PIO: 1818 candidates paid Rs 1000/- each towards challenging questions with wrong answers given in the official answer key of JEE out of which fee was returned to 611 candidates whose objections were found genuine - CIC issued an advisory to the PIO
The appellant has sought the following information:
1. Number of candidates who challenged certain questions/answer keys in the JEE Main Examination held year in 2014
2. Total amount collected as fee/charges from candidates for such answer key challenge/s from the candidates.
3. Interest earned (till date) on the amount so collected but not refunded even after one month of closing date for fee collection/charges for challenging wrong questions/answer keys.
4. Number of candidates whose amount has been refunded till date and amount of interest paid on refund amount paid after one month of closing date for collecting charges for challenging answer key/s.
5. And other related information.
Grounds for Second Appeal
The CPIO has not provided the desired information.
Submissions made by Appellant and Respondent during Hearing:
The appellant submitted that as many as 11 emails were sent to JEE Mains examination conducting body i.e CBSE from 29.08.2014 onwards for refund of amount of Rs 1000/- which was deposited towards challenging questions with wrong options/answers given in the official answer key. The appellant submitted a tabular format enclosing the objection to the reply of the CPIO point wise:-
1 What was the fee collected per question which was/were inherently wrong and challenged. How many of the 3600 candidates were eligible for refund (when the charges were waived for every candidate in the end)
2 Please quote the serial number/rule/instruction number of the Brochure where it is mentioned that fee will be charged and at what rate? If not so, on what basis the fee was charged and rate decided, it was therefore arbitrary decision of the CBSE to harass the already under pressure students.
3 Whenever any amount is received it is deposited in some type of Account. What type of account was maintained for depositing the fees. Whether this type of Account allowed interest on deposit, if so what was the amount of interest earned on the unfair fee charges from the students challenging the questions. You had framed rules for safeguarding your interest only & the brochure was one sided only ignoring the interest of other party & the brochure needs to be set aside.
4 It is stated in the reply to question no. 4 that 611 candidates were refunded the amount without interest, what about the remaining 2989 candidates who were charged fees, as it also caused financial loss without no fault of the candidates. Interest is payable as per general rules of amount deposited anywhere in the bank, more so as the fee was unfairly collected/called for, due to the fault of CBSE and the paper setters, interest must be paid for the amount charged. In fact if any fees was to be charged it should have been charged & recovered from the paper setters for providing wrong answer key.
5 The information has been knowingly given incorrect, incomplete and misleading and to distract the mind from the core issues. The information provided in the question nos. 4 & 5 are absolutely in complete contrast. As per question no. 4, 611 candidates were refunded the charges however as per reply to question no. 05 refund to candidates have been made to all eligible candidates and no case is pending whereas there is no mention of remaining 2989 cases which also includes my son’s case which is still pending. Here I would like to state that as stated above I have been making frequent complaints for refund since 29.08.2014 and 11 emails were sent to the department including the Chairman yet the department has the temerity to say that no case is pending. What about my son’s case if all the refunds have been made and they have not received any cheque back, I would like to know whether the same was reconciled with the amount collected. How many cheques have gone stale? Moreover this question also related to number of complaints and queries made for refund of such charges by any means in writing or otherwise but the reply is given related to refund and the information sought about the number of complaints and queries are knowingly malafidely completely and absolutely ignored which speaks volumes about the department how it deals with the complaints & hence deserves disciplinary action and penalty. Whether the data was reconciled with the amount collected so as to make sure that everybody got his/her refund. No mention has been made of it and no information has been supplied.
6 The reply to question no. 6 says that there was no provision in the information bulletin of JEE Main 2014 to pay the interest. Here the information is misleading and the issue is side tracked. My question related to rules and regulations/instructions alongwith the copies of rules/regulations/instructions with date of issue which prohibit payment of interest after a reasonable time. Since the PIO is depending upon information bulletin for non payment of interest, I would like to know from his through your good self that let him quote the rules and regulations mentioned in the brochure under which the payment of interest is prohibited but fee was to be charged. If there is/was no such provision in the brochure then they cannot deny payment of interest as the rules were framed arbitrarily if there is no written information in the brochure regarding this then this is again misleading information and the information is denied brochure was /is prepared arbitrarily without any application of mind, rules and therefore whatever is contained in the brochure is unauthorised and arbitrary. The information was not specifically asked about Information Bulletin of JEE (Main)- 2014, therefore knowingly giving incorrect, incomplete and misleading information (and/or destroyed information which was the subject of the request) and thus obstructed in furnishing the information.
7 Revision of answer key was not a favour done to the students. The board was forced by the brilliance of the candidates/students who could pin point the mistakes and the board had to revise the answer key. The information is untrue as in the case of my son refund of charges have not been made which I have paid through ICICI Bank, a copy of which has been sent to the Honorable CIC through link papers. Hence it is deliberate obstruction and hiding of information.
8 As per the various media reports these mistakes continue to happen year after year leading to tremendous stress which can lead to many suicides possibly due to failure to clear the exam by missing it by a whisker say 1 or 2 marks due to wrong answer keys where even a single question makes the career of the students and hence action must be initiated internally against the erring paper setters. Nothing prevents the department from taking action against such erring paper setters. Is there a contract between the CBSE/Examination body and the paper setters. I therefore humbly request that in view of my submissions to question numbers 7 & 8, this may very kindly be converted into an PIL.
9 It is not a question but information sought about time frame for refund of unfair fee charged and hence the information is denied.
10 Reply to question no. 10 makes it clear that the email was working even then no action was taken to refund the amount.
11 This is again information and not a question. Rules cannot be framed to favour one party (self-CBSE) at the cost of the other. I have asked for the problem in refunding the amount electronically in the digital world.
12 This is absolutely leading malafidely false and knowingly hiding and holding back the information in order to deny it and save the culprits from penalty and disciplinary action under the relevant service rules. This is the height of giving malafidely false and knowingly hiding and holding back the information in a bid to save the culprits. No official, at least under the government can do any job unless it is assigned to him/her and he/she is authorised to do it through a proper office order issued by the competent authority. What accounting procedure followed by the department is not clear. Thus, this is throwing all the accounting systems, procedures, rules, regulations, instructions and common sense to the wind and hence there is scant respect for the CIC and other authorities where this case is being heard/will be heard and above all the RTI Act itself is being taken for a ride.
The CPIO submitted that there was a time limit fixed for receiving objections on the answer key and they had received total 1818 candidates’ objection and hence the amount received was Rs 1,81,800. On a query by the Commission he further clarified that the objection received in total including those received after the due date was from 3600 candidates. He further submitted that as per rule, 611 candidates whose objections were found genuine were returned the fees paid by them. He also requested for details of the transaction vide which fee was paid by the appellant’s son, so that they could examine the matter as per rule.
Based on a perusal of the records, and after thorough study of the objections of the appellant to the reply of the CPIO in all the 12 points, the Commission could assess that the appellant on the pretext of asking for information on 12 points has raised the grievance of non refund of the fees deposited by his son in respect of the objection to answer key.
A copy of the transaction slip was found on the case record, where the transaction date was 29.04.2014 and the Reference no. 1000946727. The same slip also read as follows:
“The fee regarding challenge of answer key can be deposited in the concern bank only upto 5 pm or working hours of the bank (whichever is earlier) on 29.04.2014.”
From the above, it reflects that the appellant’s son, Shri Aakash Kehar Singh had deposited the fee of Rs 1000 on 29.04.2014. The status of refund is NIL. As per the appellant the answer key objection of his son was valid and he was entitled for the refund which was yet to be received by him. In so far as the RTI Act is concerned, the CPIO had justified the reply given by him point wise. Moreover, it can be also be seen from the point wise objection of the appellant that he has raised a grievance and his objection to the reply is in the nature of a grievance, which cannot be accepted under the RTI Act.
In view of the submissions of the CPIO, the Commission finds no scope for any intervention in the matter. The Commission accordingly upholds the submissions of the CPIO. No further action lies.
An advisory is issued to the CPIO to examine the transaction status of the fee paid by the applicant’s son vis a vis the objection filed by him in respect of the answer key. Further, if he is entitled for refund, the same should be granted immediately in the interest of justice.
A copy of the order is endorsed to the Secretary CBSE for necessary action.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.
Vanaja N. Sarna
Citation: Kehar Singh v. Central Board of Secondary Education in Decision no.: CIC/CBSED/A/2018/634329/03197, Date of Decision : 19/03/2020