Inspection Of Answer Sheets By Examinee Should Be Allowed Under RTI Act: CIC [Read Order ]
The Central Information Commission (CIC) recently held that an examinee holds the right to inspect his own answer sheets under the Right to Information Act, 2015, relying on the Supreme Court decision in the case of CBSE and Anr. v. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors.
The Supreme Court had, in Aditya Bandhopadhyay's case, ruled that an answer-sheet would fall under the ambit of ‘information’ under Section 2(f) of the Act, ruling that students have a fundamental and legal right to access their evaluated answer-sheets under the Act.
The Apex Court had observed, "When a candidate participates in an examination and writes his answers in an answer book and submits it to the examining body for evaluation and declaration of the result, the answer book is a document or record. When the answer book is evaluated by an examiner appointed by the examining body, the evaluated answer book becomes a record containing the `opinion' of the examiner. Therefore the evaluated answer book is also an 'information' under the RTI Act."
Acknowledging this decision, Information Commissioner Bimal Julka now ruled, "Moreover, the Commission felt that issue under consideration involved Larger Public Interest affecting the fate of all the students who wish to obtain information regarding their answer sheet/ marks obtained by them which would understandably have a bearing on their future career prospects which in turn would ostensibly affect their right to life and livelihood. Hence allowing inspection of their own answer sheet to the students ought to be allowed as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005."
The CIC was hearing an Appeal filed by Advocate Mohit Kumar Gupta, who had, among other things, sought disclosure of his answer scripts for his Semester IV LL.B. Examination. Delhi University (DU) had contested the appeal asserting that inspection of files would render meaningless their own mechanism of providing certified copy of answer scripts on payment of fee.
DU had further submitted that this would make the process cumbersome, as it would have to maintain two separate mechanisms- one for providing hard copies under their own regulations, and another for inspection of answer sheets under the RTI Act. The CIC however dismissed this contention observing that timely access to information is the essence of the RTI Act, and hence, denial of information on such grounds would "prejudice a student’s future career prospects and right to his/ her livelihood".
It further rejected the concerns raised by the varsity that candidates could misuse the inspection process to take digital images of their answer scripts, opining that "the same could be dealt with by the Respondent Public Authority appropriately".
The CIC also took note of the matter titled ICSI v. Paras Jain, SLP (No) 12692/2014, wherein the Apex Court is concerned with payment of charges as prescribed under the Act or as per the rules framed by the concerned institution. It, however, opined that the issue of allowing inspection of answer sheets was entirely different from the issue pending before the Supreme Court. It reasoned that Rule 4 of the RTI Rules, 2012 prescribes separate fee for obtaining hard copy of a document/ record, and for inspection of records.
It then allowed the appeal with a direction to DU to allow inspection of Mr. Gupta's answer sheets within 15 days.