The recruitment process in any authority should be fair and justified. If the candidates are selected by any criterion other than merit and efficiency, the public authority will suffer for all the times to come. It is in public interest that the process of selection and appointment should be transparent to make it fool-proof from the corrupt mechanisms.
Complete transparency in recruitment
It is difficult to select efficient and person of integrity from out of eligible candidates. The process should be such that it gives equal opportunity to all eligible candidates to be selected. Generally selected candidates are informed and not selected are left in ignorance. In these days of statutory transparency, public authority should give reasons why a candidate was not selected.
Each candidate and the public in general should have that information. It is not proper to refuse that information under the pretexts such as information was given in ‘fiduciary capacity’ or ‘third party’ information etc. Answer sheet of the other candidate is not strictly ‘third party’ information under Section 11 of RTI Act. Assuming it to be personal information of the other candidate, the public interest override provided under proviso of Section 8(1)(j) demands disclosure.
Akhilesh Kumar sought information on PA/ SA Accountants examination conducted by the Department of Posts. Specifically, he sought for (1) score secured by the selected candidates in paper I and paper II; (2) certified copies of few candidates answer script and (3) the minimum score to be obtained by the various categories. The PIO provided minimum score related information on point no. 3 and denied marks scored by selected candidates in papers I and II, refused to copies of answer scripts of a few selected candidates sought under point nos. 1 and 2.
The First Appellate Authority has upheld the response of the public information officer, compelling the appellant to approach the Central Information Commission. When a department holds an examination for recruitment or promotion, the candidates or every other person is entitled to know how the selections were made.
Like selected candidates have right to information, the non-selected candidates also have that right, and the authority should inform about their non-selection along with reasons and they also should be informed where they stood in the competition. The non-selected are also entitled to know complete information about process, ranks and comparative merits or demerits of the candidates who appeared for the examination for recruitment or promotion.
The DoPT office memorandum dated 29.06.2015 mandates every public authority to place entire details of recruitment, promotion and transfer of employees. This means not only the candidates, who applied for, participated in and faced the selection process but also the general public have right to information about this information/ process. Appellant is seeking the answer sheets of both paper I and II of six candidates whose roll number is also mentioned. There is no reason to reject this request.
The Supreme Court has delivered a landmark judgment in CBSE v Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors. [2011 (8) SCC 497] finally settling principle on sharing the answer sheets of the candidates in the interest of protecting the standards of education through transparency.
As per the above celebrated judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court, the evaluated answer-books pertaining to service-related examination, being a “document, manuscript record, and opinion” fell within the definition of "information" as defined in section 2(f) of the RTI Act, 2005. It held that the provisions of the RTI Act should be interpreted in a manner which would lead towards dissemination of information rather than withholding the same. As laid down by the Supreme Court:
“The provisions of RTI Act should be enforced strictly and all efforts should be made to bring to light the necessary information under clause (b) of section 4(1) of the Act which relates to securing transparency and accountability in the working of public authorities and in discouraging corruption... We, therefore, hold that an examining body does not hold the evaluated answer-books in a fiduciary relationship.
Not being information available to an examining body in its fiduciary relationship, the exemption under section 8(1)(e) is not available to the examining bodies with reference to evaluated answer-books. As no other exemption under section 8 is available in respect of evaluated answer books, the examining bodies will have to permit inspection sought by the examinees.”
Hon’ble High Court of Chhattisgarh in Kewal Singh Gautam Vs. State of Chandigarh [AIR 2011Chh143] had also interpreted Sec 8 (1)(e) & (J) with regard to individual own answer sheet as follows :
“11. Fiduciary relationship is one where a party stands in a relationship of trust to another party. The said relationship gives rise to an obligation to protect the interest of other party. Present is not a case where the petitioners are seeking disclosure of an information with regard to the valuation done by the examiner in respect of any other departmental candidate who appeared in the examination. Division Bench of the High Court of Calcutta in the case of University of Calcutta (supra), held as under: “The plea of fiduciary relationship, advanced by the CBSE has not impressed us. Fiduciary relationship is not to be equated with privacy and confidentiality.
It is one where a party stands in a relationship of trust to another party and is generally obliged to protect the interest of the other party. While entrusting an examiner with the work of assessment/evaluation of an answer script there is no agreement between the examiner and the public authority that the work performed by the examiner shall be kept close to the chest of the public authority and shall be immune from scrutiny/ inspection by anyone.
At least nothing in this respect has been placed before us. Since the RTI Act has been enacted to promote transparency and accountability in the working of every public authority and for containing corruption, even if there be such a clause in the agreement between the examiner and the public authority the same would be contrary to public policy and thus void.
We have no hesitation to hold that even if there be any agreement between the public authority and the examiner that the assessment/evaluation made by the latter would be withheld on the ground that it is confidential and an assurance is given in this respect, the same cannot be used as a shield to counter a request from an examinee to have access to his assessed/evaluated answer scripts and the RTI Act would obviously override such assurance.
Having regard to our understanding of the meaning of the word 'fiduciary', there is little scope to hold that the etchings/markings made on answer scripts by an examiner are held in trust by the public authority immune from disclosure under the RTI Act. We find no force in the contention which, accordingly, stands overruled”.
Since the examination in question is service-related one, based on which the recruitments are made, it is wrong to claim that it was either personal or third party information. The Commission directed Rajesh Kumar, ASP to take this issue before their governing body so that they review their policy and provide copies of answer sheets of the six students to this appellant, within 15 days from the date of receipt of this order.
The Commission also recommended the respondent authority to take appropriate steps to bring in transparency and accountability in their department. The Commission reminds the respondent authority about their legal duty to strictly follow the DoPT Office Memorandum dated 29.06.2015 as per which all the promotion, recruitment information has to be disclosed.
(Based on decision in Akhilesh Kumar V. PIO, Department of Posts CIC/BS/A/2016/000142, on 24th August 2017)