In a landmark judgment the Madras High Court has held that students are eligible to obtain copies of their answer sheets through Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI) without paying anything extra other than the fee prescribed in the Act.
“When the People of India enacted the Right to Information Act, through its Parliament, then neither the state instrumentalities nor the public institutions can take a stand that they will adopt their own procedure for furnishing the information under RTI,” the judge ruled while directing TNDALU to follow the procedures contemplated under the Act and the Rules while dealing with such applications.
Also, noting that irregularities and illegalities in public administration cannot be sorted out if there is no transparency in the public administration, the judge said “In this context, this Court would like to emphasise that the Law University, being a public institution, is bound to implement the provisions of RTI scrupulously in its letter and spirit.”
“The moot question is that why should any public authority be shy of providing public information to the information seekers. Undoubtedly, confidential files are protected under the provisions of the Act itself and therefore, the officials should not be shy about providing all information in the public domain, enabling the citizen to understand the way the Public Institutions are administered,” Justice Subramaniam added.
As per the case, a student had sought for his November 2017 examination answer scripts from the University under the RTI. But TNDALU had directed him to send an application to its Controller of Examinations and pay Rs 500 for answer script copies for each subject. The student challenged this direction before TNSIC, which ruled in his favour.
TNSIC had held that as per RTI Rules a payment of only Rs 10 is required for an RTI application, whereas Rs 2 per page is the fee prescribed for obtaining the documents.
Following this, TNDALU moved the High Court seeking to quash TNSIC’s order arguing that the Rs 500 fee for obtaining the answer script had been prescribed on practical considerations. It further submitted that the purpose of fixing Rs 500 per paper is not for collecting funds for the university but to avoid opening of the floodgates for thousands of students to apply and obtain the answer scripts through RTI.
It was also submitted that furnishing answer scripts to all the students and that too for free of cost would end up in much administrative hardship and inconvenience for the Controller of Examinations. Hence, it had got its own rules and regulations for the purpose of furnishing copies of the answer scripts.