In a Landmark decision, the Supreme Court has directed the Central Board of Secondary Education(CBSE) to provide evaluated Answer-sheets to candidates under Right to Information Act, 2005 in compliance of the Supreme Court’s Ruling in the matter of CBSE & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors. –Civil Appeal No. 6454/2011). Two students namely Kumar Shanu and Paras Jain from Amity Law School had filed a Contempt Petition against the Chairman, CBSE in Supreme Court of India for willfully disobeying the judgment passed in the matter of CBSE Vs. Aditya Bandhopadhyay and Ors (Civil Appeal 6454/2011). Passing this judgment, the Supreme Court had said, ”Answer-Sheet is an Information and therefore, examinees shall have the right to inspect their Answer-Sheets under RTI Act, 2005 and its Rules made thereunder which prescribes Rs 10/- as application fee for getting the information and Rs. 2 per page for the copies of such information.” The students’ Contempt petition was heard on August 01 and August 16 by the division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice P.C. Pant. The students admirably drafted and filed this contempt petition in-person (without assistance of any Advocate). Public Interest Crusader Advocate Prashant Bhushan agreed to represent the students Pro-bono before the Supreme Court of India. The express direction to the CBSE in this case has again enabled students to access their evaluated Answer-sheets under RTI an application fee of Rs. 10/-, whereas, no fee can be charged from the applicants who fall under Below Poverty Line (BPL) Category.
Kumar and Paras are the founders of Whistle for Public Interest-WHIP, a group of law students who deal with the issues of Public Importance to promote transparency and accountability in the system. The students with the help of RTI had discovered that CBSE accepted no application under RTI for obtaining the copy of answer-sheets. Further students who intended to verify their marks had to pay a fee of Rs. 300. Further, to obtain a copy of the answer book, an additional fee of Rs. 700 had to be paid. It is pertinent to note that these processes were “interlinked”, meaning that no candidate could obtain a photocopy of the answer book without applying for verification of marks. Therefore, candidates seeking copies of answer sheets had to shell out a total of Rs. 1,000 per subject. This compelled them to file a Representation in Public Interest with the Chairman, CBSE to quash this Unfair Rule and implement the law of providing the answer-sheets under RTI. In response to the representation, CBSE signified its inability to do so, as according to them, the process involves high cost.
Kumar Shanu and Paras jain, said, ” CBSE even being an institution responsible for educating a large section of the society refuses to comply the law laid down by the Supreme Court of India. CBSE was blatantly taking away the rights of nearly 50 Lac students every year as it conducts Board Exams, JEE, NEET and NET. The Supreme Court decision shall not only ensure the students get access to their answer-sheets under RTI but it will also help a large number of youngsters learn and use RTI as a tool in the matters involving public authorities. This would help them become responsible citizens.”
Kumar and Paras belive in the sense of giving back to the society. They had earlier challenged the arbitrary provisions of the Delhi High Court RTI Rules through a writ petition, argued the matter themselves and got the Rules amended in January 2016. They have been actively working for legal aid and awareness among masses with the help of other law students. The students can be reached at ‘[email protected]’
NOTE: The said direction is passed against CBSE but it would also be applicable to all the state run institutions of the country.