Union Public Service Commission officials (UPSC) got a rude shock when civil service aspirants took a cue from Bollywood flick Laga Raho Munnabhai and offered roses as a mark of protest for denying information sought under the RTI Act.
The students stopped UPSC officials when they were coming out of the Central Information Commission (CIC) office. Flowers were given with students pleading UPSC officials to relent and reveal the marks scored by them in the preliminary examination.
UPSC, as a principle, only declares pass and fail for the preliminary examination while the marks are revealed only for main examination and the final interview.
The full bench of CIC on Friday closed the arguments on an appeal filed by number of students against the UPSC's decision to deny marks of the preliminary examination on the grounds of 'larger public interest' and 'Intellectual Property Rights' (IPR).
UPSC counsel R Mishra pleaded that the methodology of screening the objective type answer sheets is unique to the commission and is therefore covered under IPR regulations. Counsel for students countered the claim saying UPSC was not a commercial organisation that can claim benefit of IPR.
"The computerised scaling of answer sheets is not a literary work nor industry design nor a trade mark nor an invention that comes under IPR regulation," said Aman Lekhi appearing on behalf of the students.
The issue of public interest and third party interest was hotly debated even as the five commissions including CIC posed several questions to Mishra. The UPSC counsel said that if the screening methodology is revealed the integrity of the examination system can get manipulated.
"Non meritorious students may beat the system and defeat the purpose of the examination to select best talent from various fields," Mishra said.
Prashant Bhushan, also was appearing for students, had a different take as he said revealing the methodology would help UPSC in plugging the holes and making examination system more credible and accountable. "If UPSC is not in favour of transparency then there is something seriously wrong with it," he urged.
On the UPSC's claim that revealing information about examination involve third party interest - the future students - was countered on the ground that it was based on a hypothetical assumption. To this, Information Commission MM Ansari commented that UPSC's case is that of 'inflamed imagination'.
Another commissioner Padma Balasubramanian even asked UPSC why not marks of individual students' are revealed as done by Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission. Mishra explained that the methodology and marks are linked. "Revealing one will lead to another (methodology)," he said.
At the end, CIC Wajahat Habibullah said the commission would announce its order next week.