CIC criticizes UGC for having transmitted an RTI application from one department to another 16 times!

By blaming the University Grants Commission (UGC) for making the Right to Know (RTI) applicant wait for two years during which time he pushed his RTI application from department to department, 16 times more, the Central Information Commissioner (CIC) observed the delay “as a flagrant error and a willful violation of the provision of the RTI Act and that of public authority.”

Rajiv Khatri, the ITR requester, requested certified copies of the ITR as follows: 1) Grievance mechanism for faculty members of self-funded private colleges affiliated with universities on the UGC University List . 2) Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for handling a complaint. And; 3) Name and address of the authority to transmit the complaint in case of no follow-up to the complaint.

CIC Anita Pandove, who conducted the second appeal hearing on Monday, observed that, “Based on the proceedings during the hearing, the commission is extremely upset to note that the burden of responding to the instant demand for RTI is transferred through various divisions of UGC.The commission expresses its deep displeasure for displaying such a nonchalant approach.

The only saviour, she says, is that finally the name of the authority was stated in the 16th round of transfer of responsibility from one department to another, by the UGC. Therefore, she ordered the UGC Education Officer, Vamsika C, who is in charge of the Grievance Cell, to “provide a revised and categorical response to the Appellant within 15 days of the date of receipt thereof”.

The UGC is a statutory organization of the Government of India by an Act of Parliament of 1956 for the co-ordination, determination and maintenance of standards of teaching, examination and research in university education.

A university on the UGC “University List” under Section 2(f) of the UGC Act of 1956, must first comply with various rules, norms and standards as stipulated from time to time by the UGC. It is mandatory that all universities on the list of universities referred to in Section 12(f) have a grievance system for faculty and staff members of affiliated colleges, including self-funded private colleges of the state university.

This is not the first time that the UGC has been criticized by the CIC. CIC previously called the nation’s top education regulator a “post office” because it failed to share information under RTI about a case of cheating against a reputable university.

CIC observed that the UGC was “vehemently defending” the institution that was allegedly involved in issuing invalid medical degrees.

Former CIC professor Sridhar Acharyulu had during his tenure said that the UGC could not refuse to give information or clarification if it was part of his duties. Previously, a CIC order as well as the High Court said the information or clarifications did not fall within the definition of “information” under the RTI Act.

In another order, a CIC also issued a show cause notice to a UGC undersecretary who refused to tell an RTI candidate whether a particular course was recognized by him. CIC had also once criticized the UGC for its lack of transparency regarding reputable universities.

(Vinita Deshmukh is a consultant editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and organizer of Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting, which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Media Person for her Dow Chemicals investigative series. She co-wrote the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)

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