Saturday, June 03, 2017

Gujarat Information Commission "orders" education dept to proactively take RTI pleas, reveal exam papers

Screenshot of GSHSEB site doesn't have RTI link
By Our Representative
Gujarat’s right to information (RTI) watchdog, State Information Commission, a quasi-judicial authority, has asked the state education department to “proactively disclose” within seven days the names of public authority and appellate authority of the Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB).
The order follows the 10th and 12th examination results, following which many students sought copies of their answer sheets under RTI. However, to their utter dismay, a visit to the Board’s website showed that RTI link on the GSHSEB site had disappeared, and there were no details of Public Information Officer (PIO) or the Appellate Authority (AA), either.
Pankti Jog of the Mahiti Adhikar Gujarat Pahel (MAGP), an RTI campaign NGO, says, several of the students’ parents approached her on the RTI helpline (9924085000) about this, and this prompted her file complaint under section 18 of RTI Act to State Information Commission to urgently take up the matter and issue order.
In his order, which she received on Friday, Gujarat Chief Information Commissioner VS Gadhvi has directed Board to disclose the names of PIO and AA on the notice board as well as on the website “within seven days” of receiving the order.
“The order is dated May 18, which means that they should have abided by it by now. However, I have checked on the website, they have still not done it”, Jog told Counterview.
At the same time, the commission, taking serious note of the fact that there is no RTI link on the GSSHEB website, has directed the principle secretary of the Gujarat education department, being the head of the public authority under RTI, to “ensure proactive disclosures are fully operationalized within seven days on the website as well as on notice board.”
“Each of the Public Authority is supposed to prepare proactive disclosures as per Section 4 of the RTI Act and the same should be widely disseminated to larger public. The Gujarat Board is dealing with the future of lakhs of students. It is completely unacceptable that the website does not show RTI link and PIO and AA details. This is complete violation of the RTI Act” says Harinesh Pandya, an RTI expert.
Jog adds, the Board is “surprisingly showing a very negative approach to the RTI Act. Many parents complained to us that when they approached by telephone to inquire about who is the PIO, they were asked not to file RTI, lest they would not get copies of the answer sheets. They also demanded Rs 300 per answer sheet for getting recalculation done for of the marks obtained”.
Notably, Gujarat was the first state in India to raise the issue of answer sheet of students to be sought under RTI way back in 2008. At that time, the State Information Commission even passed an order that student should be given copies of answer sheets under RTI.
Thereafter, on August 9, 2011, the Supreme Court gave a judgement qualifying answer sheet as “information” which students can obtain within 48 hours under section 7(1) of the RTI Act.
“The order of the Commission is very clear. We hope the PIO and AA details as well as proactive disclosure link on the website are displayed immediately”, said Jog.

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