[RTI] Thesis submitted by a research scholar a public document

Central Information Commissioner while considering an appeal against Rajasthan based ARID Forest Research Institute, under the Right to Information Act observed that, the thesis submitted by a research student is not a personal or third party information and cannot be withheld by an Institution under the Right to Information Act. It was an appeal where the appellant sought for a copy of pre-thesis submission seminar details of a researcher, copy of her thesis, all correspondence related to research work, rules and regulation of research work and related records.

Appellant, while presenting her case before the Central Information Commissioner contented that, her co-researcher cunningly and without the knowledge or consent of the appellant submitted the work of the appellant as her work. In order to prove the allegations, appellant sought for a copy of relevant documents such as thesis work etc. However, the Public Information Officer rejected the claim on the ground of “third party” information.

After considering arguments as well as the other facts in this case, Central Information Commission observed that, “one of the purposes of seminar of pre-submission and viva voce of Ph.D candidate is to ascertain whether research work of candidate is original and the work done by the candidate only. It is not third party information. Moreover, there is a public interest in knowing the originality of otherwise of the thesis, especially when a serious allegation of appropriating the research work is made by the co-researcher, it is the duty of the academic institution to clear the allegation after due verification.”

Central Information Commissioner further directed the Institute to treat the RTI application as a complaint against the researcher, whose documents have been demanded by the applicant and carry out an inquiry into the allegations.

Read the Full Judgment of Meeta Sharma v. PIO, ARID Forest Research Institution, decided on 30-03-2015

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