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KPSC Candidates Can Seek Own Evaluated Answer Scripts Under RTI : Karnataka HC [Read Judgment]

Mustafa Plumber
31 Aug 2020 11:19 AM GMT
KPSC Candidates Can Seek Own Evaluated Answer Scripts Under RTI : Karnataka HC [Read Judgment]
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The Karnataka High Court has held that a candidate who has appeared for examination conducted by a public service commission can seek for copies of his own evaluated answer scripts, along with the marks allotted to each question under the Right to Information Act. Justice Suraj Govindaraj while partly allowing the petition filed by Karnataka Public Service Commission challenging...

The Karnataka High Court has held that a candidate who has appeared for examination conducted by a public service commission can seek for copies of his own evaluated answer scripts, along with the marks allotted to each question under the Right to Information Act.

Justice Suraj Govindaraj while partly allowing the petition filed by Karnataka Public Service Commission challenging the decision of the Karnataka Information Commissioner (KIC) said "An applicant cannot seek for copies of evaluated answer scripts of any other person apart from himself/herself."

The court also held that "The Information Commission - State or Central has no power to remove or dismiss a public Information Officer already appointed by any public Authority for that organization."

Stating that as a PIO would be discharging quasi-judicial functions while accepting or rejecting the application for information. It said "This aspect may be taken into consideration by the Legislature in its wisdom to formulate the requirements of qualification, if any, for the appointment of a person as a Public Information Officer."

Case background:

By way of notification dated 12.05.2017 recruitment process for filling up of 428 posts of Gazetted Probationers (GP-2015 recruitment) was initiated by KPSC, in terms of the Karnataka Recruitment of Gazetted Probationers (Appointment by competitive examinations) Rules, 1997 ("GP Rules").

Candidate, Vinay Kumar Ramaiah being one of the candidates had applied in pursuance of the said notification, on the basis of his performance he stood qualified for the main examination. He thus appeared for the main written examination. On the process of selection being completed, the petitioner published the final selection list.

Ramaiah filed an application under RTI on January 16, seeking for answer scripts with marks awarded to each question. The PIO by way of an endorsement dated February 14, informed him that in terms of the decision of the Apex Court in UPSC Vs. Angesh Kumar reported in (2018) 4 SCC 530, the request cannot be acceded to and as such rejected the application.

Aggrieved by the endorsement he preferred an appeal before the first Appellate Authority, on February 28. However, on account of the lockdown imposed due to COVID-19, the first Appellate Authority could not dispose of the appeal within the prescribed time. By order dated 01.06.2020, the first Appellate Authority dismissed the appeal.

While the matter was pending before the first Appellate Authority, Ramaiah approached KIC, with a complaint against KPSC, under Section 18(1) of the RTI Act.

#On June 18, the KIC passed the following order:

KIC by quoting Section 19(8)(a)(ii) of the RTI Act has appointed the Controller of Examinations, KPSC as Public Information Officer and Secretary KPSC as the First Appellate Authority.

#KIC directed the Controller of Examinations to provide information sought by the Appellant therein (R-1 herein) free of cost.

This order was challenged by the KPSC before the High Court.

Arguments

Senior Advocate P.S.Rajagopal along with Advocate Reuben Jacob, appearing for KPSC argued that Ramaiah could not have sought for disclosure of marks awarded to each question in each of the main written examinations in terms of the decision of the Apex Court in the Case of Angesh Kumar (supra). Further, the PIO as also the first Appellate Authority by relying upon the decision rejected the application filed by the petitioner and as such respondent, No.2-KIC could not have passed the above directions. The decision of the apex court is applicable to the present case also and the findings of the respondent No.2-KIC that the said decision is not applicable to the present facts, is erroneous.

The plea was opposed by Advocate Kantharaja, along with Advocate Ravi H.K, on behalf of Ramaiah. It was argued that "The information which has been sought for by the petitioner is neither confidential nor sensitive inasmuch as the information sought for is that relating to the petitioner and not any third party."

Further, Ramaiah had approached the first Appellate Authority, the said Authority did not dispose of the appeal within the given time frame and as such left with no other alternative, he had to approach respondent KIC to do justice.

Moreover, the PIO who has been appointed is not a competent authority inasmuch as the PIO is a Section Officer who has no knowledge of the nuances of the law applicable to the facts of the situation, the PIO has not considered the implications of the judgements cited before him.

Court said:

In the present case what the petitioner is seeking for is his own evaluated answer script. He has not sought for any information relating to any third party or any confidential information, but has sought for information only pertaining to

himself. Thus, I am of the considered opinion that the embargo in the decision of the Apex Court in Angesh Kumar would not be applicable to the present Case.

It observed "Freedom of Information being a fundamental right as also human right any person would be entitled to apply for and receive information especially pertaining to himself which is held by any public authority. The reasons for requesting such information may be myriad. Whatever the reasons may be when a particular information sought for is relating to the person applying for such information, the authorities concerned cannot refuse the furnishing of such information."

On removal and appointment of PIO:

The court said "Looking at from any angle it was impermissible for the 2nd respondent (KIC) to have removed the existing Public Information Officer and or appoint another Public Information Officer in place of such removed person."

It clarified "Though the 2nd respondent (KIC) may have superintendence power over the actions of any Public Information Officer, the same would not extend to the removal of an already appointed Information Officer and/or appointment of any other person as a Public Information Officer."

On perusal of Section 19(8)(a)(ii) the court held "In terms of Section 19(8), it is only a direction that could be issued by the Central Information Commission or by the State Information Commission as the Case may be requiring the Public Authority to appoint a Public Information Officer if no such person has already been appointed. Once the person has been appointed, there is nothing which has been provided under Section 19 of the RTI Act enabling removal of such person by the KIC."

It also made it clear that "Taking into account the scheme of the Act as it exists it is not for the KIC to ascertain as regards the education or other qualification of a person appointed as a PIO. It only exercises supervisory jurisdiction over the actions taken by the Public Information Officer and nothing else."

Title: The Karnataka Public Service Commission, and Vinay Kumar Ramaiah,

S/o. M.Ramaiah

Case No: WRIT PETITION NO.8676/2020.

Date of Order: August 26, 2020.

Coram: Justice Suraj Govindaraj

Appearence:

P.S.Rajagopal, Senior Counsel For Sri. Reuben Jacob, Advocate for petitioner

Advocate Kantharaja, a/w. Advocate Ravi H.K, for R1;

Advocate Sharath Gowda, for R2

Click Here To Download Judgment

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