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Thursday, January 18, 2007

YOUR RIGHT TO KNOW: Calcutta univ will have to show answer scripts

(Times of India, Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey | TNN, Jan 17, 2007, Times Nation, pg 17) Kolkata: Calcutta University has finally crumbled under the weight of right to information, agreeing to show answer scripts to an examinee. It had tried everything to prevent this — from calling itself the guardian of the candidate, to saying the examiner’s life would be at stake — but nothing worked.

The West Bengal Information Commission has quashed all the appeals of the university. As the custodian of the RTI Act, 2005, in the state, the Commission — in an order dated January 15 — told CU that any candidate can demand to see his or her answer script. CU is unhappy because it fears this will open a floodgate of demands from dissatisfied students.

It all started with Utsab Dutta’s petition to the university that he be allowed to see papers VI and VIII of his part II BCom honours examination, 2006, as he was not happy with his marks. These were papers for Business Economics and Management Accountancy. He had applied simultaneously to the Commission on September 26, 2006.

After waiting for a month, Dutta complained to the panel that CU wasn’t responding. The panel sought a report from CU, but the latter stonewalled, saying the matter was to be discussed in the syndicate. The panel allowed this, but asked CU to locate the relevant answer scripts and keep them ready. But since CU kept buying time, the panel finally asked it to appear on January 3 for a final hearing.

University registrar Samir Bandopadhyay tried to assert that RTI Act has been misinterpreted by the candidate as it does not confer the right on candidates to demand to see their answer scripts. The panel, however, rejected the reasons.

The order, signed by state CIC Arun Kumar Bhattacharya clearly states that RTI Act has been instituted to help citizens secure access to information under control of public authorities so as to promote transparency and accountability in the way the public authorities function and CU is a public authority.

He appealed that since the answer scripts contain the signatures of examiner, the latter’s life would be at stake, but the panel said it was impossible for candidates to identify examiners from signatures. Speaking to TOI, state CIC Bhattacharya said, “I have just tried to uphold the tenets of the Act in my order."

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