Universities should suo-motu put in public domain the guidelines for revaluation of the answer-sheets in larger public interest

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An open government, which is the cherished objective of the RTI Act, can be realised only if all public offices comply with proactive disclosure norms. Section 4(2) of the RTI Act mandates every public authority to provide as much information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public need not resort to the use of RTI Act. – CIC for proactive disclosure norms

New Delhi: Central information Commission has responded to a series of Complaints and Appeals on revaluation of the answer-sheets and related matters, by advising the Secretary, Department of Higher Education (MHRD), to instruct all the Vice Chancellors and Registrars of the Universities falling within its purview to suo-motu putout the guidelines for revaluation of the answer-sheets detailing the procedure prescribed for this purpose for the benefit of the larger student community impacted by such decisions and in the larger public interest involved in the matter.

The above advise is part of the operative portion of an order passed by Central Information Commissioner Bimal Julka today in response to an appeal by Avneesh Kumar Pandey, a resident of Varanasi. Under the Right to Information, the appellant had sought information on four points relating to inspection of answer sheet and its revaluation, details of authority that can be approached by an applicant for seeking his answer sheet and its revaluation after its denial by the competent authority and related issues.

The CIC has instructed the respondent, the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of Banaras Hindu University, to collect and collate the guidelines for revaluation of the answersheets of the students and the detailed procedure should be put out on its website for information of all the stakeholders to obviate the necessity of the student seeking recourse to the RTI mechanism for redressal of grievance. This has to be implemented not later than 30 days time period from the date of receipt of this order.

The CPIO, Banaras Hindu University, through his letter of 24 September 2016, had transferred the RTI application to the Faculty in Charge, Faculty of Performing Arts, Banaras Hindu University. Dissatisfied by the response of the CPIO, the Appellant had approached the First Appellate Authority (FAA). Subsequently, the CPIO, Faculty of Performing Arts, Banaras Hindu University furnished a point wise response to the Appellant on 9 November 2016.

The CIC has brought on record the Appellant’s contention that a cryptic reply had been received by him. It was complained that clear cut guidelines regarding the mechanism for revaluation of the answer-sheet etc was not transparent or available on any public platform to enable the applicant to seek information in this regard. It was also argued that the First Appeal was also answered by the CPIO instead of the FAA and that there was total disrespect and disregard to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 in the University. The Respondent replied that a suitable response had been provided by the CPIO.

The Commission has observed that the issues raised in the RTI application dealt with the larger public issue and large number of student community was impacted by similar such problems faced by them on a day to day basis.

The Commission observed that voluntary disclosure of all information in the public domain should be the rule and members of public who having to seek (requiring further) information should be an exception. An open government, which is the cherished objective of the RTI Act, can be realised only if all public offices comply with proactive disclosure norms. Section 4(2) of the RTI Act mandates every public authority to provide as much information suo-motu to the public at regular intervals through various means of communications, including the Internet, so that the public need not resort to the use of RTI Act.

The CIC has quoted from decisions of the Delhi High Court and Supreme Court of India while emphasising that the Commission has felt that issues of Larger Public Interest affecting selection of meritorious candidates through a fair and transparent selection process were raised by the Appellant during the course of hearing, hence disclosure of information was warranted.

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