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Sunday, September 28, 2008

CIC Directs AMU to Open UP MBBS OMR Sheets

RTI Group, Aligarh: In a landmark judgment, the Central Information Commission (CIC), New Delhi, has directed Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) to open up its MBBS/BDS All India Entrance Test OMR Sheets to the candidates. The case was heard by the bench of Chief Information Commissioner Mr Wajahat Habibullah on 19th Sept 2008 and the 19 page judegement delivered on 23rd Sept 2008. It should be noted that the matter was vigorously pursued by the RTI Group.

By an application of 2.6.08 Ms. Shema, R/O Nazir Ahmed Road, Aligar
h Muslim University, Aligarh, applied to the Registrar/CPIO, AMU seeking the Correct Answers Key to the question booklet given to her daughter Roll No. 249946 during her entrance examination of MBBS/BDS 2008 held on 26.5.2008 and result declared on 1.6.08. Again by an application of 20.6.08 Ms. Asma Anjum, R/O Nazir Ahmed Road, AMU, Aligarh and daughter of Ms Shema applied to the Registrar / CPIO AMU seeking the information on several counts: “Photo copy of both sides of OMR filled and submitted by me (Name: Asma Anjum, Roll No. 249946) in my entrance examination of M.B.B.S./B.D.S. 2008 held on 26.5.08 and result already declared.” This was followed by a similar application of 21.6.08 in which information sought was as follows: “Photocopies from both sides of all the pages of the question paper given to me (Name: Asma Anjum, Roll No. 249946) in my entrance examination of M.B.B.S. / B.D.S. 2008 held on 26.5.08 and result already declared.”

To this she received a reply on 7.7.08 from CPIO and Asstt. Controller (Admissions), Office of Controller of Examinations. “We cannot provide this document without approval of the academic bodies of the University. Your application is being sent to the Registrar under Section 5 of the RTI Act.”

The complaint was heard by the CIC on 19.9.08. During the hearing before the bench of Chief Information Commissioner Mr Wajahat Habibullah, Dr. Tariq Islam, General Secretary, RTI Group, arguing for disclosure of sought information also cited the decision of CIC dated 23.4.07, we had held, with regard to OMR sheets in cases Complaint No. CIC/WB/C/2006/00223, Appeal Nos. CIC/WB/A/2006/00469 & 00394, & Appeal Nos. CIC/OK/A/2006/00266/00058/00066/00315

In its judgment CIC pointed out that in its ruling in decision of 23.4.07 it has already found that the disclosure of evaluated answer sheets in such cases as the present one is unlikely to render the system unworkable. The CIC observed that “We have in fact held that our decision in case of application of exemption in most examinations will mutatis mutandis apply in the case of an examination conducted with Optical Marking System. But the category in which we have placed the Universities would also fall within the category of exemption from disclosure under the above decision. However, we may, at this stage, clarify that the decision above with regard to Universities was with reference to University examinations and not examinations governing admissions. In such cases, the principle that we have applied to the departmental examinations will also apply in this case since the In the present case no argument has been brought before us to state that such a disclosure would render the system unworkable. The decision of this Commission cited by respondents is in itself in favour of disclosure. The plea taken is only that such disclosures have not yet been approved by the Academic Council. The Academic Council of a University falls squarely under the law insofar as the RTI Act is concerned. The information sought by appellant in the present case is, therefore, not exempt from disclosure, as per our ruling in the Complaint No. CIC/WB/C/2006/00223, Appeal Nos. CIC/WB/A/2006/00469 & 00394 and Appeal Nos. CIC/OK/A/2006/00266/00058/00066/00315 dated 23.4.2007. In this matter since we find that the information is disclosable, we have not discussed the ruling of the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta, in W.P. NO. 22176 of 2007, even though we have quoted from it extensively, since in our view it is not of direct bearing to the present complaint. The appeal is therefore allowed. The information sought in all three categories will be supplied to appellant Ms Anjum within ten working days of receipt of the Decision Notice Reserved in the hearing, this decision is announced in the open Court on 23rd September, 2008. Notice of this decision be given free of cost to the parties.”

According to Dr Tariq Islam, the decision of the CIC in the instant case is an important first step in the opening up of the admission process of the universities in general and AMU in particular which otherwise was shrouded in secrecy. He further added that this decision would usher in an era of transparency and accountability, thereby instilling confidence in the minds of the hard working students and help in further raising the academic standards of AMU.

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