Student right to scan script
- Order binding on all exam agencies
Students have the right to take a look at their answer scripts if they are dissatisfied with their marks in major examinations.
A division bench of Calcutta High Court on Thursday went by the judgment of Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the same court and held that agencies conducting exams are bound to show the answer script if an examinee demands it under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
All agencies from Calcutta University to ICSE/CBSE and various school authorities will come under the purview of the order.
The division bench of Chief Justice S.S. Nijjar and Justice Dipankar Dutta in their 50-page ruling said: “The examination conducting agencies will have to show the answer scripts to the candidates within four weeks of their filing the application under Right to Information Act.
“If the examinees find any fault in the evaluation of their answer scripts and want a review of the same, the examination conducting authorities will have to review the scripts and inform the result to the examinee concerned in accordance with their respective norms.”
According to rough estimates, about 4 lakh students from the state appear for the Higher Secondary examinations, around 8 lakh for Madhyamik, around 40,000-45,000 for CBSE and ICSE each year. More than one lakh students appear for exams conducted by 11 universities in the state.
Once the ruling comes into effect — when a certified copy of the order reaches the examination conducting agencies — allowing dissatisfied examinees a look at the answer scripts becomes mandatory.
“According to Article 19 of the Constitution, examinees must have access to evaluated answer scripts.... Denial of inspection of answer scripts means the constitutional right to express and information may be lost,” the division bench observed, upholding Justice Banerjee’s verdict.
The ruling followed an appeal by Calcutta University against Justice Banerjee’s order and five other writ petitions, three by the Madhyamik board. The appeal and petitions were heard by the division bench analogously.
Early last year, a Part II student of mathematics honours in Presidency College, Pritam Rooz, had moved a writ before Justice Banerjee against Calcutta University’s decision not to show him an answer script.
Appearing for Rooz, his counsel had claimed that following the enactment of the RTI Act, the university authorities were bound to show the answer script to his client.
Justice Banerjee, on March 28, 2008, had allowed Rooz’s petition and asked the university authorities to show him the answer script.
Armed with Justice Banerjee’s judgment, many Madhyamik 2008 examinees had approached the RTI commission seeking an order demanding a look at their answer scripts.
When the RTI commission had asked the board of secondary education to show the answer scripts to the aggrieved students, it had moved a writ petition before the high court against the commission’s order.
Since 2002, more than hundred students appearing for the Higher Secondary and Madhyamik exams have approached the high court every year with complaints against their marks in certain papers.
In 2003, more than 300 Higher Secondary candidates had moved a PIL in the high court demanding an order for the council to show them their answer scripts. The division bench, after hearing the PIL, had asked the council to make its result publication process transparent.
Ranchi, Feb. 12: Students in Jharkhand — and elsewhere — can take heart from the recent Calcutta High Court ruling that gives them the right to take a look at their answer scripts if they are dissatisfied with their marks in major examinations.
Students can now cite the order, issued by a division bench last week, to seek similar provisions from the Jharkhand Academic Council (JAC) —it conducts secondary and higher secondary examinations in the state — as well Jharkhand State Public Service Commission — it conducts examinations for appointments in government services, state colleges and universities.
The high court bench went by the judgement of Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the same court and held that agencies conducting exams were bound to show the answer script if an examinee demanded it under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.On prior occasions when students of Jharkhand have demanded to see their answer scripts from the JAC and JPSC, the Jharkhand High Court “stayed” orders passed by the state information commission favouring full disclosure to students.
Rajendra Krishna, a senior standing counsel of the state government, clarified that the Calcutta High Court order on the RTI Act was uniformly applicable across the country till it was reversed by a higher court. “It is true that any order is binding on the parties named in the case. But since RTI is a relatively new act, very few laws have been laid down on it by courts. Now, when a high court has laid down the law, students from Jharkhand can very well cite it and seek legal remedy if any examination board, including the CBSE and the ICSE, refuses to show them answer scripts under the RTI Act,” he said.
As of now, there are provisions for “re-checking” and “re-totalling” of marks but not “re-evaluation” of answer papers in state varsities like Ranchi University, Vinoba Bhave University and Sidho-Kanhu-Murmu University. JAC, too, offers similar provisions.
JAC chairman Shaligram Yadav said the council announced specific dates for re-checking. “Students are supposed to respond to our advertisement and submit the required fee along with an application for re-checking. But, we allow only re-totalling. We have no rule to show answer scripts to disgruntled students,” he said.
Perhaps intended as a first step towards transparency, Ranchi University (RU) had begun displaying the corrected answer scripts of the first three toppers of various under-graduate and post-graduate examinations. But the practice was discontinued after 2006.
Sohail Anwar, a prominent counsel of Jharkhand High Court who represented JAC, has questioned the practicality of such a move. “It would be binding here in case of ICSE/CBSE schools if the central boards were made parties to the case.”