Answer scripts can be obtained by students under RTI, says Madras HC

A view of the Madras High Court.   | Photo Credit: R. Ragu

Observing that evaluated answer scripts would fall squarely under the definition of the term “information” under the Right to Information (RTI) Act of 2005, the Madras High Court held that universities were bound to provide copies of such answer scripts to the examinees concerned.

Justice S.M. Subramaniam dismissed a writ petition filed by Tamil Nadu Dr. Ambedkar Law University, challenging an order passed by the Tamil Nadu State Information Commission on December 17, and directed it to dispose of all RTI applications made for the provision of copies of answer scripts.

The judge held that students should be given the option of seeking copies of their answer scripts either under the university rules, which might require them to pay a higher fee, or under the RTI Act, which enables applicants to obtain information from public institutions on payment of a nominal fee.

“The very object of the Right to Information Act, 2005, stipulates that democracy requires an informed citizenry and transparency of information, which are vital to its functioning, and also to contain corruption and to hold governments and their instrumentalities accountable to the governed. Accountability in public administration is of paramount importance,” the judge observed.

Wondering why a should a university should shy away from providing copies of answer scripts under the RTI Act, Justice Subramaniam said public institutions could not be heard to say that they would provide information only as per the rules framed by them and not under a legislation enacted by the Parliament.

‘A record’

He recalled that even the Supreme Court in Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) versus Aditya Bandhopadhyay (2011) had observed that an unevaluated answer script should be considered as a document or record and that an evaluated answer script must be construed as information.

“Examining bodies (universities, examination boards, CBSE, etc.) are neither intelligence nor security organisations and therefore the exemption under Section 24 of the Act will not apply to them. The disclosure of information with reference to answer books does not also involve infringement of any copyright and therefore Section 9 will not apply,” the judgment read.

“Resultantly, unless the examining bodies are able to demonstrate that the evaluated answer books fall under any of the categories of exempted information enumerated in clauses (a) to (j) of Section 8(1), they will be bound to provide access to information, and any applicant can either inspect the document/record, take notes or obtain extracts of certified copies,” the judgment read.

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Printable version | Oct 15, 2021 7:17:55 AM |

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