At, Supreme Court of India
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE MADAN B. LOKUR & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE DEEPAK GUPTA
For the Appellant: Prashant Bhushan, Anurag Dubey, Meenesh Dubey, S.R. Setia, Advocates. For the Respondents: Shrish Kumar Misra, Advocate.
2. Leave granted.
3. The challenge in this appeal is to a judgment and order dated 11th April, 2017 passed by the Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court in Service Bench No.7475 of 2017.
4. The only question that has arisen in this appeal is whether the appellant is entitled to see the answer sheets of the examination in which he participated, the examination having been conducted by the respondents.
5. According to the High Court, the appellant had no right to see the answer sheets.
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eliance appears to have been placed by the High Court on the provisions of Section 8(1)(e) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
7. The interpretation of Section 8(1)(e) of the Act came to be considered in Central Board of Secondary Education and Another v. Aditya Bandopadhyay and Others [(2011) 8 SCC 497].
8. In Paragraph 51 of the Report, this Court considered Question No.3 that had arisen for discussion. Question No.3 noted by this Court is as follows:
"(iii) Whether an examining body holds the evaluated answer books "in a fiduciary relationship" and consequently has no obligation to give inspection of the evaluated answer books under section 8(1)(e) of RTI Act?"
9. In Paragraph 51 of the Report, this Court held that the examining body does not hold the evaluated answer books in a fiduciary relationship. Under the circumstances, a candidate for an examination is entitled to inspect the answer books given by him to the examining body.
Paragraph 51 of the Report reads as under:
"We, therefore, hold that an examining body does not hold the evaluated answer-books in a fiduciary relationship. Not being information available to an examining body in its fiduciary relationship, the exemption under section 8(1)(e) is not available to the examining bodies with reference to the evaluated answer-books. As no other exemption under section 8 is available in respect of evaluated answer books, the examining bodies will have to permit inspection sought by the examinees."
10. The view expressed in respect of Question No.3 was reiterated by this Court in the conclusion in Paragraph 68 of the Report, which reads as follows:
"In view of the foregoing, the order of the High Court directing the examining bodies to permit examinees to have inspection of their answer books is affirmed, subject to the clarifications regarding the scope of the RTI Act and the safeguards and conditions subject to which `information' should be furnished. The appeals are disposed of accordingly."
11. Learned counsel for the respondents has drawn our attention to a decision of this Court in Union Public Service Commission Etc. v. Angesh Kumar & Ors. Etc. [Civil Appeal Nos.6159-6162 of 2013] decided on 20th February, 2018.
12. We have considered the decision rendered in the aforementioned case, but find that it does not detract from the view already taken by this Court in Aditya Bandopadhyay (supra).
13. Reference has been made to Paragraphs 5 and 10 of the judgment which read as follows:
"(5) It is submitted that though Sections 3 and 6 of the Act confer right to information (apart from statutory obligation to provide specified information under Section 4), Sections 8, 9 and 11 provide for exemption from giving of information as stipulated therein. The exclusion by Sections 8, 9 and 11 is not exhaustive and parameters under third recital of the preamble of the Act can also be taken into account. Where information is likely to conflict with other public interest, including efficient operation of the Government, optimum use of fiscal resources and preservation of confidentiality of some sensitive information, exclusion of right or information can be applied in a given fact situation.
(10) Weighing the need for transparency and accountability on the one hand and requirement of optimum use of fiscal resources and confidentiality of sensitive information on the other, we are of the view that information sought with regard to marks in Civil Services Exam cannot be directed to be furnished mechanically. Situation of exams of other academic bodies may stand on different footing.Furnishing raw marks will cause problems as pleaded by the UPSC as quoted above which will not be in public interest. However, if a case is made out where the Court finds that public interest requires furnishing of information, the Court is certainly entitled to so require in a given fact situation. If rules or practice so require, certainly such rule or practice can be enforced. In the present case, direction has been issued without considering these parameters."
14. It may be noted that Paragraph 5 contains the submission while the finding is in Paragraph 10 of the decision.
15. In our opinion, permitting a candidate to inspect the answer sheet does not involve any public interest nor does it affect the efficient operation of the Government. There are issues of confidentiality and disclosure of sensitive information that may arise, but those have already been taken care of in the case of Aditya Bandopadhyay where it has categorically been held that the identity of the examiner cannot be disclosed for reasons of confidentiality.
16. That being the position, we have no doubt that the appellant is entitled to inspect the answer sheets.
17. Accordingly, we direct the respondent - U.P. Public Service Commission to fix the date, time and place where the appellant can come and inspect the answer sheet within four weeks.
The appeal stands disposed of.