Thesis submitted by a research student is not third party information

Central Information Commission (CIC): “Thesis submitted to a university is not private or personal information of the candidate who submitted it, but the property of the University, which has to discuss and decide whether it deserves the award of Ph.D or not”, held CIC while directing ARID Forest Research Institution to provide the copy of thesis sought by the appellant. The Commission was hearing an appeal filed by a researcher who alleged that her co-researcher cunningly took the theme and her work from her research work and submitted it as her thesis to the Forest Research Institute, Dehradun, and hence, she must obtain the copy of the submitted thesis to prove her allegation. The appellant through RTI application sought copy of minutes of meeting of pre-thesis submission seminar of the researcher, copy of her thesis, all correspondence related to research work, rules and regulation of research work and related records. The appellant also submitted that she was denied information by ARID Forest Research Institution on the ground that the said information was third-party information. After perusing the material on record and hearing both the parties, CIC 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.” While ordering the disclosure of the required information, CIC also directed the Institute to treat the RTI application as a complaint against the researcher, against whom allegations were made and to carry out inquiry in the matter. Meeta Sharma v. PIO, ARID Forest Research Institution, 2015 SCC OnLine CIC 606 , decided on 30.03.2015

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