impede the investigation which is mandatory after a landmark order of the Delhi High Court by Justice Ravindra Bhat.
“It is apparent that the mere existence of an investigation process cannot be a ground for refusal of the information; the authority withholding information must show satisfactory reasons as to why the release of such information would hamper the investigation process,” Bhat had observed.
He had said such reasons should be germane, and the opinion of the process being hampered should be reasonable and based on some material.
“Sans this consideration, Section 8(1)(h) and other such provisions would become the haven for dodging demands for information,” he had said while overruling the CIC order which had allowed preliminary report of an investigation to be withheld.
RTI applicant Paras Nath Singh said that the reply furnished by CPIO has been vetted and approved by Registrar of JNU who is supposed to act as an Appellate Authority under RTI Act. He contended that the Registrar cannot be a judge of his own cause and submitting First Appeal to the Registrar would be “Caesar to Caesar” and an exercise in futility.
“Further, it is provided under RTI that information which cannot be denied to Parliament or state legislature shall not be denied to any person. It may be noted that record of proceeding in Parliament leave no doubt that records of the case have already been furnished by JNU authorities to HRD minister which were extensively quoted in her replies and address,” he said.
He claimed any attempt to hide behind exemption clauses of RTI Act at this stage to deny the sought information needs to be viewed as a deliberate and conscious attempt on the part of CPIO to harass the information seeker.
Some channels had aired videos purportedly of an event at JNU on 9 February in which “anti-national” slogans were allegedly raised. Kumar was arrested by Delhi Police on sedition charges in an action which came under criticism from various political parties.
Two other students Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were also put behind bars. All three are on bail now.