New Delhi: Examination answer sheets must be made public under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Supreme Court has ruled.
“This will be applicable to all examinations by public agencies in India,” said lawyer Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar, who argued on behalf of two non-governmental organizations after a student who filed the case lost interest in sustaining the litigation.
On Tuesday, a bench comprising justices R.V. Raveendran and A.K. Patnaik dismissed petitions filed by various public examination agencies while upholding a 2009 judgement of the Calcutta high court.
The move will help make the education system more transparent and administrators more accountable, said Sobha Mishra, head of education at industry lobby Ficci.
“If someone sat for an exam, he should not be denied the right to see his answer paper once the result is out. No institute or exam-conducting body should ever resist such disclosure,” she said.
In 2007, Pritam Rooz, a student of University of Calcutta, filed an RTI application seeking the disclosure of his answer sheet. His request was denied due to university policy.
He then approached the high court, where a single judge and a two-judge bench ruled that the university should release the answer sheets.
The Central Board of Secondary Education, the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, the West Bengal Council of Higher Secondary Education, the University of Calcutta, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, the West Bengal School Service Commission and the Assam Public Service Commission appealed against the high court’s ruling in the apex court.
Rooz, however, did not pursue the case in the Supreme Court. Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan, a society that had campaigned for transparency in the form of the RTI law, and Joint Operation for Social Help, a student help group, took on the case.
Subsequently, other institutions that conduct tests also joined the case and opposed the disclosure of corrected answer sheets.
They argued that evaluated answer sheets are not covered under “information” as defined in the RTI Act, and that releasing these papers will lead to a collapse of the system.
The court noted that several universities that disclose corrected answer sheets on request haven’t faced such a collapse. It also said it is the duty of public authorities to allow maximum disclosure as envisaged by the RTI Act