The Telegraph
Friday , June 12 , 2015

Private institute not beyond RTI: Court

Itanagar, June 11: The Itanagar bench of Gauhati High Court has ruled that the state's first private university is not beyond the purview of the Right to Information Act.

A copy of the ruling, passed on June 4, was made available today.

The Indira Gandhi Technological and Medical Sciences University was established at Ziro in Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh in 2012 under the provisions of a state legislative act.

However, even three years later, the institute does not have permanent infrastructure of its own and functions from two locations - the government district hospital and Sashastra Seema Bal campus. In 2002, a New Delhi-based NGO, World Institution Building Programme, had proposed setting up of the Arunachal Pradesh University of Vocational, Technological and Medical Sciences at Ziro. The nomenclature was changed later. In 2003, residents of the area donated 150 hectares for the university.

However, in July 2008, state advocate-general Nilay Dutta, recommended an "in-depth analysis of the MoU" signed between the state government and the NGO "as well as the courses offered", which, he felt "do not fulfil the requirements".

In 2009, an expert committee, formed by the state director of higher and technical education, also said "the programmes proposed by the NGO do not justify the establishment of a university by an act of legislature".

Nani Bath, an associate professor at the Rajiv Gandhi University here, said the university was set up despite opposition. "The advocate-general had opposed the establishment of the university back in 2008," he said today, adding that the "expert committee's recommendation should raise suspicion".

Bath has been seeking disclosure of information relating to various aspects of the university for the past few years. He approached the state information commission after his RTI application was rejected by the university authorities on the ground that a private establishment is beyond the purview of the act.

The state commission held a hearing in September last year and ruled that the university provide all information sought by Bath. The commission argued that Rs 50 lakh for construction of the university's boundary wall was financed by the state government's water resources department under a special allocation plan. Besides, it had state government representatives as members in its governing council, executive and finance committees, making it a public authority falling under the ambit of the RTI Act. However, the university challenged the commission's order and filed a writ petition in the high court.

Dismissing the writ petition on June 4, the judge upheld the state information commission's order.

Bath hailed the ruling as "historic" and raised questions about the manner in which private universities in the state operate. Steering himself clear of any political motivation for pursuing the matter, Bath said his "fight is for quality education".

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