Saturday, May 13, 2017

Gujarat Education Board "sets aside" SC order, has no provision for RTI plea for copies of answer sheets: MAGP

By Our Representative
The Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board, which declared science stream results on May 12, wants those seeking copy of the corrected answer sheets to apply online, pay Rs 300 per answer sheet, allegedly in complete in violation of a Supreme Court order, which allows students to obtain it through a Right to Information (RTI) plea within 48 hours.
Taking strong exception to the Board move, Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), the state’s premier Right to Information (RTI) NGO, has asked it to follow the Supreme Court judgment of 2011 (SCA 6454/2011) which said that the “answer sheet” falls within the definition of information, and every student has right to seek a copy of the her/his answer sheet “within 48 hours of filing RTI application as per section 7(1) of RTI Act.”
The RTI Act’s section 7(1) wants the information, if it concerns the life or liberty of a person, to be provided within 48 hours of the receipt of the application.
In its letter to the Board, MAGP says, as the Board website does not show RTI link and details of public information officers (PIOs), it needs to clarify how it going to the implement RTI Act. The letter wants the Board to make immediate corrections on its website.
MAGP’s letter to the Board follows several calls it received on the RTI helpline (9924085000) from students and parents, who, it says, complained that “there is no citizen-friendly mechanism for accepting RTI application at the Board office at Gandhinagar.”
Worse, adds MAGP, “Their websites also not showing RTI link and names of PIOs and appellate authorities, as required under Section 4 of the RTI Act.”
Simultaneously, taking into cognizance the fact that the matter concerns the future of students, MAGP has filed a complaint the Gujarat State Information Commission (SIC), the state’s RTI watchdog, under section 18 of RTI Act, which allows an SIC to receive and inquire into a grievance urgently.
MAGP, in a statement, insists, answer sheets do not “fall in the category of fiduciary relationship” and the RTI Act has “the overriding effect over any other rules that exist for preventing information to be disclosed or rules for providing information.”
“The Board is expected to declare by issuing a press note that RTI applications will be received and certified copies of the answer sheets will be provided. The provisions of checking OMR or answer sheets cannot restrict a student’s right to seek certified copy”, Harinesh Pandya of MAGP insists.
“The charge for seeking answer sheet is Rs 2 per page as per provisions of the RTI Act. The Board cannot decide the timeline, procedure and unreasonable prices contravene to the Act”, he adds.
Pankti Jog, who handles RTI helpline, says, “We appeal to students to file RTI application on a stamp paper, or with through court fee/revenue stamp, or by paying Rs 20 in cash on a plain paper. The PIO of the Board should furnish copy or respond within eight hours.”
“Our helpline will help students to file RTI applications. If they do not get response, student can file complaint to Gujarat Information Commission”, she adds.

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