Copy of question booklet & answer sheet regarding recruitment was sought - CIC: provide a copy of the OMR sheet, answer key, question booklet & other sought; show cause why action should not be taken for contravening the timelines mentioned in the RTI Act
1. The appellant filed an RTI application on 17.02.2014 seeking information on 5 (five) points pertaining to recruitment advertisement published in Employment News Ref. No.03/ 2012 (NTPC)as to the number of candidates shortlisted, questions attempted by the appellant, questions answered correctly, copy of question booklet and answer sheet.
2. CPIO’s response is not on record. The appellant filed first appeal with the First Appellate Authority (FAA) on 04042014. The FAA’s response is not on record. The appellant filed second appeal with the Commission on 16052014.
3. The appellant participated in the hearing through video conferencing. The respondent was not present in the hearing. 4. The appellant stated that after he filed the first appeal before FAA, he was told to check the website for the information sought by him.
5. He was further told by the respondent that he has attempted 111 questions in total, out of which 96 were answered correctly and 15 questions were answered incorrectly. And, that he could not attain the cutoff mark.
6. The appellant further stated that he was told by the respondent to come to the respondent’s office for inspection of the documents on any working day, if he was not satisfied with the abovementioned reply.
7. The appellant also stated that when he went to the respondent’s office for inspection, he was ill treated and asked to come on any day in the following week. Accordingly, when he inspected the documents the following week, he found that he had attempted 112 questions, of which 99 questions had been correctly answered and hence the marks attained by him was more than the cutoff mark.
8. Subsequently, the appellant stated he sent a legal notice to the respondent reiterating the same.
9. The appellant stated that, in reply to the aforementioned legal notice, the respondent replied that though the appellant had attained the cutoff mark, he had failed in the aptitude –test.
10.The respondent apparently may have given misleading and incomplete information to the appellant.
11.As a matter of routine , the Commission is receiving appeals regarding information pertaining to OMR sheets and answer keys of examinations. It is also observed that the candidates appearing in such examinations face immense inconvenience in retrieving information regarding their own performance in such examinations.
12. As laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr. Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors.:
“In view of the foregoing, the order of the High Court directing the examining bodies to permit examinees to have inspection of their answer books is affirmed, subject to the clarifications regarding the scope of the RTI Act and the safeguards and conditions subject to which 'information' should be furnished. The appeals are disposed of accordingly. “
The Commission is in the practice of following the dicta of the Apex Court as laid down in the abovementioned case. Quoting the Commission’s decision in the case of Varun Sudan V. PIO, Bar Council of India (CIC/SA/C/2015/000102):
“Moreover, it is seen that this Commission has been consistently following the ratio of the above Apex Court decision while deciding subsequent matters (viz.
(i) case no. CIC/SS/A/2011/000867 titled Shri A. Prakash vs. Department of Revenue & Disaster Management, Puducherry dated 07/09/2011;
(ii) case no. CIC/DS/A/2011/904400/RM Shri Sreejith K.K, Andhra Pradesh vs. UGC, National Educational Testing Bureau, New Delhi dated 18/02/2013;
(iii) decision dated 13/09/2013 in Mr. Jawahar Singh vs. CPIO & Asstt. Director General (DE), Department of Posts, New Delhi case no. CIC/BS/A/2012/001136 &
(iv) decision dated 01/11/2013 in Ms. Geeta Rani Panda, Sambalpur vs. Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti, Noida being case no. CIC/RM/A/2013/000643) and has been allowing the disclosure of OMR/answer sheet(s) to the candidates themselves who have sought such information from the examining bodies/public authority.”
It is upheld that candidates have a right to seek a copy of the OMR sheet. It will not only contribute to transparency but also facilitate the candidates in assessing their performance. As laid down by the Kerala High Court in the case of Kerala Public Service Commission V. State Information Commission
“Proceeding to the next contention of the PSC that it holds a larger fiduciary public interest relationship to the society at large in relation to the maintenance of purity, transparency and the credibility of the procedure of selection to public service and therefore materials in relation to such selection procedures should not be subjected to access as if they were information that would fall within the trappings of the RTI Act, it needs to be stated emphatically that purity and transparency of every public establishment is ensured to the satisfaction of the citizenry only by providing access to materials as would instill confidence. The RTI Act is a unique legislation. A laudable object it proceeds to achieve is empowerment of the citizenry with information in relation to matters of governance and also as regards all matters which may be relevant as information in terms of the RTI Act.”
Candidates have a right to seek a copy of the OMR sheet/ answer scripts, however, information of
Examiner is not subject to disclosure as the examiner is in a fiduciary relationship with the public
authority (the body conducting the examination).
13. The information sought in the application should have been provided to the appellant.
14. The first appellate authority did not perform their duties as prescribed in the RTI Act.
15. The appellants who are told to come for inspection should be dealt with courteously. They should not be harassed in the course of inspection of documents pertaining to their own performance.
16. The respondent is directed to:
(a) provide a copy of the OMR sheet, answer key, question booklet and other sought for information to the appellant,
(b) show cause why action should not be taken against the respondent for contravening the timelines mentioned in the RTI Act and for not attending the hearing before the Commission.
(c) comply with the above within 30 days of this order.
17. The Railway may be advised to,
(i) Put on their website basic details about every examination after the results are declared e.g. copy of question paper, key answersheet, cut off marks etc.
(ii) Change their record retention policy so that a marksheet which is under consideration in an appeal under RTI Act is not destroyed.
18. The Commission has noticed that in several RTI cases the petitioner/ appellant is asked to come for inspection of records. In all such cases, the petitioner may be invited on a prefixed date/time.
An officer should invariably be appointed to facilitate inspection. The phone number of such an officer may be shared with the petitioner/appellant in advance. The Railways may consider this suggestion. Public Authority may be informed accordingly. The appeal is dismissed. A copy of the order be given to the parties free of cost.
(Radha Krishna Mathur)
Chief Information Commissioner
Citation: Subhash Sharma v. RRB in Appeal No.CIC/VS/A/2014/001672