7 less known facts on your Right to Inspect your Answer Books under RTI


By Kush Karla – Online RTI Writer, 23 December 2014

Especially when the competitive exams like CAT and others such are heating up, this article gets into the "Right to Inspect Evaluated Answer Books" under the RTI Act, 2005 and covers a lot of ground, including:

  1. The Answer Book
  2. Permitted Examination by Examinee
  3. Examining body does not hold evaluated answer-books in a fiduciary relationship
  4. The Examining Body
  5. Disgruntled Examinee
  6. Identities of Examiners / Co-ordinators / Scrutinisers / Head Examiners
  7. Information Availability Period

1. The Answer Book

An evaluated answer book of an examinee is a combination of two different pieces of 'information'. The first is the answers written by the examinee and second is the marks/assessment by the examiner.

When an examinee seeks inspection of her evaluated answer-books or seeks a certified copy of the evaluated answer-book, the information sought by her is not really the answers she has written in the answer-books (which she already knows), nor the total marks assigned for the answers (which has been declared).

What she really seeks is the information relating to the break-up of marks, that is, the specific marks assigned to each of her answers. When an examinee seeks 'information' by inspection/certified copies of her answer-books, she knows the contents thereof being the author thereof.

2. Permitted Examination by Examinee

When an examinee is permitted to examine an answer-book or obtain a certified copy, the examining body is not really giving her some information which is held by it in trust or confidence, but is only giving her an opportunity to read what she had written at the time of examination or to have a copy of her answers.

Therefore, in furnishing the copy of an answer-book, there is no question of breach of confidentiality, privacy, secrecy or trust. The real issue therefore is not in regard to the answer-book, but in regard to the marks awarded on evaluation of the answer-book.

What the examinee actually wants to know is the break-up of marks given her, i.e. how many marks were given by the examiner to each of her answers, so that she can assess how her performance has been evaluated, and whether the evaluation is proper as per her hopes and expectations. Therefore, the test for finding out whether the information is exempted or not, is not with regard to the answer book, but with regard to the evaluation by the examiner.

3. Examining body not in a fiduciary relationship

The examining body does not hold evaluated answer-books in a fiduciary relationship. The examining body engages or employs hundreds of examiners to do the evaluation of thousands of answer books. The question is whether the information relating to the 'evaluation' (that is assigning of marks) is held by the examining body in a fiduciary relationship. The examining body entrusts the answer-books to an examiner for evaluation and pays the examiner for her expert service. The work of evaluation and marking the answer-book is an assignment given by the examining body to the examiner which she discharges for a consideration. Sometimes, an examiner may assess answer-books, in the course of her employment, as a part of her duties without any specific, additional, or special remuneration. In other words, the examining body is the 'principal' and the examiner is the agent entrusted with the work, that is, evaluation of answer-books.

4. The Examining Body

The examining body, therefore, is not in the position of a fiduciary with reference to the examiner.

On the other hand,

  • when an answer-book is entrusted to the examiner for the purpose of evaluation,
  • for the period the answer-book is in his custody and to the extent of the discharge of her functions relating to evaluation,
  • the examiner is in the position of a fiduciary with reference to the examining body, and
  • she is barred from disclosing the contents of the answer-book or the result of evaluation of the answer-book to anyone other than the examining body.

Once the examiner has evaluated the answer books, she ceases to have any interest in the evaluation done by her. She does not have any copy-right or proprietary right, or confidentiality right with regard to the evaluation.

Therefore, it cannot be said that the examining body holds the evaluated answer books in a fiduciary relationship , qua the examiner.

5. Disgruntled Examinee

When an examining body engages the services of an examiner to evaluate the answer-books, the examining body expects the examiner not to disclose the information regarding evaluation to anyone other than the examining body. Similarly, the examiner also expects that her name and particulars would not be disclosed to the candidates whose answer-books are evaluated by her.

In the event of such information being made known, a disgruntled examinee who is not satisfied with the evaluation of the answer books, may act to the prejudice of the examiner by attempting to endanger her physical safety. Further, any apprehension on the part of the examiner that there may be danger to his physical safety, if her identity becomes known to the examinees, may come in the way of effective discharge of her duties. The above applies not only to the examiner, but also to the scrutinizer, co-ordinator, and head-examiner who deal with the answer book.

6. The Examiners / Co-ordinators / Scrutinisers / Head Examiners

The answer book usually contains not only the signature and code number of the examiner, but also the signatures and code number of the scrutinizer/coordinator/head examiner. The information as to the names or particulars of the examiners/co-ordinators/scrutinisers/ head examiners are, therefore, exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(g) of RTI Act, 2005 on the grounds that if such information is disclosed, it may endanger their physical safety.

Therefore, if the examinees are to be given access to evaluated answer-books either by permitting inspection or by granting certified copies, such access will have to be given only to that part of the answer-book which does not contain any information or signature of the examiners/co-ordinators/ scrutinisers/head examiners, exempted from disclosure under Section 8(1)(g) of RTI Act, 2005. Those portions of the answer-books which contain information regarding the examiners/co-ordinators/scrutinisers/head examiners or which may disclose their identity with reference to signature or initials, shall have to be removed, covered, or otherwise severed from the non-exempted part of the answer-books, under Section 10 of RTI Act, 2005.

7. Information Availability Period

The right to access information does not extend beyond the period during which the examining body is expected to retain the answer-books. In the case of CBSE, the answer-books are required to be maintained for a period of three months and thereafter, they are liable to be disposed of/destroyed.

Some other examining bodies are required to keep the answer-books for a period of six months. The fact that right to information is available with regard to answer-books, does not mean that answer-books will have to be maintained for any longer period than required under the rules and regulations of the public authority. 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 she seeks the information when it is available with the public authority. For example, with reference to answer-books, if an examinee makes an application to CBSE for inspection or grant of certified copies beyond three months (or six months or such other period prescribed for preservation of the records with regard to other examining bodies) from the date of declaration of results, the application could be rejected on the grounds that such information is not available.

Kush Kalra

Kush Kalra

Kush is a practicing lawyer at Delhi High Court. He graduated from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab, India in 2012 and has authored a total of 10 books on Law within a year - a National Record!

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