Delhi HC: Fee of Rs 500/- charged by ICSI for providing answer-sheet not sustainable
As the Right to Information (RTI) Act is inching towards nine years of existence, petty issues involving prestigious institutes keep propping in. In one such case, the High Court of Delhi had to step in to keep a check on the fee charged by The Institute of Company Secretaries of India for filing of applications under the RTI Act.
The Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI) had fixed Rs 500 as the fee for obtaining a copy of the answer book under the transparency law. A student, Paras Jain, had applied for the inspection of his answer sheets under the RTI Act which was permitted on August 12, 2013, but the ICSI declined to provide the copies at the rate of Rs 2 per page as prescribed under RTI Rules, 2012.
The guidelines issued by the examination committee of ICSI fixed the charges for the answer sheets as under - Fee of Rs 500 per subject/answer books payable for supply of certified copies of answer books and Rs 450 per answer book for providing inspection thereof respectively to be paid through demand draft drawn in favour of The Institute of Company Secretaries of India, payable at New Delhi.
The petitioner filed a pettion in the High Court claiming the guidelines are meant to discourage students to inspect their answer sheets under the RTI Act, 2005. A division bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Pradeep Nandrajog held that the demand of the institute asking for a fee of Rs 500 per subject/answer book copy is “not sustainable”. The bench referred to the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005 under which Rs 2 shall be charged for each page (A4 or A3 size paper) copied and no fee will be charged in the first hour of inspection. The bench ruled “We dispose of appeal quashing guideline number 3 notified by the respondent (institute) and declare that for the answer sheets copy is sought by the appellant (Jain) he shall be charged fee as per Rule 4 of the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005...... It is trite that an executive instruction if in violation of a statutory rule or a regulation must yield to the statutory rule or regulation”.
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) too charges a similar fee from the students in respect of the answer-sheets.