Contempt plea filed against CBSE for not providing answer sheets as per SC order and RTI Act
One of the premier educational boards of India, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has been charging exorbitant fees for providing copies of answer sheets to students in the face of a landmark Supreme Court (SC) judgment in 2011. Despite another order from the apex court hammering CBSE to respect the judgment and RTI rules in 2016, once again it has shown the audacity to continue fleecing students seeking answer sheets.
 
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 has been filed against its Chairman, in the Supreme Court last week, appealing for  
 
  • initiating contempt proceedings against the CBSE chairman; 
  • setting aside the CBSE notice of 29  May prescribing the fees of Rs1,000 and Rs1,200 for obtaining copies of the evaluated answer sheets and 
  • directing CBSE to provide copies of the evaluated  answer-sheets to examinees, only as per the provisions of the Right to Information Act, 2005 and at the cost or fee prescribed under the Right to Information Rules, 2012. 
 
It may be recalled that, on 6 August 2016, the Supreme Court had directed the CBSE to ``scrupulously observe the directions of this court in civil appeal no 6454 of 2011 and the rules framed under the RTI Act 2005. The landmark 2011 judgment ordered that: ``Answer-sheet is an information and the examinees have the fundamental and legal right to access their evaluated answer-sheets under the Right to Information Act, 2005.(RTI Act).” (Read: SC asks CBSE to provide answer sheets strictly under RTI Act without charging exorbitant fees)
 
The contempt petition has been 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. This is the second time that WHIP has filed a contempt petition on this subject, the first time being in 2016. Kumar Sanu, one of the founder members of WHIP, says, “In 2016, it came to our knowledge that CBSE was charging an exorbitant fee of Rs1,200 for showing copies of answer-sheets and was blatantly denying access to evaluated answer-sheets, a right granted under the RTI Act. This was not only the violation of a fundamental right of lakhs of students every year but also a willful contempt of the Supreme Court of India. Hence we filed a contempt petition against the Chairman, CBSE.”
 
Consequently, a division bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi and PC Pant had 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. 
 
Disheartened to witness a public education board responsible for educating a large section of the society making a mockery of the rule of law, Sanu states, ``Now, we have again filed a contempt petition seeking initiation of contempt proceeding against the Chairman, CBSE.’’
 
(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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    Adani’s road project to be funded by Queensland government, reveals RTI reply
    Gautam Adani’s controversial mining and rail project in Queensland, Australia is once again hogging the headlines in that country’s newspapers since yesterday.
     
    This time the news peg is the government considering funding an estimated 100 million dollars for a road project, despite Adani having committed to build it through his own funds and the government having assured its citizens that no taxpayer funds would go into the project.
     
    Energy and Resource Insights (ERI), an Australian specialist consultancy and research firm,  which provides  analysis of Australia’s resource and energy sectors, sought information from Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads, under Australia’s Freedom of Information law. Details that the ERI sought, were all documents related to state government funding of the upgrade of the Elgin-Moray Road and the Moray-Carmichael Road, required for accessibility to Adani’s Carmichael Mine and Rail Project. The period of information sought was from 1 January 2017 to 15 November 2017.
     
    The information put on its website energyresourceinsights.com states that, ``in order for the mine to be constructed these roads need to be upgraded to a sealed, single lane carriageway. During the Carmichael mine project assessment process, Adani made a commitment to do this work. In his 2014 report, the Queensland Coordinator General provided the recommended conditions for the approval of the project under the Transport Infrastructure Act 1994,  in which he noted the Adani commitment to upgrade the road at his own expense. The cost of this road is between 60-100 million dollars.’’
     
    In its reply, the Department stated that it had over 2,200 pages of relevant documents including over 650 pages of drawings and specifications and over 1,400 pages of email correspondence. Since this would cost a whopping $2,000 or more as processing fee, the ERI refined the request to the quantum of the potential funding; the source of the potential funding; the method by which the potential funding would be provided and; any terms or conditions associated with the potential funding. Documents revealed that in April 2018 the Queensland government is still actively considering funding the $60-100million road upgrade.
     
    The website stopadani.com is of the Queensland Mackay Conservation Group NGO which is furious at this revelation. The NGO has been opposing Adan’s projects in Australia, tooth and nail, as it alleges that “Adani Group companies have an appalling record of environmental destruction and prosecutions overseas, including illegal dealings, bribery, environmental and social devastation and allegations of corruption, fraud and money laundering.’’  The members of this NGO called on Premier Palaszczuk  on 6th June, ``noting that dedicating public funds to the coal project would break her election promise.’’
     
    Mackay Conservation Group community organiser Maggie McKeown said, “Yet again the Queensland government is actively considering giving Adani handouts to build a mine that the majority of Queenslanders do not want. The Queensland Coordinator General recommended Adani be responsible for road upgrades and Adani said it would pay for the upgrade. Why then would the Premier spend public funds on this project?
     
    “Polls show that seven out of ten Queenslanders say Adani should fund its own project rather than expect a taxpayer subsidy. Queenslanders want public money spent on schools, hospitals and large-scale renewable energy projects. They quite rightly do not support their taxes being used to maximise the profits of an overseas mining billionaire. 
     
    “Adani has received special deals from all levels of government. The  Palaszczuk government has been the biggest offender, offering cut price royalties, a license to take unlimited groundwater for 60 years and a license to pollute at Abbot Point Coal Terminal during Cyclone Debbie. “Enough is enough. The Premier must today rule out this latest leg up, using taxpayers’ money,” Ms McKeown said.
     
    From the limited information contained in the released documents it’s possible to glean that:
     
    ·Significant discussions occurred relating to the road between the Coordinator General and his deputy and various staff from TMR on the issue.
     
    ·An email from the assistant Coordinator General, Kerry Smeltzer, notes that an action point resulting from a meeting between her and TMR and Isaac Regional Council is “Discuss funding arrangements with QTRIP” [Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program] (RTI pdf page 7)
     
    ·A separate email chain within TMR from February 2017, also heavily redacted, includes contributions from Cathy Currier the A/Director (Investment Funding) within Portfolio Investment & Programming in the department.
     
    ·Later emails from March 2017 involved correspondence with Co-ordinator General, Barry Broe, himself.
     
    ·Documents related to the CBRC were generated between March and July.
     
    · Emails in July begin discussing the “Galilee Basin Access Road – Information on Likely Cost and Realistic Delivery Schedule” and include attachments with filenames such as “Preconstruction Schedule – v5.pdf ”.
     
    · A draft email intended for the Director General of TMR, Neil Scales, dated 5th July 2017 from Deputy Director General Sally Noonan
     
    “I have had a number of discussions with the Premier’s and Treasurer’s offices over the last 48 hours with regard to options for the Queensland Government to facilitate development of the Galilee Basin. Primarily, the discussions are about road access to the Adani Mining Carmichael Coal Project.”
     
     “TMR has no funding or planning for upgrading the Moray – Carmichael Road or building road infrastructure to open up the Galilee Basin in its current Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program.”
     
    ·Cabinet deliberation related documents appear to have been generated between July and September 4.
     
    · An email of dot points, possibly for a briefing paper dated 4 September, includes the following:
     
    TMR has no funding or planning for upgrading the Moray-Carmichael Road or building road infrastructure to open up the Galilee Basin in its current Queensland Transport and Roads Investment Program. TMR also has no funding for ongoing maintenance for this road.
     
    ·An email dated Tuesday, 19 September 2017 had as its subject:
     
    Subject: FW: IRC Meeting with Director-General, Office of the Premier and Cabinet, Director-General DTMR & Coordinator-General Re: Designation of Access Road to the Proposed Carmichael Mine as a State Controlled Road The email notes that a meeting with Adani is due to occur on the 21st September 2017
     
    · A document titled “Adani Projects – Actions progress table” from 19 September 2017 includes as a topic “Investigating options for funding / upgrading Carmichael – Moray Rd”.
     
    · On the 21st September TMR staff were discussing “Adani road estimates – Further Update”.
     
    · It is noteworthy that emails from both the Co-ordinator General, Barry Broe, and the Assistant Coordinator-General, Kerry Smeltzer, were identified as within the scope of the Right To Information request to TMR. Yet a separate, identical, request made to their department by ERI was knocked back on the grounds that “there are no reasonable grounds to believe that the requested documents are in the possession or under the control of the department.”
     
     
    (This article is based on the information provided in Energy and Resource Insights (ERI)’s website energyresourceinsights.com  and www.stopadani.com).
     
    (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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    COMMENTS

    Magesh Kuppan

    1 year ago

    How is this related to India?

    Ramesh Poapt

    1 year ago

    excellent!

    #RTIBachao evokes success in Pune, Kalyan-Dombivli, Nashik and Yavatmal civic bodies
    In a significant move relating to Right to Information (RTI), municipal corporations from Pune, Kalyan-Dombivli, Nashik and municipal council from Yavatmal have agreed to upload information in public domain under Section 4 of the Act.
     
    Mira-Bhayander based RTI activist Krishna Gupta had lodged complaints on Maharashtra government’s Grievance Redressal portal (aaple sarkar) suggesting implementation of Section 4 of the RTI Act by municipal bodies. Municipal Corporations of Pune, Kalyan-Dombivli, Nashik and Yavatmal, considering this suggestion replied on a positive note.
     
    The response for the initial phase of #RTIBachao has been successful till date with various civic bodies across Maharashtra showing a positive sign for implementation of Section 4 of RTI. So far municipal corporations from Navi Mumbai, Thane and Mira Bhayandar have agreed to publish questions asked and replies furnished by the public information officer (PIO) under the RTI Act. 
     
    Sec. 4 of RTI mandates every Public Information Officer (PIO) on suo motu disclosure of information. However, it is been observed that the implementation of this particular section is rarely done by the PIOs. 
     
    Shailesh Gandhi, former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) says, “Insisting on compliance with Sec. 4 of the RTI act in line with the DoPT OM and the Maharashtra GR, we demand that all RTI applications and responses be displayed on the website as mandated. This will reduce the need for RTI applications and any charge of blackmail.” 
     
    The idea of the RTIBachao campaign mooted at Moneylife Foundation  was also to have the democracy function. This idea was executed by the RTI activists and volunteers making phone calls to the elected representatives of various municipal bodies and persuading them to implement Section 4 of the Act on basis of Department of Personnel and Training’s (DoPT) Office Memorandum (OM) and Maharashtra’s Government Resolution (GR).
     
    Activists and volunteers including Vijay Kumbhar, Sunil Ahya, Naveen Agarwal, Mahesh Bangera actively participated in the campaign to help #RTI Bachao campaign succeed. 
     
    Moneylife Foundation under leadership of former Central Information Commissioner (CIC) Shailesh Gandhi had started the #RTI Bachao movement on 7th February 2018 to protect, preserve and propagate the awareness and implementation of transparency law, Right to Information (RTI).
     
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