CIC order in the matter of Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations

CENTRAL INFORMATION COMMISSION

Room No. 305, 3rd Floor, CIC Bhavan, Baba Gangnath Marg, Munirka,

New Delhi-110067, website:cic.gov.in

Complaint No.:-CIC/MOHRD/C/2017/101808-BJ +

Appeal No.:-CIC/MOHRD/A/2017/132530-BJ

 

Complainant/ Appellant  :       Mr. Gaurav Gupta

  1. No. 13, Guru Teg bahadur Enclave,

Behind Gurudwara, Sikandra,

Agra – 282007 (UP)

(M:09319503249 & 09027569348)

 

Respondent :       1.    CPIO & Under Secretary,

                                                Ministry of Human Resource Development,

                                                ‘B’ Wing, Shastri Bhawan (School –3 Section),

                                                New Delhi

II.       CPIO

Council for The Indian School Certificate Examinations,

Pragati House, 3rd Floor, 47-48, Nehru Place, New Delhi 110505

 

Date of Hearing    :                  27.02.2018
Date of Decision   :                  28.02.2018

         

O R D E R

 

RTI 1: CIC/MOHRD/C/2017/101808-BJ

 

Date of RTI application 30.08.2016
CPIO’s response 26.09.2016
Date of the First Appeal 26.10.2016
First Appellate Authority’s response Not on record
Date of diarised receipt of Complaint by the Commission 11.01.2017

 

Facts:

The Complainant vide his RTI application sought information on 03 points regarding the action taken on his complaint dated 30.07.2016 pertaining to the CISCE school running under MHRD without affiliation since 2003, the details of School Management Committee of St. George College unit 01, 03 Garden Road near Baluganj, Agra (U.P) and its balance sheet, and educational qualification, age proof and salary details of the Principal               and issues related thereto.

The CPIO vide its letter dated 26.09.2016 informed that the Application dated 30.07.2016 had not been received in their Section. Moreover, CISCE was a private board and no information related to this board was available in School-3 Section. However, the RTI application was forwarded to the CISCE for providing the desired information. Dissatisfied by the reply of the CPIO, the Complainant approached the FAA. The order of the FAA, if any, is not on the record of the Commission.

 

RTI 2: CIC/MOHRD/A/2017/132530-BJ:

Date of RTI application 16.08.2016
CPIO’s response Not on record
Date of the First Appeal 31.08.2016
First Appellate Authority’s response 15.09.2016
Date of diarised receipt of Appeal by the Commission 16.05.2017

 

Facts:

The Appellant vide his RTI application sought information on 04 points regarding the  action taken on his complaint dated 01.08.2016 pertaining to the running of II Unit of St. George’s College, balance sheet, teachers educational qualification and their salary details, and other matters related thereto.

Dissatisfied by non-receipt of any reply from the CPIO, the Appellant approached the FAA. The  FAA vide its order dated  15.09.2016 informed the Appellant that the Council was not a “public Authority” as defined under the RTI Act, 2005 and therefore the council had not appointed any PIO or  an FAA as per the provisions of the RTI Act,2005. A reference was made to the decisions of the Hon’ble Delhi High Court and Allahabad High Court in this regard.

HEARING:

Facts emerging during the hearing:

The following were present:

Complainant: Mr. Gaurav Gupta (M:09319503249) through VC; 

Respondent: Mr. Hitender Chand, Assistant, MHRD (M: 9818469596) and Mr. Dipender Kumar, Advocate representing CISCE (M: 9811922487); 

 

The Complainant/ Appellant reiterated the contents of his RTI application and stated that no satisfactory information was provided to him, till date. It was explained that the information sought pertained to CISCE Board which had 2000 schools affiliated to it all over India and was performing a public activity by conducting Class X and XII board examination which were recognised by the Central and State Governments. Thus, it could not be considered a private body. It was also submitted that the Respondent (Min. of HRD) suppressed information with a malafide intention and to safeguard the non-affiliated schools running without certificate of recognition and affiliation thus destroying the lives of the students associated with the institutions.

 

The Commission was in receipt of a written submission from the Complainant/ Appellant dated 20.02.2018, wherein it was stated that the questions in the RTI application related to a School of CISCE Board, which was running without taking affiliation since 2003, till date. No action was taken by the CISCE Board and vital information was denied under the RTI Act, 2005. It was also submitted that vide letter dated 08.05.2017 sent by him to the Commission a copy of an earlier decision of the Commission in CIC/ CC/A/2015/001881-SA dated 01.11.2016 was enclosed which stated that CISCE was a Public Authority u/s 2 (f) of the RTI Act, 2005 and Section 19 of the Society Registration Act. Furthermore, a reference was also made to Para 22 and 25 of the aforementioned order. It was thus submitted that since his RTI application pertained to a school which came under the CISCE Board and which was using the CISCE name board and running without affiliation and students of the School appeared in the CISCE Board Examination. Despite knowing the facts, CISCE denied the information, which was a clear violation of the RTI Act.

 

In its response, the Respondent (Min. of HRD) submitted that the information sought pertained to CISCE (a private board) and was not available with them. It was also conveyed that they did not have any control/ supervision over the activities of the said board hence no further details could be provided by them. In its written submission dated 12.02.2018, the Respondent (Min. of HRD) while re-iterating the reply of the CPIO/ FAA, stated that two appeals (dated 26.10.2016 and 06.01.2016) on the same matter were received in their Section on 06.01.2016 which was also conveyed to him with a copy to the Commission on 13.01.2017. In view of the above, it was stated that the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) was not established by the Ministry. Therefore, the Ministry did not have the information pertaining to the said Board.  

 

The representative of CISCE present during the hearing submitted that they were not a public authority covered within the ambit of Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, 2005. It was explained that they were an unaided autonomous educational body registered as a Society under the Societies Registration Act and were conducting examinations for Class X and XII students of its affiliated schools. In its written submission dated 27.02.2018, the representative of Respondent referred to the decision of the Commission in Jehangir B Gai, Mumbai wherein the Ministry of HRD had already submitted that the council was an autonomous body, not answerable to MHRD and had issued a communication dated 24.03.2006 to that effect. Furthermore, in support of its contention, the Respondent (CISCE) also referred to para 2 and 3 of the judgement of the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi in CISCE vs. Ajay Jhuria, LPA No. 617/2011, para 10 of the judgement of the Hon’ble High Court of Allahabad in A. Pavitra vs. UOI and Ors. WPC No. 60338/2014, judgement of the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta in W.P. No. 12549 (W) of 2016 dated 01.09.2016 in the matter of Dinesh Sinha vs. CISCE. It was also conveyed that the Society Registration Act, 1860 and RTI Act, 2005 were different and independent with each other and no provision of any Act could be read with any provision of any other Act. Furthermore, a reference was also made to several decisions of the Commission mentioned hereunder, wherein it was held that Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) did not come within the purview of the RTI Act, 2005:

 

  1. Appeal No. CIC/MOHRD/C/2017/152582/MP dated 12.12.2017
  2. Complaint No. CIC/DS/C/2013/000633 dated 15.07.2016
  3. Case No. CIC/CC/C/2014/000006/MP dated 13.09.2017
  4. Complaint No. CIC/MOHRD/C/2016/295651 dated 21.12.2017

 

The Commission at the outset referred to the judgement of the High Court of Calcutta in W.P. No. 12549 (W) of 2016 dated 01.09.2016 in the matter of Dinesh Sinha vs. CISCE wherein it was held that CISCE was not a public authority as per Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, 2005. The relevant extract of the judgement are as under:

 

“Bearing in mind the aforesaid definition of ‘information’ and the ‘public authority,’ this Court is, thus, of the view that the Council is not a public authority or body or Institution of self government established or constituted under the Constitution, under the law enacted by the Parliament or by the State Legislature or body owned, controlled or substantially financed, directly or indirectly by the fund provided by the appropriate Government. Therefore, it does not come within the purview of a public authority under Section 2(h) of the said Act.”

 

As regards the reply of the Ministry of HRD, the Commission observed that information held and available on record had been made available by the Respondent. In this context, the Commission referred to the definition of information u/s Section 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005 which is reproduced below:

“information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, report, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.” 

A reference was made to the Hon’ble Supreme Court decision in 2011 (8) SCC 497 (CBSE Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay), wherein it was held as under:

35….. “It is also not required to provide ‘advice’ or ‘opinion’ to an applicant, nor required to obtain and furnish any ‘opinion’ or ‘advice’ to an applicant. The reference to ‘opinion’ or ‘advice’  in the definition of ‘information’ in section 2(f) of the Act, only refers to such material available in the records of the public authority. Many public authorities have, as a public relation exercise, provide advice, guidance and opinion to the citizens. But that is purely voluntary and should not be confused with any obligation under the RTI Act.”

Furthermore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Khanapuram Gandaiah Vs. Administrative Officer and Ors. Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.34868 OF 2009 (Decided on January 4, 2010) had held as under:

  1. “….Under the RTI Act “information” is defined under Section 2(f) which provides:

“information” means any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, report, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority under any other law for the time being in force.” 

This definition shows that an applicant under Section 6 of the RTI Act can get any information which is already in existence and accessible to the public authority under law.  Of course, under the RTI Act an applicant is entitled to get copy of the opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc., but he cannot ask for any information as to why such opinions, advices, circulars, orders, etc. have been passed.”

  1. “….the Public Information Officer is not supposed to have any material which is not before him; or any information he could have obtained under law.  Under Section 6 of the RTI Act, an applicant is entitled to get only such information which can be accessed by the “public authority” under any other law for the time being in force. The answers sought by the petitioner in the application could not have been with the public authority nor could he have had access to this information and Respondent No. 4 was not obliged to give any reasons as to why he had taken such a decision in the matter which was before him.”

During the hearing, the Commission observed that although a suitable reply as per the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 had been furnished by the Respondent, considering the larger public interest involved in view of the students, teachers, parents connected to the said institution, there is a dire need of clarity in respect of the status of the CISCE so that the rights and obligations of the said institution are made known to the public at large. It should be ethically incumbent upon the institution also to function in a transparent and objective fashion to attain its credibility in the eyes of the public.

 

 

DECISION

Keeping in view the facts of the case and the submissions made by both the parties and in light of the judgements cited above, no further intervention is warranted in the matter.

The Commission however, observed that in the said 02 applications although the issues relating to the implementation of the RTI Act 2005 had been technically complied with and that the judicial pronouncements were made by the Hon’ble Courts that CISCE was not a Public Authority as per Section 2 (h) of the RTI Act, 2005, the larger issue of status of these private institutions imparting education to the children remained unanswered.  The matter under consideration involved a critical and significant issue relating to the larger public interest involving the future of students studying in the schools affiliated to CISCE which were not recognised by Ministry of Human Resource Development or any of the bodies owned or controlled by it.  Nonetheless thousands of students, teachers and parents engaged in this entire exercise ought to be aware of the identity and the status of the institution they were serving and their rights and obligations discharged in the public interest.   The Commission cannot be seen as a mute spectator by the technical fulfilment of the provisions of the RTI Act 2005, totally ignoring the most pertinent and larger public interest involved therein.  Therefore, it was the considered view of the Commission to direct The Secretary, Department of Elementary Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development to examine the matter and bring about a clarity on the status of CISCE and the schools affiliated with it for the benefit of all the stakeholders. This exercise should be done within a period of 03 months from the date of issue of this advisory. At the same time, it is in the interest of CISCE and the schools affiliated with it to suo-motu disclose the details sought by the Appellant / Complainant in their own interest to maintain credibility and sensitivity of the most pious area of nation building i.e. the field of education.

The Complaint/ Appeal stand disposed accordingly. 

 

(Bimal Julka)
Information Commissioner

Authenticated True Copy:

 

(K. L. Das)

Deputy Registrar

 

Copy to:

 1- The Secretary, Department of Elementary Education, MHRD, 1st Floor, Room No. 124, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi – 110115

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