New Delhi: Backing demands for transparency and accountability in the selection of bureaucrats, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered two public service commissions—in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh—to reveal the answer sheets and final interview marks of candidates if asked to.

Public service commissions both at the Union and state levels have long faced criticism over their refusal to disclose the marks by which individual candidates are either passed or failed in entrance exams for government jobs.

Disclosing the answer sheets and interview marks will help candidates assess their performance better.

These public service commissions hold entrances exams for selection of civil servants and other jobs. Civil service exams are conducted in three stages—preliminaries and mains (both written tests) and a final oral interview.

Hearing appeals from the Kerala and Uttar Pradesh public service commissions against the decisions of their respective high courts, the Supreme Court ruled that such disclosure of answer papers and mark sheets of interviews if asked for “do not suffer from error of law".

In two separate rulings following an appeal by candidates, the Kerala high court and the Allahabad bench of the Uttar Pradesh high court in 2011 and 2014, respectively, had asked their respective state public service commissions to disclose answers papers and marks obtained in interviews.

The Supreme Court on Thursday said, “So far as the information sought for by the respondents with regard to the supply of scanned copies of his answer sheet of the written test, copy of the tabulation sheet and other information, we are of the opinion that the view taken in the impugned judgment with regard to the disclosure of these information, does not suffer from error of law and the same is fully justified."

“Disclosing the marks and the answer sheets to the candidates will ensure that the candidates have been given marks according to their performance in the exam. This practice will ensure fair play in this competitive environment, where a candidate puts his time in preparing for the competitive exams..." the court observed.

The move was welcomed as a step in the direction of transparency that in turn will boost the confidence of people seeking civil service and other government jobs.

“This augurs well for the civil service exam both at the state and central levels. This will lead to better accountability and transparency in the system as selections in public service exams have manifold implications—from social to economic—for the country," said Sriram Srirangam, director at Sriram’s IAS, a civil service coaching school.

The apex court, however, rejected a Kerala high court order for the disclosure of the names of examiners and interviewers by public service commissions if asked to.