The students are, with bated breath waiting for their results. Exams are made out to be a great deal. Students give their all to excel these exams. However, more often than not, they receive marks lower than their expectations. Naturally, they want to see their answer-sheets.
In 2011, the Supreme Court of India passed a landmark judgment holding, “Answer-Sheet is information under the Right to Information Act, 2005”. (CBSE & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors., Civil Appeal No. 6454/2011)
Despite this decision, Paras Jain, a Company Secretary student in 2012, was being compelled by his institute-Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) to pay Rs 500/- for an answer sheet. He challenged this decision and won the legal case in both the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court of India. Courtesy Jain now all Government Authorities (Universities, Boards, Professional Bodies etc.) conducting exams are now to provide answer sheets under the Right to Information Act.
Answer sheet to be provided at just Rs 2 per page
In 2012, when Jain was studying as a student at the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), he had demanded a copy of his answer sheet. Despite the RTI Rules, 2012, the ICSI refused to give the copy at Rs 2 per page and instead demanded Rs 500 per subject.
When the Institute refused to comply with the RTI Rules, he filed the case in the Delhi High Court. Interestingly, he fought his own case, single-handedly without any lawyer. Paying heed to the Jain’s argument that the many students coming from not so privileged background would never be able to avail the facility just because of the high fee being charged for the same.
On April 19, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justice NV Ramana and Justice S Abdul Nazeer too has given the verdict in favour of Jain. While speaking to The Logical Indian, Jain, who works as a lawyer now, said, “If a student demands his/her copies of answer-sheet under the RTI Act, the Examination Body has to provide such copies as per the fee prescribed under the RTI Rules i.e.., Rs 2 per page. Students are no more required to pay a hefty fee of Rs 500 to Rs 1000 for obtaining copies of answer-sheets.
Whistle for Public Interest (WHIP)
Jain, along with Kumar Shanu co-founded the Whistle for 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 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 the 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.
Also Read: CBSE Taken To SC Again For Denying Access To Evaluated Answer-Sheets Under RTI