Mizoram School Board demands Rs500 for answer sheet; CIC orders to give it for Re1
The Board of School Education Aizawl denied information under RTI for a student’s answer sheet and insisted on Rs500 as fees. But CIC of the Mizoram Information Commission set it aside helping the cause of millions of students
The issue of providing answer sheets to students under RTI Act, has been made loud and clear by a Supreme Court order and various High Court (some ongoing) and Central Information Commission (CIC) orders. Despite that, denial or demanding of exorbitant fees, by Public Information Officers (PIOs) and Appellate Authorities of various school boards and universities, compels applicants to file second appeals. It also results in harassment of students who are poised at the crucial crossroad of their academic life.
Here is one such recent case of the North-East, which needs to be hailed. The CIC decision of 8th February, 2016, overruled the school board’s insistence on providing answer sheets at Rs500 per subject and ordered it to provide it at Re1 per page, as per an amendment made by Mizoram’s state government under the RTI Act.
Miss R Lalhriatpuii, daughter of Malsawmkimi (RTI applicant) appeared for the High School Leaving Certificate (HSLC) Examination, 20l4-20l5, which was conducted by the Mizoram Board of School Education (MBSE). When Lalhriatpuii got her mark sheet, she was disappointed with her marks. She believed she fared very well in most of her subjects.
Her mother submitted an RTI Application dated 14th May, 2015 to the State Public Information Officer (SPIO), MBSE, Mizoram Aizawl. She requested copies of answer sheets of all the subjects - Mizo, English, Social Science, Science, Mathematics and, Information Technology.
The School Board insisted that it is ready to provide the required information only as per its MBSE bye-laws, by payment of the requisite fee of Rs500 per subject’s answer sheet. Thus, the PIO and the AA of the Mizoram School Board of Education denied her copies of answer sheets under RTI. However, the student’s mother insisted that she had sought this information under RTI Act at the rate of Rs2 per page as prescribed for documents under the RTI Act and RTI Rules (She was not aware of the amendment in which she would have to pay Re1 per page). The student’s mother was thus forced to file second appeal with the CIC, challenging the exorbitant fees charged by the school board and for not furnishing information under RTI rules. She appealed to the CIC to direct MBSE to provide her copies of the answer sheets as per the rates prescribed under the Mizoram RlI Rules, Rs2/- per page (A-4 size); to impose penalty against the erring officials of the MBSE as provided under the RTI Act, 2005.
The CIC hearing was conducted by CIC Mr Lal Dineliana and the Information Commissioner (IC) Mr L Hranenawna. The School Board representative argued that: “MBSE was willing to furnish the evaluated answer-scripts, however, if the answer-scripts are disclosed liberally as desired by the appellant under the RTI Act, then it would adversely affect the functioning of MBSE. He further, mentioned that the disclosure should be under the bye-laws of MBSE, which was also in line with the practices of several other Boards of different States, therefore, in the larger public interest, it deserves to be exempted from disclosure under the RTI Act.”
During the second appeal hearing, the student’s mother stated that she had asked for copies of answer sheets of all subjects in which her daughter had appeared in the HSLC Examination 20l4-2015, under RTI Act and she had nothing more to say in this matter, over and above her written complaint to CIC. The CIC informed her that the revised rates for procuring copies of answer sheets is Re1 per page.
The Mizoram Information Commission, while considering the second appeal of Mrs Malsawmkimi Vs Mizoram Board of School Education (MBSE) carefully examined several RTI and writ petition cases concerning furnishing of certified copies of answer-sheets to students which were dealt, on-going and stayed in the Central Information Commission; in High Courts of different States and in the apex Supreme Court of India
The CIC order states, “this Commission agrees with the most recent decision of the Central Information Commission, dated 15th January 2016 that answer sheets of students can be furnished under the provisions of RTI Act 2005 and RTI rules and examining bodies can only charge the rate fixed as per RTI Rules.
“Accordingly MBSE is directed to furnish the answer-sheets of Miss R Lalhriatpuii to her mother, Mrs Malsawmkimi (the appellant) within 15 days of the receipt of this order under intimation to Mizoram Information Commission (MIC) at the rate of Rupee One (1) for each page (in A-4 or A-3 size paper) created or copied, as per Rule 4(a) of The Mizoram RTI Rules.”