CBSE Students, Do Not Hesitate To Ask for Your Answer Sheets under RTI
The Standard X and XII results for Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) are just out and, once again, there is heartburn even amongst the students who have scored over 90%. Some of them told me that they were sure of getting better marks in a particular subject and so were contemplating revaluation. When I suggested that they or their parents could put in a right to information (RTI) application to procure copies of their answer sheets, they found it useful but are hesitating to take the RTI route.
 
For them and many more, who are wary of using RTI for reasons such as ‘the Principal may get offended’, ‘the school authorities may target them in their junior college years’ (some students have got admission in the same school’s junior college), it is time to understand that every student not only has the right to get his or her answer sheet from CBSE under RTI, but can also get the model answer sheet of the subject. 
 
In 2018, the Supreme Court, had slammed CBSE for violating its 2015 order in which the Board was ordered to provide answer sheets as per RTI rules, that is, at Rs2 per answer sheet. CBSE finally has declared that it would supply answer sheets under the RTI Act. Therefore, every student who has any doubt about his or her marks must use RTI to know the truth. (Read: SC asks CBSE to provide answer sheets strictly under RTI Act without charging exorbitant fees)
 
As noted RTI activist Vivek Velankar, who has relentlessly fought for students’ rights of procuring answer sheets in the University of Pune, states, “Most of the students go in for revaluation but it is of no use unless and until you get to see the copy of your answer sheet. Moreover, the student should also ask for the model answer sheet of that subject. Once he gets both the documents, he and his parents can assess whether they should go for revaluation or not. Opting for revaluation blindly is a useless exercise.’’ 
 
He also adds that, “Sometimes the student is confident that he has given the right answers but often when the copy of the answer sheet and model answer sheet is seen, it might be a different story.”
 
Mr Velankar also urges the CBSE Board “not to take 30 days for a student who is applying for his answer sheet under RTI as the information is readily available and it is a crucial period for both parents and students to know their marks as early as possible. Also, with the Supreme Court having ordered the CBSE to make answer sheets and model answer sheets, transparent, students and their parents need not fear the school authorities for, they know that they are bound by RTI.”
 
In addition, parents and students should know that in a June 2018 order from the Central Information Commission (CIC), a student can also do inspection of files under Section 4 of the RTI Act, to procure his or her answer sheet and model answer sheet.
 
RTI resource persons, Pradeep Bhatt and Vinot Ranganathan, who run a website www.onlinerti.com, state “There are no set of rules or standards that apply in examination evaluation by universities or education boards.
 
There are no norms or any legal rights for the students over fraudulent practices or biased marking. This has created nightmares for millions of bright students and destroyed the future of promising students across India.
 
Maintaining and giving answer copies may be extra workload for the educational institution, but it is not a reasonable excuse to deny this information under RTI.
 
Evaluated answer copies have to be open to the public to ensure transparency in our education system. Any student who has got unexpectedly low marks or has failed is an aggrieved citizen. This student can demand to inspect his results so that the evaluators cannot use unjustified means to act against any student.”
 
The student, in his or her RTI application, should ask for 1) the copy of his answer sheet of the relevant subject and 2) the model answer sheet of that subject.
 
Just to recall the earlier events, the CBSE published a notification on 29 May 2018 on its website prescribing an exorbitant fee of Rs1,200 per subject for obtaining copies of the evaluated answer-sheets. 
 
In response to this notification, a contempt petition was been filed against the CBSE chairman, in the Supreme Court appealing for initiating contempt proceedings against the CBSE chairman; setting aside the CBSE notice of 29th May prescribing the fees of Rs1,000 and Rs1,200 for obtaining copies of the evaluated answer sheets and directing the Board to provide copies of the evaluated  answer-sheets to examinees, only as per the provisions of the RTI Act and at the cost or fee prescribed under the Right to Information Rules, 2012. 
 
The contempt petition was filed by Whistle of Public Interest (WHIP), for the willful and deliberate attempt of CBSE to surpass and overrule the authority of the apex court of the country. 
 
Consequently, a division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and PC Pant directed the chairman CBSE to scrupulously observe the directions of the Supreme Court issued in CBSE & Anr. Versus Aditya Bandhopadhyay & Ors., Civil Appeal No. 6454/2011 and provide copies of the evaluated answer-sheets as per the rules made under the RTI Act. 
 
CBSE since then has been providing answer-sheets under RTI.
 
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(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
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    SC Gives ‘Last Opportunity’ to RBI for Rethinking Its Stance on Disclosures Under RTI
    While giving 'one last opportunity', the Supreme Court on Friday asked Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to reconsider its position on disclosure of annual inspection reports of banks, list of wilful defaulters and other details sought by activists under Right to Information (RTI) Act. The apex court just stopped short of issuing a contempt notice against RBI governor, Shaktikanta Das, in this matter.
     
    "Though we could have taken a serious view of RBI continuing to violate the directions issued by this Court, we give them a last opportunity to withdraw the disclosure policy insofar as it contains exemptions, which are contrary to the directions issued by this Court. The RBI are dutybound to furnish all information relating to inspection reports and other material apart from the material that was exempted in para 77 of the judgment. Any further violation shall be viewed seriously by this Court," the bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice MR Shah said in the order.
     
    The apex court also directed the central bank to withdraw its non-disclosure policy, which the Court concluded is in violation of the Supreme Court's judgement in 2015. The RBI, as per 2015 judgement, was supposed to disclose the annual audit report of the banks, status of NPAs (non-performing assets) and action taken thereon.

    Taking a serious view of the continued defiance by RBI, the court came down heavily asking the central bank to make full disclosure of its annual inspection reports on the financial health of banks including position of NPAs and also withdraw its disclosure norms as they came in the way of making information public on the state of banks under the RTI.

    A bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice MR Shah said: "Any further violation will be viewed seriously."
     
    Only last month, the Supreme Court has threatened RBI with contempt proceeding for not disclosing banks' annual inspection reports under the RTI. (Read: Supreme Court Warns RBI of Contempt Proceedings for Not Disclosing Banks' Annual Inspection Reports under RTI)
     
    Earlier, both, the apex court as well as central information commission (CIC), had held that RBI cannot refuse to put in the public domain the annual inspection reports of banks. However, RBI has refused to follow these orders saying that these reports contain 'fiduciary information' as defined under the RTI Act and, hence, cannot be placed in the public domain.
     
    RTI activists Subhash Chander Agrawal and Girish Mittal had moved the top court seeking contempt action against RBI governor for not complying with its 2015 judgement.
     
    The petitioners had claimed that RBI and its former governor Dr Urjit Patel had 'willfully and deliberately' disobeyed the apex court's judgement asking the central bank to disclose information under the RTI Act.

    The two petitioners sought initiation of contempt of court action against former Governor for not disclosing information as directed by the top court.

    One of the contempt petitions filed by Girish Mittal said that RBI refused to provide information sought about the inspection reports of some banks.
     
    In the petition, Mumbai-based Mr Mittal, represented by senior counsel Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva, contended that he had sought information under the RTI Act in December 2015 like copies of inspection reports of ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC Bank and State Bank of India (SBI) from April 2011 and copies of case files, with file notings on various irregularities detected by RBI in the case of Sahara group of companies and erstwhile Bank of Rajasthan.
     
    However, RBI denied the information in January 2016 that such information is exempted under Section 8(1)(e) of the RTI Act and Section 45NB of the Reserve Bank of India Act.
     
    The petition recalled the Supreme Court ruling in a case that RBI is clearly not in any fiduciary relationship with any bank. RBI has no legal duty to maximise the benefit of any public sector or private sector bank and, thus, there is no relationship of 'trust' between them. (Read: SC issues contempt notice to RBI in RTI case)
     
    Last year in November, the CIC too had issued a show-cause notice to Dr Urjit Patel, the then governor of RBI, for not honouring a judgement of the Supreme Court on disclosure of wilful defaulters’ list who had not paid loans of Rs50 crore and more. (Read: RBI Governor Gets Show Cause Notice from CIC for Not Disclosing Defaulters’ List)
     
    In the notice, the then central information commissioner Prof Sridhar Acharyulu had also asked the prime minister’s office (PMO), finance ministry and RBI to make public the letter sent by previous governor Raghuram Rajan on bad loans.
     
    In the order, Prof Acharyulu had stated, "The Commission finds no merit in hiding the names of, details and action against wilful defaulters of big bad loans worth hundreds of crores of rupees. The RBI shall disclose the bad debt details of defaulters worth more than Rs1,000 crore at the beginning, of Rs500 crore or less at later stage within five days and collect such information from the banks in due course to update their voluntary disclosures from time to time as a practice under Section 4(1)(b) of RTI Act."
     
    Prof Acharyulu, irked over the denial of information on wilful defaulters who had unpaid loans of Rs50 crore and more, asked the RBI governor to explain why maximum penalty should not be imposed on him for ‘dishonouring’ a verdict from the apex court, which had upheld a decision taken by then information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi, calling for disclosure of names of wilful defaulters.
     
    Earlier in February 2016, the Supreme Court had directed RBI to furnish a list of the companies which are in default of loans in excess of Rs500 crore or whose loans have been restructured under corporate debt restructuring (CDR) scheme by banks and financial institutions. (Read: Supreme Court asks RBI to submit list of big defaulters)
     
    Even in December 2015, the apex court, in a landmark judgement, had told RBI that the banking regulator cannot withhold information citing 'fiduciary relations' under the RTI Act. 
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    COMMENTS

    SuchindranathAiyerS

    7 months ago

    If the disclosure causes a run on some banks, will the RBI bail them out? Will the RBI have the resources to do after these have bee transferred to Government?

    Latest Move on RTI Could Reduce Autonomy of Information Commissioners: Reports
    The Indian government’s latest move, a secret proposal that is being considered seeks to undermine the autonomy of information commissioners and the Central Information Commission (CIC), say reports.
     
    According to a report from Huffington Post, the union government, has proposed setting up a committee, which could effectively reduce the autonomy granted to the information commissioners under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. 
     
    As per a proposal, the government plans to set up committees led by bureaucrats, which would sit and decide on complaints against the chief information commissioner (CIC) and the information commissioners (ICs), says other report from the Indian Express.
     
    The government plans to setup two committees of which one would receive and decide on complaints against the CIC and a second one to receive and decide on complaints against ICs. 
     
    This new committee is expected to include the cabinet secretary, secretary of the Department of Personnel Training (DoPT) and a retired chief information commissioner, while the committee for the ICs is expected to include secretary (coordination) in the Cabinet Secretariat, Secretary DoPT and a retired Information Commissioner. 
     
    RTI activist and former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi observed, “I believe all positions in government must look at complaint mechanism and monitor them, but the complaint mechanism must be very well thought through.” 
     
    According to Huffington Post, apart from being extremely regressive, the move would be illegal as the RTI Act envisages the ICs as independent institutions and provides several safeguards to insulate them from government control and interference. 
     
    Section 14(1) of the law states that commissioners can be removed only by the President “on the ground of proved misbehaviour or incapacity after the Supreme Court, on a reference made to it by the President, has, on inquiry, reported that the Chief Information Commissioner or any Information Commissioner, as the case may be, ought on such ground be removed”.
     
    “The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government’s onslaught on the transparency law has not been limited to attempts to compromise the autonomy of information commissions. The government impaired the functioning of the CIC by not making appointments to fill vacancies. Ever since the BJP came to power in 2014, not a single appointment to the CIC has been made unless citizens approach courts and get necessary directions. In 2018, out of a total sanctioned strength of 11 commissioners, the CIC was functioning with just three commissioners. It was finally only on the orders of the Supreme Court that the Chief and four commissioners were selected by the PM-led selection committee,” the report concludes.  
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    COMMENTS

    GLN Prasad

    8 months ago

    Autonomy does not mean authoritarian. There should be controls and redressal of grievances in every authority. As a common man, I do not perceive any problem to the public in such measures by Govt., and I welcome such move as I expect that ICs will be more cautious in delivering such decisions. Now there is no such review of IC decisions and a common man should go for a writ before HC if he wants a remedy, and some ICs are aware of this weakness and in selected cases, depending on appellants capacity they take their own decisions. After all, ICs are also human beings and not above pressures/influences.

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