Respondent: The answer sheets are retained for 3 months but are provided only if applied for within 15 days from the date of declaration of the result - CIC: University cannot impose additional restrictions over & above those prescribed u/s 8 of the RTI A
2. The appellant filed the RTI application for attested copies of external examination question papers of B. Arch. 2nd Year from 2010 to 2016 with respect to the annual & supplementary examination for the subjects – “ Theory of Structure –II” along with other information in a total 25 points on various matters pertaining to Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University , New Delhi. The PIO informed the appellant to pay photocopy charges for furnishing the information which was deposited by the appellant on 5.8.2015. The appellant received incomplete and incorrect information vide letter dated 17.8.2015. The appellant filed appeal before the first appellate authority (FAA) but got no reply. Dissatisfied, the appellant filed a second appeal before this Commission under section 19(3) A second appeal against the decision under sub-section (1) shall lie within ninety days from the date on which the decision should have been made or was actually received, with the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission: Provided that the Central Information Commission or the State Information Commission, as the case may be, may admit the appeal after the expiry of the period of ninety days if it is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause from filing the appeal in time. of the RTI Act.
3. Both the parties made their submissions. The respondent officers submitted that according to rules of the University, the students are supposed to apply for copies of answer sheets, within 15 days from the date of declaration of the result. According to the University’s retention policy, answer sheets are retained for three months, from the date of declaration of result. But, if the student fails to apply within the prescribed period of 15 days, the answer sheets as per this rule, cannot be given to the student, though the same are held by the public authority upto three months.
4. The Dean of the University submitted before the Commission that the appellant was consistently complaining against every teacher and officer and filed complaints /petitions before other forums, (NHRC, DCW, Police, Disability Commission, PGC, etc), necessitating the Dean /PIO and the teachers to attend multiple forums to answer her complaints. She also submitted that almost everyday, they are attending to one or the other forum. She termed the complaints of the appellant as frivolous and harassing in nature. They also submitted that as per earlier directions of the CIC, the University facilitated the appellant’s transfer to a different institution of her choice.
5. The Commission, having heard the submissions, holds that the above retention policy of the University is not a correct practice. They cannot impose additional restrictions over and above those prescribed under Section 8 of the RTI Act and deny the answer sheets to the students. The Public Authority is expected to receive the RTI applications and provide information/answer sheets until the records are weeded out as per their policy. If they have retained the answer sheets, even after the prescribed retention period for any reason, they cannot deny if it is not destroyed as on the date of RTI application. If the same were already weeded out as per their retention policy, then there is a justification for denying the information to the appellant, as the same was not ‘held’ by them. But the Public Authority has to prove the date of destroying by a copy of the relevant register, wherein the providing weeding out of records were recorded/diarised.
6. The Public Authority is also required to hold the records, if an RTI application/grievance/complaint is pending before the authorities such as, CIC/PGC/NHRC/Courts, etc even though the prescribed retention period was exhausted and until the said proceedings before the above authorities, are disposed of finally. In this case, PGC had observed that answer sheets were weeded out even though the applicant’s RTI request and grievances were under consideration. The Dean of the University represented to the Commission that they have already taken necessary steps to prevent removal of records when the requests for such records/complaints are pending. The Dean assured that such things will not happen again.
7. The Commission, therefore, directs the public authority to maintain documents/answer sheets during the prescribed retention period and provide access to the citizens including students. During the period of retention, retain those records if RTI application is pending for final disposal, not to restrict the students to 15 days time limit, but extend the period up to the period of retention, i.e. 3 months. The Commission directs the PIO and the Controller of Examinations, considering him as deemed PIO to explain why they weeded out the records, during pendency of RTI application/grievance before the PGC. Their explanation should reach the Commission within 21 days from the date of receipt of this order.
8. The Commission also finds there is some merit in the allegations made by the Dean/PIO against the appellant. The Commission, therefore, advises/admonishes the appellant, who is student in Architecture, to focus on her studies, now that she had been given the college of her choice, she should stop filing frivolous and unnecessary RTI applications, change her attitude of complaining against every teacher, stop making baseless allegations/harassment etc against the Public Authority. She has to focus on her studies, to become qualified Architect and build her career. With these observations, the Commission disposes of the above appeal.
(M. Sridhar Acharyulu)
Citation: Swati Babber v. Guru Govind Singh Indraprastha University, GNCTD in Case No.CIC/SA/A/2015/001407