The Supreme Court has asked the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to “scrupulously” follow its 2011 judgment that it is a student’s “fundamental and legitimate right” to access his answer sheets under the Right to Information Act.
The recent order by a Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi came on a plea by two students, Kumar Shanu from Noida and Paras Jain from Delhi, seeking the court’s permission to initiate contempt proceedings against the Board for charging Rs.700 per copy of an answer sheet.
Over and above this, students are compulsorily required to go through the process of verification of marks for which they have to pay another Rs. 300 as fee. Only then, would they be eligible to apply for a copy of their answer sheets.
In short, they contended that a student ends up coughing up Rs. 1,000 to the CBSE to obtain a physical copy of his answer sheet. The information came out in a reply from the CBSE to an RTI application made by the petitioners.
The CBSE, however, contended that the charges levied were incidental and not for profit.
The petitioners contended that the practice was in contempt of a 2011 judgment — CBSE & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandhopadhyay & Ors — of the Supreme Court, which held that an “answer sheet is an information under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act and therefore, examinees/students have a fundamental and legal right of having access to their answer sheets under RTI Act.”
The 2011 judgment had held that there existed a fiduciary relationship between the examining body and the student.
The petitioners contended that the CBSE was levying these charges when the RTI Act had intended students to access answer sheets, which qualify as ‘information’, for Rs. 2 a page along with Rs. 10 for the RTI application. It had argued that students falling under the Below Poverty Line category were guaranteed free access to their answer sheets under the law.
“It is ironical and astonishing that the CBSE, being an educational institution responsible for educating a large section of the society, is blatantly flouting the law laid down by the Supreme Court,” the petition said.