Students would not have access to answer sheets under the Right to Information (RTI) Act whereas the officials appearing for the departmental examinations or proceedings would be able to exercise this right.
The Central Information Commission, while disposing five appeals, said providing answer sheets of public examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Universities and Central Board for Secondary Education will make the system unworkable. “We therefore decide that a citizen cannot seek disclosure of the evaluated answer sheets under the RTI Act, 2005,” the final order of Wajahat Habibullah, chief information commissioner, stated.
CBSE had pointed out that they have 9,000 schools and about 12 lakh examinees each appearing in five subjects, thereby producing six million answer sheets. CBSE contended that disclosing answer sheets would have no ‘finality’. Agreeing with CBSE, the CIC observed that each university and board has a mechanism for re-evaluation that can be used for allaying apprehensions about the fairness of the system.
But, a better mechanism, according to CIC, would be boards and universities introducing a system where giving back of the evaluated answer sheets is a regular practice, then an exception.
The CIC has, however, made certain exceptions to its rule. Answer sheets of examination conducted by public bodies like Lok Sabha Secretariat, Railways, Jal Board or Delhi Development authority for recruitment or promotions could be sought under RTI Act. But each case would have to be examined individually to ensure that the information provided does not render the system unworkable, the CIC said.
The rationale given by CIC for apply RTI Act for such examinations was that disclosure of the answer sheets will bring in fairness, transparency and accountability and would not render the system unworkable as the number of examinees are limited.
The CIC also made it clear that the DPC minutes or proceedings are not covered under any exemptions provided under section 8 (1) of the RTI Act but cautioned the Central Public Information Officers to follow the procedure laid down in section 11 of the Act.