Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Supreme Court: Allow students to inspect evaluated scripts under RTI

The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the disclosure, under the Right to Information Act, of answer sheets of students of any examination conducted by any agency in India. A Bench of Justices R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik gave this ruling, upholding a Calcutta High Court order permitting students to inspect and photocopy their answer sheets in any educational or professional examination.

The Bench held that evaluated scripts would come under the definition of ‘information' and reiterated the duty of the public authority to allow maximum disclosure as envisaged by the RTI. Explaining the scope of the ‘fiduciary relationship' of the agency holding the examination, the Bench held that bodies conducting examinations could not retain evaluated answer sheets in any fiduciary capacity and contend that they would not disclose the same.

The exemption under Section 8 (1) of the RTI Act would not apply to disclosure of answer sheets. The Bench was disposing of appeals filed by the Central Board of Secondary Education, the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, the West Bengal Council for Higher Education, the University of Calcutta, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, the West Bengal Central School Service Commission and the Assam Public Service Commission. The Human Rights Law Network filed an intervention application, on behalf of the applicants, the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan and Join Operation for Social Help. They argued that such disclosure would open the floodgates for information-seekers and the magnitude of the demand would be overwhelming. If answer scripts were made available to each examinee, it would lead to an unworkable situation. The Supreme Court, however, rejected these arguments.

Welcoming the judgment, the National Campaign for People's Right to Information, said: “The NCPRI believes this ruling would positively affect the transparency rights of lakhs of students of all kinds across the country including examinations conducted by school boards, universities and public service commissions.”

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