Students have the right to see marked exam papers

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In a progressive judgment in University of Calcutta v Pritam Rooj, Calcutta High Court held that examinees undertaking public examinations are entitled to gain access to their answer scripts.

The issues before the court were: (i) Whether an answer script written by an examinee in the course of a public examination is included within the definition of “information” under the Right to Information Act, and (ii) If the answer to the first question is in the affirmative, whether an examinee is entitled to access such information. The court thus had to decide whether access to these scripts could be withheld by a public authority on any valid ground under the act.

Exam_paperThe court maintained that an assessed answer script of an examinee writing a public examination conducted by public bodies like the West Bengal Board of Secondary Education, the Central Board of Secondary Education or universities, which are created by statutes, does come within the purview of information as defined in the act. Further, the act does not contemplate that information as defined in section 2(f) is confined to that mentioned in section 4 of the act, or that information other than that encompassed in section 4 need not be furnished to a citizen on request.

Apart from it being a material and thus included within the exhaustive range of the definition, a marked answer script is also a document, a paper and a record. Also, an opinion is included within the definition of information. The public law element is omnipresent in all stages of the process of public exams, and thus access cannot be denied on the ground that answer scripts are not within the public domain and would not serve any public interest.

The judgment is significant as students will now have the right to view their answer scripts if they are dissatisfied with their marks in major examinations.

The update of court judgments is compiled by Bhasin & Co, Advocates, a corporate law firm based in New Delhi. The authors can be contacted at lbhasin@bhasinco.in, lbhasin@vsnl.com or lbhasin@gmail.com. Readers should not act on the basis of this information without seeking professional legal advice.