Thursday, June 01, 2017

Haryana Assembly Corrects Speaker’s Educational Qualification After RTI Highlights Discrepancy

The Wire: Gaurav Vivek Bhatnagar: New Delhi: Thursday, June 1, 2017.
The name of speaker Kanwar Pal’s college was removed altogether from the assembly website as it did not match what was mentioned in his election affidavits.
The Haryana assembly has removed from its official website the name of speaker Kanwar Pal’s college and has also changed his educational qualification to BA second year from Bachelor of Arts after an advocate-activist filed an RTI, and wrote a letter to the assembly and its IT cell, highlighting the discrepancies between the information on the website and in three affidavits the speaker had filed during the assembly elections.
Through an application filed under the Right to Information Act 2005, advocate Hemant Kumar had sought information from the state public information officer of Haryana assembly regarding Pal’s educational qualification.
Educational qualification of speaker ‘misrepresented’ on website
On the reason behind the RTI application, Kumar said that being a qualified advocate, he was aware that “no educational qualification was prescribed for being a speaker of a house and even an illiterate MLA can become so.” However, he said, what he wished to disseminate was how the educational qualification of a person holding an elite constitutional post – the speaker of Haryana Vidhan Sabha – was being “misrepresented on the official website of the assembly” vis-a-vis what he had submitted in three successive election affidavits.
“Moreover, there is discrepancy in two affidavits regarding the year of his highest qualification. He is an undergraduate having passed only upto BA II, even that year is questionable, but his CV on the assembly website shows him as a BA from a college, which too is different from one he mentioned in one of his election affidavits,” Kumar had observed.
Mismatch between website and election affidavit data
He had sought the information about the speaker saying that “on one hand his biodata/CV as uploaded on official website of Haryana assembly shows him to be a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and his college name as MLN College, Yamuna Nagar whereas on the other hand when one checks the duly sworn in election affidavits as filed by the Hon’ble Speaker along with his nomination papers as a candidate during Haryana general assembly elections pertaining to the years 2005, 2009 and 2014, it reveals that he happens to be a BA II.”
Kumar further stated in the RTI application that “in the 2009 affidavit, his college name has been mentioned as Maharaja Agrasen College, Jagadhri”
Recently, the educational qualifications of several prominent leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, union minister Smriti Irani and former Delhi minister Jitender Singh Tomar had made headlines.
Letter to assembly fails to get response
Earlier, on May 20, Kumar had also forwarded a letter to the speaker’s office via e-mail and to the IT cell of the Haryana assembly, pointing out the “discrepancy” in the speaker’s biodata when compared to the election affidavits. However, he told The Wire that he did not receive any response.
This note was more detailed than the RTI application. It stated that when Kumar “checked his [speaker’s] election affidavit as submitted by him to the returning officer along with his nomination papers as a contesting candidate from Jagadhri constituency” during the 2014 Haryana general election, he found that “it was mentioned therein that his highest qualification is up to BA II from Kurukshetra University and the relevant year as mentioned therein is 1979-80.”
But the lawyer-activist said when he checked his previous election affidavit from 2009, he found that it mentioned that Pal had done his BA second year from Maharaja Agrasen College, Jagadhri and that too in the year 1981.
Noticing such a grave discrepancy, when Kumar checked another available election affidavit, it too mentioned his highest qualification as BA II from Kurukshetra University but without reference of any college or year. “Now amidst all this, one wonders which has been Hon ‘ble Speaker Kanwar Pal’s actual college name, either the one which is mentioned in his Sep/Oct, 2009 poll affidavit i.e. Maharaja Agrasen College, Jagadhri or else what is currently mentioned on official website of Haryana assembly in his biodata viz. MLN College, Yamuna Nagar?” Kumar demanded.
Secondly, Kumar asked “what was the actual year, 1979-80 or 1981, when he passed his BA II and finally if the speaker is only BA II, as substantiated by his three election affidavits, then how his biodata as uploaded on Vidhan Sabha website is showing his education as BA?”
Asking if this indeed was “an inadvertent omission or otherwise”, he had urged the assembly to rectify the situation.
Finally, a correction and a deletion on assembly website
It was only on May 30, Kumar said, that the Haryana assembly website made some changes to the biodata of the speaker by showing him as BA second year pass and by removing the name of his college altogether. However, questions remain about how and why the discrepancies arose.