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 SC stresses student's right to access answer sheet

By Our Correspondent
On August 16 the Supreme Court allowed a contempt of court petition against the Chairman Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and ordered him to “scrupulously” follow its 2011 judgment which upheld  student’s “fundamental and legitimate right” to access his answer sheets.

The apex court had on August 9, 2011 ruled in a case CBSE & Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandhopadhyay & Ors that a student has a “fundamental and legitimate right” to access his answer sheets under the Right to Information Act.

The August 16 order by a Bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi came on a plea by Kumar Shanu of Noida and Paras Jain of 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.

The applicants -- Kumar Shanu and Paras Jain -- both of them Law students and RTI activists, had contended that a student ends up coughing up Rs. 1,000 to the CBSE to obtain a hard 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 applicants contended that the practice was in contempt of the Aditya Bandhopadhyay judgement 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.”

Fiduciary relationship

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,” Kumar Shanu told this correspondent on phone.


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