Destruction of answer sheets during the pendency of RTI application a travesty of justice, says CIC

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]HE Central Information Commission (CIC) has termed the destruction of a CBSE student’s answer sheets by her school principal during the pendency of an application filed under the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) a “travesty of justice”.

“The answer books of the candidate was destroyed during the pendency of the RTI application which was not proper. However, the Commission is unable to fix the responsibility on the Principal of the School as it is not a public authority as per Sec 2(h) of the Act. The CBSE, however, should consider this case as an instance of travesty of justice, as the concerned student was not able to access her answer books despite filing the RTI application within the relevant time period for preservation of records,” Information Commissioner Vanaja N. Sarna said, expressing her displeasure at the manner in which RTI application was dealt with.

The CIC was hearing a second appeal filed by one Amar Singh, seeking a copy of the answer sheets of all the Formative Assessments (FA) and Summative Assessments (SA) held during the 2016-17 session for class X in respect of his daughter, a student of Bharat International School, Hardev Nagar, but shown as the student of Radhey Lal Indian Public School, Vrindavan.

An application for the answer sheets had been filed on July 14, 2017, with the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), New Delhi. It was received by the CPIO, CBSE Allahabad region on July 31, 2017, and replied to on August 11, 2018. In the RTI response, it was mentioned that the candidate was registered under “school base examination (scheme-I)” and that the said answer books were with the school. The application was therefore forwarded to the school, where the principal in his response on September 23, 2017, stated that the FAs and SAs had been destroyed as per certain CBSE guidelines.

The guidelines relied upon by the principal of the school read as follows:

“The Board has therefore reduced the retention period of the assessments of classes IX and X to be preserved at the school level w.e.f 2013 examination and the same is as under:
1) Answer books of candidates (both for main and improvement of  performance examination) shall be preserved by the school up to 2 months after the declaration of result in respect of such candidates who have not applied for verification of grades of the sought photocopy of the answer book.”

“The CPIO CBSE submitted that the RTI application was dispatched by the appellant on July 22, 2017, which was received by CBSE Delhi on July 24, 2017, and transferred to CBSE Allahabad on July 31, 2017. The CPIO CBSE Allahabad transferred the RTI application to the school on August 11, 2018,” CIC Sarna noted while criticizing CBSE Allahabad for forwarding the matter to the school instead of procuring the information itself

“The lack of application of mind on the part of CBSE Allahabad deprived the appellant of getting the information. Now the records are destroyed, and no relief can be given to the appellant.

“The then CPIO, CBSE Allahabad, Vijay Singh should have applied his mind and refrained from transferring the RTI application to a school which is not a public authority,”  she said while issuing a strict warning to Singh for what she termed a  “casual approach” in dealing with the RTI application of the appellant.

In view of the destruction of the relevant records, CIC noted that no relief could be provided to the appellant. The case was closed accordingly.

Read the order here: