In a landmark judgment today, Supreme Court allowed the disclosure of the answer-sheets under Right to Information (RTI) Act to the examinee. The bench comprising Hon’ble Mr Justice R. V. Raveendran and Hon’ble Mr Justice A. K. Patnaik dismissed the petitions filed by different Public Authorities and affirmed the judgment of Hon’ble Calcutta High Court allowing he disclosure of answer-sheets.
The case was filed by Central Board of Secondary Education, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, West Bengal Council for Higher Education, University of Calcutta, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, West Bengal Central School Service Commission and Assam Public Service Commission challenging the common order and judgment dated 05/02/2009 passed by division bench of Hon’ble Calcutta High Court.
As the examinee was not being represented by any counsel in this case, Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) filed an intervention application on behalf of he applicants Mazdoor Kisaan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS) and Join Operation for Social Help (JOSH) on 30.04.2010. Mr Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar, Advocate from HRLN argued the case successfully for MKSS and JOSH.
On 14.08.2007 one Mr Pritam Rooz filed an application under Right to Information Act seeking for copies of his answer-sheets from Calcutta University. Calcutta University informed him that as per university policy, the same cannot be disclosed.
He then approached the Calcutta High Court. In a detailed order dated 28.03.2008, Hon’ble Mr Sanjib Banerjee allowed the petition filed by Pritam Rooz and directed University of Calcutta to disclose the answer-sheets. This order was challenged before the division bench of the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court by University of Calcutta.
CBSE also approached the division bench of the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court against another order of the single bench of the Calcutta High Court allowing disclosure of the answer-sheet. While dismissing the appeals filed by these institutions, the division bench of Calcutta High Court vide its common order and judgment dated 05.02.2009 affirmed the judgment of the single bench. Against the order dated 05.02.2009, these institutions approached the Supreme Court.
Subsequently, various other institutions conducting the examination like Institute of Chartered Accountants in India, Assam Public Service Commission, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, West Bengal Council for Higher Education, West Bengal Central School Service Commission and Bihar Public Service Commission also joined in and opposed the disclosure of answer-sheets to the examiners.
It was contended by the Petitioners that the evaluated answer-sheets are not covered under the definition of the “information”. Second, they also contended that the evaluated answer-sheet is kept with the examination conducting institutions under fiduciary capacity. It was also contended by these institutions that if the disclosure is allowed, the entire system will collapse.
Hon’ble Supreme Court dismissed all these contentions. N the order delivered today, the bench clarified that the evaluated answer-sheet is covered under the definition of “information”. It also clarified that it is the duty of the Public Authority to allow maximum disclosure as envisaged by the RTI Act.
Dealing with the issue of “fiduciary relationship” the court has explained the fiduciary relationship in detail and held that the examination conducting bodies do not retain the evaluated answer-sheets under any fiduciary capacity. Hence, the court held that that the exemption under section 8 (1) (e) will not apply to the disclosure of answer-sheets.
The Court also dismissed he contention that the entire system will collapse once disclosure is allowed under RTI Act. As a matter of fact, it was argued on behalf of the MKSS and JOSH that some universities allow disclosure of answer-sheets under RTI Act and they do not face any difficulty in the process and their system have not “collapsed”.
As this judgment has dealt with various examination conducting bodies including the Public Service Commissions, Universities, CBSE and other boards, professional bodies like ICAI, this judgment will apply to every examination conducted by any agency in India.