CIC orders Allahabad University to furnish marks secured by a student under RTI Act

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New Delhi: The Central Information Commission on Monday (10 September 2018) has passed an order directing the Vice Chancellor of Central University of Allahabad to re-examine the matter and furnish information regarding the marks secured by a student in BA Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 examination to an Appellant within a period of 15 days under the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005.

Responding to a written submission of the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO), the Commission has instructed the Allahabad University Vice Chancellor to relook at the delivery mechanism in vogue in respect of the implementation of the RTI Act, 2005 and initiate corrective measures without wasting any time.

The Commission, through its order passed by Information Commissioner Bimal Julka, has advised the Allahabad University that a copy of the CIC order be placed before the next meeting of the Executive Council for its perusal by all the Members. Failure on this count would lead to action under Section 20(1) of the RTI Act, 2005.

The Commission also has instructed the University to convene periodic conferences and seminars to sensitize, familiarize and educate the concerned officials about the relevant provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 for effective discharge of its duties and responsibilities.

The Appellant, Rajan Srivastava, through his RTI application had sought information regarding the marks secured by by a student in BA Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 examination.

The Appellant told the Commission that he had been wrongly intimated that the information was provided only to the office and institution seeking the information after payment of Rs. 500/- per candidate and that as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 he was entitled to the know the marks secured by a candidate in the examination. In its reply, the University, while elaborating on the Administrative constraints, stated that the RTI application had been filed online and was never received by their office. Furthermore, online applications could only be accessed through the email id and password of the Nodal CPIO i.e. the Registrar and that none of the Registrars appointed during the last 02 years had provided him access to the e-mail id and password resulting in protracted delay in replying to the RTI applications and First Appeal. It was also submitted that after receipt of the notice of
hearing, they had provided a response to the Appellant on 30 August 2018 informing him that as
per the procedure devised by the Executive Council, information was provided only to the office or
institution seeking information on payment of a Bank Draft of Rs. 500/- per candidate in favour
of the Controller of Examination, University of Allahabad, Payable at Allahabad.

The Commission in this context also referred to several decisions regarding disclosure of a candidate’s own answer script. For example, the Commission has referred to the Supreme Court of India in the decision of CBSE v. Aditya Bandopadhyay and others [SLP(C) NO. 7526/2009] where it had observed the following in para 11:

“11. The definition of ‘information’ in section 2(f) of the RTI Act refers to any material in any form which includes records, documents, opinions, papers among several other enumerated items. The term ‘record’ is defined in section 2(i) of the said Act as including any document, manuscript or file among others. 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.”

It was furthermore stated in para 14 of the same judgement “The examining bodies contend that the evaluated answer-books are exempted from disclosure under section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act, as they are ‘information’ held in its fiduciary relationship. They fairly conceded that evaluated answer-books will not fall under any other exemptions in sub section (1) of section 8. Every examinee will have the right to access his evaluated answer-books, by either inspecting them or take certified copies thereof, unless the evaluated answer-books are found to be exempted under section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act.”

The aforesaid decision of the Supreme Court of India CBSE and another V. Aditya Bandopadhyay was further relied in the judgment pronounced on 16 August 2016 by the Supreme Court of India in Kumar Shanu and Anr. V. CBSE in I.A. No. 01/2016 in Contempt Petition No. 9837/2016 Civil Appeal NO.6454/2011.

The Commission 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.

The Commission has observed that the Respondent in the present instance was charging a fee of Rs. 500/- for verification of academic credentials whereas the Appellant desired that provisions of RTI Act, 2005 ought to prevail over the rules and regulations framed by the Institute.

The Commission noted that similar issues relating to the matter of charging fees on answer scripts as per rules of university or institute vis a vis’ the rules under the RTI Act, 2005 was pending final adjudication before the Hon’ble Supreme in ICSI v. Paras Jain, SLP (C) No. 12692/2014 wherein the Hon’ble Court vide its order of 19 May 2014 had stayed the judgment of the High Court of Delhi in LPA. 275/2014 on 26 April 2014. In its hearing on 10 May 2018, the Supreme Court directed to list the matter on 16 May 2018. The judgment of the Supreme Court, as and when pronounced, shall be complied with accordingly.

Furthermore, the High Court of Delhi in a similar matter of University of Delhi vs. Abner Ignity W.P. (C) 1873/2016 on 10 August 2017 had set aside the decision of the Commission with the observation:

“the decision of the CIC cannot be sustained. The same is set aside and the matter is remanded to the CIC to consider afresh after the decision is rendered by the Supreme Court in the case of Paras Jain (supra)” in W.P. (C) 1873/2016 & CM Nos. 8014/2016, 25545/2016 & 25546/2016 on 10 August 2017”

During the hearing and in its written submission the Central University of Allahabad, various administrative lacunae and constraints for implementation of the RTI Act, 2005 which require urgent deliberation and rectification. The Commission was appalled to learn about the manner in which the hearings before it were handled by the University. According to the Commission, it indicated that there was complete negligence and laxity in the Public Authority in dealing with the RTI matters.

The Commission has said in its order that it was abundantly clear that such matters were being ignored and set aside without application of mind which reflected disrespect towards the RTI Act, 2005 itself. It was felt that the conduct of Respondent was against the spirit of the RTI Act, 2005 which was enacted to ensure greater transparency and effective access to the information.

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