CIC: Board Has No Right Or Authority Over Answer Sheets

In a watershed decision, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has brought the private ICSE board under the purview of the RTI Act. The ruling implies that lacs of students can now get copies of their answer books and also apply for re-evaluation--a provision that was not available to them earlier.

Providing justice to ICSE candidates across the country, the CIC stated that the board could not perpetuate secrecy around answer sheets and has no right or authority over answer sheets of students.

“An examining body like CISCE (Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations) might have an IPR right over question papers but they do not have any such right over answer sheets of students. Students cannot be denied their copyright to answer sheets,“ stated the CIC order.

The ruling follows an appellant's request for copies of answer booklets of all the six subjects his son had attempted. CISCE turned it down and stated that the board was not a public authority and hence not covered under the RTI Act.

Unhappy with his son's scores, the man applied for rechecking the papers but the board conveyed that there was no error in that regard. While the student wanted his papers re-evaluated, the central public information officer said CISCE norms did not provide for it and that the rechecking fee was Rs 4,000 for all papers. While re-evaluation involves correcting papers all over again, rechecking simply means verification of marks.

“It is not convincing that without sharing evaluated answer sheets, how can they assure justice to the students who, at times, might be helpless victims of unreasonable evaluation?“ the order questioned. “It is not proper on the part of this prestigious council to leave students remedyless in such situations of injustice.“

The CIC order directed that the council provide space to students, review its examination system and also give access to answer sheets, either by inspection or sharing a copy. This order follows two high court judgments, which had upheld that CISCE was not a public authority. “The issue is not whether it is a public authority but whether it should be accountable or not,“ the CIC order stated. Extending the Supreme Court judgment, which had declared that the CBSE board must share its answer booklets, the CIC stated that provisions of the RTI Act should be interpreted in a manner which would lead to dissemination of information rather than withholding it.

“While every university and educational institution provides for access, rechecking or recounting and re-evaluation of evaluated answer sheets, denying them is inequality and not in tune with the judgment of Hon'ble Supreme Court and also contrary to principles of transparency and accountability as envisaged under RTI Act,“ noted the CIC order.