Legal Blog: IIT Bound to Provide Copy of ORS to Candidates under Right to Information Act

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

IIT Bound to Provide Copy of ORS to Candidates under Right to Information Act

Justice Muralidhar
The Delhi High Court in Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi v. Naveen Talwar, has held that IIT cannot deny a copy of the Optical Response Sheet to its students, and the applicants statutory rights under the Right to Information Act, 2005 cannot be curtailed. While affirming the Central Information Commission's order, the High Court, inter alia, held;

9. This Court is not impressed with the above submission. The defence the Petitioner may have had, if a notice had been issued to it by the CIC, has been considered by this Court in the present proceedings. This Court finds, for the reasons explained hereinafter, that there is no legal justification for the Petitioners refusal to provide each of the Respondents a photocopy of the concerned ORS.

10. It is next submitted that under Section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act, there is a fiduciary relationship that the Petitioner shares with the evaluators and therefore a photocopy of the ORS cannot be disclosed. Reliance is placed on the decision by the Full Bench of the CIC rendered on 23rd April 2007 in Rakesh Kumar Singh v. Harish Chander.

11. In the first place given the fact that admittedly the evaluation of the ORS is carried out through a computerized process and not manually, the question of there being a fiduciary relationship between the IIT and the evaluators does not arise. Secondly, a perusal of the decision of the CIC in Rakesh Kumar Singh v. Harish Chander shows that a distinction was drawn by the CIC between the OMR sheets and conventional answer sheets. The evaluation of the ORS is done by a computerized process. The non-ORS answer sheets are evaluated by physical marking. It was observed in para 41 that where OMR (or ORS) sheets are used, as in the present cases, the disclosure of evaluated answer sheets was "unlikely to render the system unworkable and as such the evaluated answer sheets in such cases will be disclosed and made available under the Right to Information Act unless the providing of such answer sheets would involve an infringement of copyright as provided for under Section 9 of the Right to Information Act."

12. Irrespective of the decision dated 23rd April 2007 of the CIC in Rakesh Kumar Singh v. Harish Chander, which in any event is not binding on this Court, it is obvious that the evaluation of the ORS/ORM sheets is through a computerized process and no prejudice can be caused to the IIT by providing a candidate a photocopy of the concerned ORS. This is not information being sought by a third party but by the candidate himself or herself. The disclosure of such photocopy of the ORS will not compromise the identity of the evaluator, since the evaluation is done through a computerized process. There is no question of defence under Section 8 (1) (e) of the RTI Act being invoked by the IIT to deny copy of such OMR sheets/ORS to the candidate.

13. It is then urged by Mr. Mitra that if the impugned orders of the CIC are sustained it would open a "floodgate" of such applications by other candidates as a result of which the entire JEE and GATE system would "collapse". The above apprehension is exaggerated. If IIT is confident that both the JEE and GATE are fool proof, it should have no difficulty providing a candidate a copy of his or her ORS. It enhances transparency. It appears unlikely that the each and every candidate would want photocopies of the ORS.

14. It is then submitted that evaluation done of the ORS by the Petitioner is final and no request can be entertained for re-evaluation of marks. Reliance is placed on the order dated 2nd July 2010 passed by the learned Single Judge of this Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 3807 of 2010 [Adha Srujana v. Union of India]. This Court finds that the question as far as the present case is concerned is not about the request of the Respondents for re-evaluation or re-totalling of the marks obtained by them in the JEE 2010 or GATE 2010. Notwithstanding the disclosure of the ORS to the Respondent, IIT would be within its rights to decline a request from either of them for re-evaluation or re-totalling in terms of the conditions already set out in the information brochure. The decision dated 2nd July 2010 by this Court in W.P. (C) No. 3807 of 2010 has no application to the present case.

15. The right of a candidate, sitting for JEE or GATE, to obtain information under the RTI Act is a statutory one. It cannot be said to have been waived by such candidate only because of a clause in the information brochure for the JEE or GATE. In other words, a candidate does not lose his or her right under the RTI Act only because he or she has agreed to sit for JEE or GATE. The condition in the brochure that no photocopy of the ORS sheet will be provided, is subject to the RTI Act. It cannot override the RTI Act.

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