Should the answer sheets of Civil Services Mains Examination be disclosed under RTI?
The appellant filed an application under the Right to Information (RTI) Act with the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) seeking information related to his answer sheets such as, no. of pages and answer sheets written by him in Zoology Paper I and II in the Civil Services Mains Examination, number of additional answer sheets used by him, page wise marks awarded in each page, question wise marks awarded for each question, number of answer sheets taken up for evaluation and the photocopies of his written answer scripts. The Public Information Officer (PIO) denied the information stating it is not being maintained in the format as desired by the RTI applicant. He further denied the copies of answer sheet citing the CIC Decision [CIC/WB/A/2006/00394] dated 23/4/2007 in which it was clearly decided that Constitutional bodies like UPSC whose main function is to conduct the examination need not disclose the evaluated answer sheets under RTI Act, 2005.
During the hearing before the Central Information Commission (CIC), the appellant submitted that disclosure of answer sheets with respect to the Examination bodies has been allowed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors. in Civil Appeal No. 6454 of 2011 dated 9 August 2011. The appellant further submitted that his own answer sheet should be allowed for disclosure under RTI Act, 2005 after duly severing the names and/or signatures of the examiner of the answer sheet. It was further said that he is only asking for the disclosure of the answer sheets and not for ‘revaluation’ of the answer sheets. The respondent submitted that UPSC Mains examination is a special examination conducted at a national level in multiple subjects and languages. It is conducted for the selection/ recruitment of candidates for the Government post. The said examination stands at a different footing compared to the Board Examinations conducted at class 10th and 12th level of the different schools of India by Central Board of Secondary Education or other similar Central/State Boards. Also, the methodology of the evaluation of the Answer sheets by the UPSC is confidential in nature, unlike CBSE and disclosure of answer sheets may also reveal the said methodology involved in the said evaluation. The Respondents further submitted that disclosure of the said answer sheet of the appellant would not serve any rational purpose as the ‘revaluation’ of the Answer sheets is not allowed as per the rules of the UPSC Examination. Another issue raised by the respondents that for certain languages/subjects only few examiners are available and disclosure of the answer sheets in those subjects may indirectly disclose the identity of those few examiners.
Observations of the CIC
The CIC referred to the order of the Delhi High Court in the case All India Institute Of Medical Sciences v. Vikrant Bhuria LPA No.487/2011 dated 28 May 2012; Supreme Court in Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr. v. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors; Delhi High Court in Oriental Insurance Company Limited v. Tanmayee Ranjan W.P.(C) 1917/2011 Dated 23 February 2012 and Hon’ble Supreme Court in Institute of Chartered Accountants of India v. Shaunak H Sayta & Ors. in Civil Appeal No. 7571 OF 2011 dated 2 September, 2011. The CIC observed that the criteria of evaluation would not be disclosed by the knowledge of the marks provided to the answer in each of the questions. The Commission also stated that the personal details of the examiners can be severed under section 10 of the Act and hence the evaluation criteria of the individual examiner would certainly not come under the public domain and thus disclosure of the answer sheets written by appellant would not reveal the methodology/ procedure for secret evaluation of answer sheets, prevailing at the UPSC. The Commission did not accept the contentions of the respondents that the disclosure will reveal the identity of examiners. The Commission observed that even the grading given in the Annual Confidential Reports (ACR) are now disclosed under the RTI Act and despite name and other personal details may be severed before disclosure, the applicant may be indirectly aware of the person(s) who have marked the ACR. The Commission further noted that the respondents are having restrictive interpretation of the term ‘examination bodies’ in the Judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court. The said judgment does not specifically show that the expression ‘examining bodies’ does not include the examination conducted for the selection/ recruitment of candidates for the Government post by UPSC. The judgment discusses the Examination conducted by the Board, but that is because the CBSE is the petitioner in the said case; however, the court has not purposefully excluded the Public Authorities conducting the examination for the employment purposes. In the absence of the conclusive definition of the term ‘examination bodies’, the same has to be given wider implication.
View of CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) directed the respondent to disclose the evaluated answer sheets written by appellant in Zoology Paper I and II in the Civil Services Mains Examination after duly severing the names and/or signatures of the Examiner or any other third party information.
Citation: Mr. A. Arun Thamburaj v. Union Public Service Commission, in File No.CIC/SM/A/2011/002046
RTI Citation : RTIFI/2012/CIC/611
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