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Degree info belongs to public domain

Degree info belongs to public domain
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Not only in India, in most of the democratic countries where the freedom of information legislations are being implemented, the degree-related...

Generally, the identification details of the graduates are in the public domain. They should be made available for verification and the results with marks obtained are also relevant public information, which is necessary for the society to know whether a particular candidate is an eligible graduate or not. With regard to question whether disclosure of such identification-related information causes invasion of privacy, or is that unwarranted invasion of privacy, the PIO has not put forward any evidence or explained possibility to show that disclosure of degree-related information infringes the privacy or causes unwarranted invasion of privacy

Not only in India, in most of the democratic countries where the freedom of information legislations are being implemented, the degree-related information of the candidates is in public domain. The information is not treated as personal or third party information. The universities are giving such information, in general, except in some special cases.

In Zumbrun v. University of Southern California, 101 Cal. Rptr. 499, 506 (Ct. App. 1972) (https://casetext.com/case/zumbrun-v-university-of-southern-california) the Court of Appeal in California, Second District, Division Five, [25 Cal.App.3d 1 (Cal.Ct.App.1972)] held that “finding that facts giving rise to a fiduciary duty had not been pleaded and that "[t]he mere placing of trust in another person does not create a fiduciary relationship."

And in paragraph 10 it held: “(10) The basic legal relation between a student and a private university or college is contractual in nature. The catalogues, bulletins, circulars, and regulations of the institution made available to the matriculant become a part of the contract.”

(This conclusion was based on following cases: Carrv. St. John's University, New York (1962) 17 A.D.2d 632, 633 [231 N.Y.S.2d 410, 413], affd. 12 N.Y.2d 802 [235 N YS.2d 834]; Anthony v. Syracuse University (1928) 224 App. Div. 487, 489-490 [231 N.Y.S. 435, 438-439]; Goldstein v. New York University (1902) 76 App. Div. 80, 82-83 [78 N.Y.S. 739, 740]; People ex rel. Cecil v. Bellevue Hospital Medical College (1891) 60 Hun 107 [14 N.Y.S. 490], affd. 128 N.Y. 621 [28 N.E. 253]; John B. Stetson University v. Hunt (1925) 88 Fla. 510, 517 [102 So. 637, 640]; University of Miami v. Militana (Fla.App. 1966) 184 So.2d 701, 703-704; Barker v. Trustees of Bryn Mawr College (1923) 278 Pa. 121, 122 [122 A. 220, 221]; Greene v. Howard University (D.C. Dist. Col. 1967) 271 F. Supp. 609, 613; see Dixon v. Alabama State Board of Education (5th Cir. 1961) 294 F.2d 150,157, cert. den. 368 U.S. 930 [7L.Ed.2d193, 82 S.Ct. 368]; Searlev. Regents of the University of California (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 448, 452 [100 Cal.Rptr. 194].) Kaus, P.J., and Reppy, J., concurred.

In Shapiro v. Butterfield, 921 S.W.2d 649, 651-52 (Mo. Ct. App. 1996) it was held that that no fiduciary relationship between faculty advisor and student existed; In Nigro v. Research College of Nursing, 876 S.W.2d 681, 686-87 (Mo. Ct. App. 1994) it was held that “there is no fiduciary relationship between an educational institution and its applicants”.

Similar judicial orders were given in following cases: President and Bd. of Trustees v. Smith, 1999 WL 51799, at 2 (Ohio Ct. App. Feb. 1, 1999) (finding that there was no support for the existence of a "fiduciary relationship between an educational institution and a prospective student"); Ho v. University of Tex., 984 S.W.2d 672, 693 (Tex. App. 1998) (finding, as a matter of law, that no fiduciary duty between student and faculty member/advisor existed); Abrams v. Mary Washington College, 1994 WL 1031166, at 4 (Va. Cir. Ct. Apr. 27, 1994) (finding no basis in common law for creating a fiduciary relationship between senior college officials and students).

The Central Information Commissioner Smt. Annapurna Dixit in Case No: CIC/AD/A/2012/000256, stated, “In relation to the marks obtained by a principal, it was held that: “The educational qualifications cannot be considered as personal in nature ……”

The official website of Delhi University has recently declared of results of B.A. Honors (Humanities and Social Sciences), Part II (Semester IV) examination 2016, Sr.No/ SEM/ 2016/530 available at http://www.du.ac.in/du/uploads/Examination/Result/2016/UG/03102016_HUMANITIES-IV-SEM.pdf (accessed on 09.12.2016 at 16:44 hrs), which shows the roll no, name of the candidate, marks, passed or failed at a particular center.

This shows the contention of the CPIO is totally wrong as the Delhi University is placing the result of every candidate in public domain so that each student or any citizen can verify the marks/result of students along with their name and roll number. There is a merit in the contention of the appellant that the CPIO invented these contentions only to deny the information in this case and they are totally in conflict with their own practice of publication of results.

Thus the contention of the CPIO that ‘the information of students is personal’ cannot be correct. Other contention that ‘the information furnished by the students to the public authority in fiduciary capacity’ is also not correct, because the marks obtained by students, whether passed or not is the information generated by the university, and that was not given by the students.

If someone is asking for name, father’s name, date of birth and address under RTI, the universities are rejecting it using Section 8(1)(j). Name is not personal. If names are same for two candidates, the father’s name will be necessary to identify the degree-holding student; students’ roll numbers, address may also be useful to identify. The date of birth could be another factor which helps in verifying the genuineness of the degree.

Generally, the identification details of the graduates are in the public domain. They should be made available for verification and the results with marks obtained is also relevant public information, which is necessary for the society to know whether a particular candidate is an eligible graduate or not.

With regard to question whether disclosure of such identification-related information causes invasion of privacy, or is that unwarranted invasion of privacy, the PIO has not put forward any evidence or explained possibility to show that disclosure of degree-related information infringes the privacy or causes unwarranted invasion of privacy.

If name and father’s name, degree obtained, the date or the marks or the roll number are revealed, how can that cause invasion of privacy? The Commission observes that the disclosure of details of educational records of a student, maintained at University in no way infringes his/her right to privacy , hence there cannot be any violation of section 8(1)(j) of the Right to Information Act, 2005. This is primarily because the matters relating to educational qualifications of a student (former/current) fall under the public domain.

The matters relating to education of a student (current/former) are within the public domain and hence the public authority is under an obligation to disclose information accordingly.

Several universities and educational institutes maintain registers wherein the name, address and other details must be kept for verification and they offer. Most of the RTI requests for degree-related information are answered positively. They have also honoured the directions of the Information Commissions. It is the question of the principle and has nothing to do with the individuals, whether they are VVIPS or ordinary students.

Thus the Commission directed the respondent authority, Delhi University, to facilitate inspection of relevant register where complete information about result of all students who passed in Bachelor of Arts, in year 1978 along with roll number, names of the students, father’s name and marks obtained as available with the University and provide certified copy of the extract of relevant pages from the register, free of cost, before 30.12.2016. (Based on the decision of CIC in Neeraj v Delhi University CIC/SA/C/2016/900122, on 21.12.2016)

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