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news details
PSC's Rule 12 (B) violates RTI Act : CIC
Directs to provide copies of OMR sheets, Answer keys
12/6/2017 11:01:31 PM
Early Times Report

Jammu, Dec 6: Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) in its landmark judgment against Public Service Commission (PSC) has said that PSC's Rule 12 (B) directly violates J&K Right to Information Act especially section 19 wherein RTI Act has an overriding effect on all the laws which override J&K RTI Act 2009. CIC has further directed PSC to provide copies of OMR sheets and Answer keys to an information seeker under RTI….
Details available with Early Times reveals that an information seeker namely Maida Begum an aggrieved Assistant Professor candidate filed an RTI application on 21.02.2017 with the Public Information Officer (PIO), J&K, PSC seeking the following information:-
Answer key of Assistant Professor in Urdu discipline of written test held on 04.12.2016.
Photo copy of OMR of applicant of written test conducted by PSC on 04.12.2016 of Assistant Professor in Urdu discipline.
As she did not get reply within the stipulated time from the PIO, she filed First Appeal with First Appellate Authority (FAA) of PSC on 10.04.2017.
FAA also failed to dispose of her 1st Appeal as a result she approached the State Information Commission (SIC) in 2nd Appeal with the request that PIO may be directed for providing her the requisite information sought through her basic RTI application. SIC's 26.10.2017 order reads as :
"It is a fact that Section 19 of the J&K RTI Act, 2009 gives the RTI Act an overriding effect and states as under: " Act to have overriding effect- The provisions of the Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent therewith contained in the State Official Secrets Act,Samvat.1977 (1) and any other law (2) for the time being in force or any instrument having effect by virtue of any law other than the Act".
The J&K RTI Act itself enumerates the grounds and situations in which information may not be provided and these are enumerated as exemptions under Sections 8 & 9 of the Act. Disclosure of Answer key after the result of the examination is announced doesn't seem to fall under any of the exemptions under Section 8 and certainly not under Section 9 which relates to copyright infringement.
Section 8(1)(e) exempts from disclosure of such ' information available to a person in his fiduciary relationship, unless the competent authority is satisfied that the larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information'. OMR Sheets and the Answer key cannot be said to be held in fiduciary capacity by the examination conducting authority like the J&K PSC after the results of the examination have been finally announced. Such fiduciary relationship can be said to exist before the results are announced.
If the information pertaining to Answer scripts/OMR sheet and Answer key are continued to be held as secret and non-givable even after the results are out, then the aggrieved candidates will have nowhere to go to seek redressal.
Allowing inspection or providing a copy thereof of own OMR sheet without the Answer key is meaningless as there will be no way for the examinee/information seeker to evaluate or cross check his own performance and the marks. Moreover, if the policy of non-disclosure of OMR sheet and Answer key even after the results are announced on grounds like deletion of Rule 12(B) is continued, then the paper setters and the evaluators will also start feeling lack of accountability which situation is highly undesirable, against the transparency in the system and against the larger public interest. Since the J&K PSC is invoking deletion of Rule 12(B) of the J&K PSC conduct of examination Rules, 2005 as the reason for non-disclosure of the OMR sheet and Answer key even after the results are announced, then the very deletion of such Rule appears to be violative of Section 19 of the J&K RTI Act, 2009. Keeping in view the Supreme Court judgment above and the intent of Section 19 of the J&K RTI Act, 2009 and in terms of powers vested in the State Information Commission (SIC) under Section 16 of the Act, the PIO, J&K PSC is directed to provide a copy each of the OMR sheet of the appellant Maidah Begum and the Answer Key to the appellant as expeditiously as possible within a maximum period of 30 days from the date of receipt of this order, if the results have been announced. With these directions, this 2nd appeal filed before the State Information Commission is disposed of. The copy of Order be provided to the parties free of cost"
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