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The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has once again been approached against for contempt of the Supreme Court’s orders. This, after a notification on its website prescribes an exorbitant fee of Rs. 1200 for accessing photocopies of evaluated answer sheets.
The contempt petition has been filed by Whistle for Public Interest (WHIP), an organisation of young lawyers that promotes transparency and accountability in the affairs of public authorities in India.
This is the second contempt petition in as many years that WHIP has filed against CBSE, on the very same issue. While hearing that petition, the Supreme Court Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and PC Pant had, in an order passed in August 2016, directed CBSE to “scrupulously observe” the directions made by the court in its 2011 judgment in CBSE v. Aditya Bandhopadhyay.
In Aditya Bandhopadhyay, the Court had held that an answer-sheet would fall under the ambit of ‘information’ under Section 2(f) of the Right to Information Act, 2015. In effect, the fees payable to obtain answer sheets is determined by the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005. According to Rule 4, apart from the 10-rupee application fee, the applicant would have to pay Rs. 2 for each page of information sought.
However, it seems that the CBSE has paid no heed to the Supreme Court’s rulings on the subject. A notification dated May 31 prescribes a fee of Rs. 1000 for obtaining photocopies of answers sheets of Class X students, whereas Class XII students have to shell out Rs. 1200. As per the petition, the CBSE had released a similar notification last year as well.
Further, it is claimed that the information of evaluated answer-sheets is retained by CBSE only for a limited time period of thirty to forty-five days, after which such information is destroyed. Thus, it has been prayed in the interim that the Court pass an order calling for the preservation of the answer sheets, pending the disposal of the petition.
The petition, filed by WHIP co-founders Kumar Shanu and Paras Jain, states,
“…the Alleged Contemnor even being the state-run education board and having the responsibility of educating a large section of the society, is blatantly violating law of the land laid down by this Hon’ble Court. This wilful disobedience is not only resulting into infringement of the fundamental and legal rights of students every year but also the Contempt of this Hon’ble Court.”
Therefore, it has been prayed that contempt proceedings be initiated against CBSE, that the notification dated May 31 be struck down, and that an order be passed directing the board to provide photocopies of answer sheets as per the RTI Rules.
The matter is likely to be mentioned before the vacation bench of the Supreme Court tomorrow.
Read the petition: