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The Supreme Court today disposed of a contempt petition filed against the Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) in the case relating to procurement of answer sheets under the Right To Information Act.
A Bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and KM Joseph took note of the counter affidavit filed by CBSE, which stated that it would provide answer sheets at Rs. 2 per page as per the order of Supreme Court.
The contempt petition was 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.
The matter relates to the exorbitant fees levied by CBSE on students seeking access to answer sheets, a fact that was found when one of the members of WHIP filed an RTI seeking information on the procedure by which the CBSE issued evaluated answer sheets to candidates. It was contended that CBSE was charging as much Rs. 1000 for Class X students and Rs. 1200 for Class XII students who sought copies of their answer sheets and revaluation of the same.
This is the second contempt petition in as many years that WHIP had filed against CBSE, on the very same issue. While hearing the first 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, despite the Court’s orders, CBSE released a notification dated May 31 this year prescribing a fee of Rs. 500 for obtaining photocopies of answers sheets of Class X students. The fee for Class XII students was set at Rs. 700. As regards revaluation of the answer sheets, the fee was set at Rs. 100 per question.
The CBSE Chairperson had stated in the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court that it is only when the process of providing photocopy of answer books gets linked with the process of redressal of grievances of students who seek revaluation of their answer sheets, that the candidate would be required to pay an amount of Rs. 700.
“…it is only where the process of providing photocopy of answer books, gets linked with the process of redressal of the grievances of the students – who seek revaluation of their answer books that the student candidate would be required to pay an amount of Rs 700 for class XII, and not Rs. 1200 as contended…”
It was further stated that these amounts for revaluation were charged, owing to the “huge infrastructure and manpower” required for the process.
The Board insisted that it strictly followed the RTI Act when it came to providing photocopies of answer sheets to students.
The Court accepted the same and disposed of the contempt petition. Thus, students can now obtain copies of their answer at Rs. 2 per page.
Read the order below.
Read CBSE Affidavit