Exam answer sheets under RTI Act: MGP

In a recent decision (indiankanoon.org/doc/1519371/), the Supreme Court has said that the exam answer sheets have to be provided to him or her for inspection if the student applies for them under the Right to Information Act.

According to P M Bhat of Mysore Grahakara Parishat, a candidate who had written a CBSE exam was dissatisfied with the marks he had obtained and had applied for inspection of his answer sheets under the RTI Act and the CBSE had rejected his application citing rule 8(1)(e) of the Act which exempts information held in a fiduciary relationship from mandatory disclosure. A fiduciary relationship is one in which a person trusts the other person to exercise a reasonable degree of care.

CBSE argued that it holds the answer sheets in a fiduciary relationship with the examiner and so it can refuse to divulge that information. The Court did not agree and said that it is bound to allow RTI applicants to inspect or obtain a copy of their answer sheets.

But the Court admitted that if a disgruntled examinee comes to know the name of the examiner, he may harm the examiner. So it said that before giving the answer sheets to the RTI applicant, information about the examiners should be deleted under section 8(1)(g) of RTI Act, on the ground that if such information is disclosed, it may endanger their physical safety.

 Sec. 8(3) of the RTI Act says that information relating to any event or matter which took place 20 years before the RTI application should be provided. At first sight, it appears that this section makes it compulsory to preserve all information for 20 years. But the Supreme Court interpreted it differently in its order.

It said that ‘examination bodies need not keep the answer sheets for 20 years and can make their own rules about how long they will keep them (for example, CBSE rules say that answer sheets will be kept for 3 months after the announcing of results). The RTI applicant has to submit his application for answer sheets within this time or else RTI Act will not apply.’

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