Pune University defies SC order by not showing answer sheets; RTI activist slams legal notice


Are information commissioners killing the RTI Act?

 

Moneylife, VINITA DESHMUKH | 03/04/2013

Although Supreme Court in its verdict in August 2011 ordered that certified copies of answer sheets is public information under the RTI Act, the Pune University continues to adhere by its 2008 circular which defies the spirit ofthe order and therefore amounts to contempt of court

The Ordinance number182 of the University of Pune implemented through a circularissued in 2008 puts stringent terms and conditions in providing answer sheets to a student, which are contrary to the provisions in the Right to Information (RTI) Act. These include: not providing certified copies of answer sheets; students to apply for answer sheets within 10 days of the results; applicant to apply for Photostat copies of maximum three subjects only and; copies to be provided within 45 days through the principal of the college.
In August 2011, the Supreme Court has ruled that evaluated answer sheets are covered under the definition of ‘information’ under the RTI Act. Hence, this overrides any rule or ordinance that an educational institution may have had. (Read—Ultimate victory for students: Supreme Court judgment orders access of copies of answer sheets of all examinations. Like the Official Secrecy Act of 1923, which has been overpowered by the RTI Act, the Ordinance no. 182 of the University of Pune too is as good as non-existent and it is the rules under RTI that are applicable to the University. However, University of Pune continues to dictate its own terms as per its 2008 rules.
Pune-based RTI activist Vivek Velankar received several complaints from students of the University of Pune who are not being provided certified copies of answer sheets in thespirit of the RTI Act. States Velankar, “As per the RTI Act, the University of Pune cannot insist that the student can apply only within 10 days after the examination result. Since the University of Pune preserves answer sheets for a period of six months, the student has a right to apply within this period and s/he cannot be forced to apply only within 10 days as per its Ordinance. Also, the University of Pune HAS to provide certified copies ofanswer sheets and that too within the mandatory 30 days as per the RTI Act.”
Velankar has sent a legal notice last fortnight, bringing to the notice of University of Pune as to why its Ordinance No. 182 is irrelevant after the Supreme Court verdict of 2011which has made answer sheets as public information under the RTI Act. Says Velankar, “We are giving 30 days to the University of Pune to abide by the SC judgment and to scrap its 2008 Ordinance, as continuing to implement it amounts to contempt of court. If it does not do so, we will file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).”

 

Details of legal notice sent on 16th March are as follows: 
NOT PROVIDING CERTIFIED COPIES:
As per Point No. 19 of Ordinance of the University of Pune Rule No. 182 in respect ofanswer sheets which states as under that, “The Certified copies of revalued answer sheets are not provided.’’…above Rule No. 182 of Ordinance issued by the University of Pune is completely contrary to the provisions of the Right to Information Act and to the judgment of Supreme Court of India in the case of Central Board of Secondary Education and Anr Vs Aditya Bandopadhyay and Ors reported in Civil Appeal No. 6454 of 2011. The Supreme Court has thereby ruled that the definition of information in Section 2 (f) of the Right to Information Act, 2005, refers to any material in any form which includes records, documents, opinions, papers amongst several other enumerated items. The term ‘record’ is defined in Section 2(i) of the said Act as including any document manuscript or file amongst others.
When a candidate participates in an examination and writes his answers in an answer book and submits it to the examining body for evaluation by an examiner appointed by the examining body, the evaluated answer book becomes a record containing the ‘opinion’ of the examiner. Therefore, the evaluated answer book is also information under Right to Information Act, 2005. It is further stated that if the rules and regulations of the examining body provide for re-evaluation, inspection or disclosure of the answer books, then none of the principles of the Maharashtra State Board or other decisions following it will apply or be relevant.
“Therefore it is stated that as per the Supreme Court ruling, the word ‘evaluation’ shall mean and include the word re-evaluation and therefore the Rule No. 182 of Ordinance issued by the University of Pune is completely contrary to the ruling of the apex court and hence needs to be necessarily modified accordingly to enable students to get certified copies of their re-evaluated answer sheets. It is stated that, if the mandate of the apex court Judgment is not followed by your institution then this may amount to the contempt of the court as prescribed in the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.”

 

APPLICATION TO BE MADE WITHIN 10 DAYS AFTER THE EXAMINATION RESULT:
“It is stated that the Rule No. 182 of the Ordinance issued by the University of Pune also states that the student has to apply for certified copies of their re-evaluatedanswer sheets within 10 days from the date of examination result. This rule is also completely contrary to the aforesaid ruling of the apex court. The Supreme Court of India in the aforesaid judgment makes it amply clear that, “the obligation under the RTI Act is to make available or give access to existing information or information which is expected to be preserved or maintained. If the rules and regulations governing the functioning of the respective public authority require preservation of the information for only a limited period, the applicant for information will be entitled to such information only if he seeks the information when it is available with the public authority. It is stated that, period of University of Pune is of six months and therefore, the student is entitled to make an application for the certified copies of the evaluated answer books within the period of six months and the mandate 10 days time limit as prescribed in Rule 182 of University of Pune Ordinance is completely contrary to the judgment of the Supreme Court of India and therefore, it is required to be modified accordingly. It is stated that, if the mandate of the apex court judgment is not followed by your institution then this may amount to the contempt of court as prescribed in the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971.”

 

REGARDING APPLICATION FOR MAXIMUM OF THREE SUBJECTS ONLY:
“It is stated that, the Point No. 2 of the said ordinance states that the applicant can apply for the Photostat copies of maximum three subjects only. This is also completely contrary to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, as the Act does not provide any such restriction as to how many subjects an applicant can apply for Photostat copies of the answer books. Therefore the said provision/point in your Ordinance No. 182 is also contrary to the RTI Act, 2005, and needs to be modified accordingly.”
REGARDING NOT PROVIDING ANSWER SHEETS OF PRACTICALEXAMINATIONS:
“It is also stated that, Point No 1 of Ordinance 182 provides for the photo copy/copies of assessed and/or moderated theory subject/s answer book/s of the current examinationwill be supplied to the examinee/s. The photo copy/copies of answer books of practicalexamination, sessional marks, marks of viva-voce/dissertation/ thesis/project, Common Entrance Test conducted by University, etc shall not be supplied to the examinee/s. It is stated that as mentioned above, when a candidate participates in an examination and writes his answers in an answer book and submits it to the examining body for evaluation by an examiner appointed by the examining body, the evaluated answer book becomes a record containing the ‘opinion’ of the examiner. Therefore, any evaluated answer book is also information under Right to Information Act, 2005. This makes it very clear that, any evaluation done by the University is also information under RTI Act, 2005 and therefore, the photo copy/copies of answer books of practical examination, sessional marks, marks of viva-voce/dissertation/ thesis/ project, Common Entrance Test conducted by University are also covered under the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005. Point No. 1 is completely contrary to the provisions of RTI Act, 2005 and aforesaid judgment of the Supreme Court of India.”
REGARDING PROVIDING INFORMATION WITHIN 45 DAYS OF RECEIVING THE REQUEST:
It is also stated that, Point No. 16 of aforesaid Ordinance 182 states that, “the University shall supply the photo copy/copies within 45 days from the date of receipt of application through the principal of the college concerned”. It is stated that, the aforesaid point of the ordinance is directly and completely contrary to the provisions of Section 7 of the Right to Information Act, 2005, which states that 7. Disposal of request—(/) subject to the proviso to sub-section (2) of Section 5 or the proviso to sub-section (3) of Section 6, the Central Public Information Officer or State Public Information Officer, as the case may be, on receipt of a request under Section 6 shall, as expeditiously as possible, and in any case within thirty days of the receipt of the request. either provide the information on payment of such fee as may be prescribed or reject the request for any of the reasons specified in Sections 8 and 9: 6 This provision mandates the information which is sought has to be provided to the applicant within the maximum period of thirty day and no further extension is allowed by the provisions of the Section 7 of RTI Act, 2005. Therefore, the time period of 45 days is completely and directly contrary to the provisions of RTI Act, 2005, and needs to modify accordingly.
REGARDING UNIVERSITY OF PUNE WRONGLY ABIDING BY ITS OWN ORDINANCE
It is also stated that the RTI Act, 2005, is a central enactment and has to be followed in its true spirit and any provision/ rules made by any public authority contrary to the provisions of the RTI Act, 2005, shall attract the provisions of the Section 22 which reads thus “Act to have overriding effect—the provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the Official Secrets Act, 1923 (19 of 1923), and any other law for the time being in force or in any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than this Act”.
(Vinita Deshmukh is the consulting editor of Moneylife, an RTI activist and convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet – The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart – Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.

 

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