The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), the largest educational board in the country has landed itself into a soup again, with a contempt petition having been filed against it before the Supreme Court of India challenging the denial of access of evaluated answer-sheets to millions of students under the Right to Information act and charging an exorbitant fee of Rs. 1200 per subject for the same. In their petition, cofounders of the Whistle for Public Interest (WHIP) Kumar Shanu and Paras Jain allege this as being violative of the Apex Court judgements in the cases of CBSE & Anr. v. Aditya Bandhopadhyay & Ors. and Kumar Shanu vs. YSK Seshu Kumar, Chairman, CBSE. The duo had admirably taken CBSE to Supreme Court in the year 2016 for the same issue and won the case resulting into a victory of “the Fundamental Right to Know.”
In the year 2011, the Supreme Court of India passed a landmark judgement in CBSE & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandhopadhyay & Ors. wherein it was held that “Answer-sheet is an information and the examinees have the fundamental and legal right to access their evaluated answer-sheets under the Right to Information Act, 2005. (RTI Act).”
The 2016 case
Whistle of Public Interest (WHIP) is a platform for law students and young lawyers to put their advocacy skills to use in solving public issues and works for promoting transparency and accountability in the affairs of public authorities in India. In the year 2016, it came to WHIP’s knowledge that CBSE was charging an exorbitant fee of Rs. 1200 for obtaining the copies of answer-sheets and was blatantly denying the access to evaluated answer-sheets under the RTI Act.
It was not only the violation of fundamental right of millions of students every year but also a contempt of the Supreme Court of India. While still at the law school, in 2016, the cofounders of WHIP filed a contempt petition against the Chairman, CBSE. Consequently, a division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Shri. Ranjan Gogoi J. and Shri. P.C. Pant J. directed the Chairman, CBSE to scrupulously observe the directions of Supreme Court issued in Aditya Bandhopadhyay’s case and provide the copies of evaluated answer-sheets as per rules made under the RTI Act.
Mockery of law by a public education board responsible for educating the society
According to Kumar Shanu, the co-founder of WHIP and currently a student at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, this is a willful and deliberate attempt of the Central Education Board to surpass and overrule the authority of the Apex court of the country. He further states that it is very disheartening to observe that a public education board responsible for educating a large section of the society making a mockery of the rule of law. Noted Public Interest Lawyer and activist, Prashant Bhushan has been representing the Petitioners in the case without any professional fees. The matter is listed for hearing on Monday, September 10, 2018.