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Private varsity not beyond RTI purview: HC

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  13 Jun 2015 12:00 AM GMT

From our correspondent

Itagar, June 12: In a landmark decision, the Itagar bench of the Guahati High Court has ruled that the state’s first private university is not beyond the purview of the Right to Information Act.

The Indira Gandhi Technological and Medical Sciences University (IGTMSU) in Ziro at Lower Subansiri district was established under the provisions of a state legislative act in 2012. However, three years since the university was set up, the institute does not have a single permanent infrastructure of its own and functions out of two locations at the government district hospital and the SSB campus.

In 2002, a New Delhi-based NGO called World Institution Building Programme (WIBP) had proposed establishing the Aruchal Pradesh University of Vocatiol, Technological and Medical Sciences at Ziro which later took the shape of a full-fledge university. Residents of the area had even doted 150 hectares of land for the university in 2003.

However, in July 2008 the then state advocate general Nilay Dutta had recommended an “in-depth alysis of the MoU” signed between the state government and the NGO “as well as courses offered”. He also stated that the “courses offered do not fulfill requirements” and that “the government may like to consider whether to run diploma courses, a private university us at all required”. An expert committee had also said that “the programmes proposed by the NGO do not justify the establishment of a university by an act of legislature”. ni Bath, an associate professor at the Rajiv Gandhi University here said that the university was set up in spite of opposition.

“The advocate general had opposed the establishment of the university back in 2008”, Bath 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 last few years. He approached the state information commission after his RTI application was rejected by university authorities on grounds that the 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 that Bath sought. The commission had argued that Rs fifty lakh for construction of the university’s boundary wall was finced by the state government’s water resource department under a special allocation plan.

It also said that the varsity has state government representatives as members in its governing council, executive and fince 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 at the high court.

Dismissing the writ petition, the judge ruled on June 4 that “nothing illegality or infirmity has been found in passing the impugned order by the state information commission”.

Bath said that the ruling is “historic” and raised questions about the manner in which private universities in the state operate. While he steered himself clear of any political motivation for pursuing the matter stating that his “fight is for quality education”, he did say that the university was “interested in activities other than awarding degrees”.

Citing the example of chief minister bam Tuki’s pet project and the much hyped job mela that was held here in 2013, Bath said that the university was allotted 4,311 trainees who would be paid Rs 1.2 lakh each. Bath questioned why no IITs were awarded trainees and if the university was capable of handling so many candidates.

The lecturer, who is also part of the state chapter of the Association of Democratic Rights, also gave reporters a document which allegedly has sigtures of cabinet ministers seeking to fast track establishing the university through an ordince in 2010. That sigture campaign was allegedly run by the Ziro MLA at the time and current Aruchal PCC president Padi Richo. “We have already lost our forests and rivers”, Bath said today adding “my only appeal to politicians is to please keep away from education”.

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