CIC asks CBSE to pay Rs 25,000 as compensation for denying RTI seeking copy of answer sheets [Read Order]
CBSE compelling RTI applicants to sign undertakings illegal. The Commission directs the CBSE to put in place such system with conducive practices by which the Right to information of the appellants is not limited but facilitated, by removing the obstacles such as undertaking to give up their legal rights, Prof. Sridhar Acharyulu said in his order.
The Central Information Commission directed the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to furnish the copies of answer-scripts sought for by the father of a student, and to pay a compensation of Rs.25, 000 to the parent for harassing him and compelling him to sign illegal undertaking to give up rights. The Information Commissioner also issued show cause notice to then CPIOs of CBSE who refused information sought for.
Rejecting the grounds on which the CBSE denied the natural guardian from exercising his legal duty to secure the legal interests of his son including his right to information the information commissioner Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu said “The CBSE has no authority to impose such restriction on the rights of minor and his guardian.”
The Commission also directed the CBSE to put in place such system with conducive practices by which the Right to information is not limited but facilitated, by removing the obstacles such as undertaking to give up their legal rights.
The father of a student had sought copies of the answer sheets of his son for the subjects Maths and Science of 12th Class examination appeared in 2013. The CPIO by his letter dated 692013 had refused to give the information sought. On his first appeal, the FAA in its order held that, as it is the father of the candidate whose signature is appearing on the RTI application, it does not tally with the signature on the admit card and hence the appeal cannot be allowed.
The CBSE’s justification for refusing the application was the following.
- Requests/applications for supply of answer sheets should be made only through online within 10 days from the date of declaration of the result.
- After downloading the hardcopy of the printout of the request/confirmation page, from the website, the candidate should get the same reached to the CBSE office, before the specified date, along with the fee and other prescribed enclosures.
- An undertaking from the candidate, written in his own handwriting and under his own signature and not by anyone else on his behalf should also be enclosed. The signature should correspond to that present on the Admit Card of the candidate.
- The candidate cannot question the evaluation done by the examiner but only point out the errors in the totalling of marks, or the answers which were not evaluated by the examiner and communicate the same in writing to the CBSE within 10 days from the date of receipt of the evaluated answer sheets.
- The copies of the answer sheets shall be provided to the candidates by blocking the information relating to the identity of the Examiner. The candidate should also undertake that the copies of his answer sheets shall not be given to any institution or school for display, commercial purpose or to print media.
Rejecting these contentions, the commission held the following
- The appellant, the father of the candidate happens to be the natural guardian who has a legal duty and authority to secure the rights and benefits of the minor boy. In that capacity he has every right to seek right to information of his son be implemented and any injustice occurring to his son in evaluation of his answer scripts which might affect his career forever. Hence the reason cited by the CBSE denying the ‘father’ in exercising his legal duty is unreasonable and illegal and also in violation of rights of the minor boy.
- Once the RTI has been filed, it has no authority to destroy the answer scripts since the demand under statute is pending. Hence the contention that appellant approached beyond the last date does not hold good under RTI Act.
- By imposing this condition the CBSE is not only restricting that right to information, but also insulating itself from being accountable. This condition that student should sign off his rights by an undertaking is a serious obstruction to right to information of minor boy and his guardian.
- The conditions imposed by CBSE on not displaying answer-script nor sharing it with print media are unreasonable and unconstitutional restrictions on the right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1) (a) of Indian Constitution.
- The CBSE wanting the appellant to file an undertaking saying he would not use it for commercial purposes in not justifiable as it cannot impose restrictions on the use of information obtained by the citizen, which were not imposed by the Right to Information Act, 2005.
- The undertakings prescribed by the CBSE have the effect of seriously obstructing the access to information beyond what was permitted by the Right to Information Act, 2005. By prescribing such rules and imposing conditions such as above, the CBSE tried to legislate something which is not prescribed or authorized by the Parliament through the Right to Information Act, 2005.
Read the order here.