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Now, you can use RTI to re-evaluate answer-sheets
August, 10th 2011

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that students aggrieved with their examination scores - class X and XII, entrance exam for professional courses as well as job recruitment tests - can now take a look at how they were evaluated by moving an application under the Right to Information Act.

So far, only re-tabulation of marks was possible. Now, the court has provided for re-evaluation of answer-sheets, which will include whether examiner missed out awarding marks for answers to some of the questions.

Passing the path-breaking order that will be lapped up by students, but may cause consternation among the teaching fraternity, a bench of Justices R V Raveendran and A K Patnaik dismissed a bunch of appeals filed by the Central Board of Secondary Education, West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), University of Calcutta, West Bengal Central School Services Commission and Assam Public Services Commission.

The petitioners had challenged rulings by different information commissioners under the RTI Act directing them to show the answer-sheets to the students.

The basic contention of all these education boards, Calcutta University and ICAI was that there was a fiduciary relationship between the examiner and the board, and hence it was not proper to show the answer-sheet to the student. CBSE had claimed exemption from the ambit of RTI Act.

The classic among the cases dealt by the apex court was that of a Kolkata student Pritam Rooj, who had scored 91.6% in the Class X examination and 80.8% at the higher secondary (Class XII) examination.

But his performance dipped unexpectedly in the mathematics honours course, which he studied in Presidency College under the Calcutta University. In 2005, he got a mere 52% in his Part-I examination and an identical percentage the following year in Part-II, with just 28 out of 100 in the fifth paper.

Rooj applied for re-evaluation of the paper, and was awarded four additional marks by the university. But, that did not give him a first division and ruined his dream of studying in the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

On August 14, 2007, Rooj filed an RTI query seeking a copy of his answer-sheet from the university. But, the principal information officer said no inspection of answer-sheet was permitted under the RTI Act.

He moved the Calcutta High Court and got a favourable order. Similar orders had come in from the high courts of Gauhati in Assam and other places. The apex court had joined them together and heard arguments.

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