Disclosure of Answer Script of Competitive Examinations Detrimental: CIC
The Central Information Commission (CIC) in Potla Sai Sushma vs Institute of Chartered Accountant held that for a specialized exam disclosure of the question papers and answer key would defeat the purpose of conducting such examination.
The Commission held:
…because of the specialized nature of examination, the numbers of multiple choice questions are limited. The candidates are not allowed to copy either the questions or the answers on the rough sheets provided which are collected back after the exam. Disclosure of any information which diminishes the rigour of the screening process of selection and/or training of financial experts will naturally have a direct detrimental impact on the quality of CAs practising in the country. Thus disclosure of information as sought by the appellant in these cases will open floodgates for all similarly situated persons to secure information which would be prejudicial to the larger public interest. Therefore, in a specialized, multiple choice examination, the disclosure of question papers would defeat the larger purpose of such examination. Hence the information cannot be disclosed.
The appellant had filed an application seeking information on the question-and-answer key for the Chartered Accountancy (CA) examination held in May 2019.
Initially she petitioned before the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO).
25.06.2021, the CPIO responded that he cannot furnish the details since the request it is beyond the scope of section 8(1)(d) of RTI Act which says:
information including commercial confidence, trade secrets or intellectual property, the disclosure of which would harm the competitive position of a third party, unless the competent authority is satisfied that larger public interest warrants the disclosure of such information.
Aggrieved by the reply of the CPIO, she filed an appeal before the First Appellant Authority (FAA). The FAA confirmed the CPIO’s reply
Further aggrieved, she appealed to the Commission and submitted that the examination contained 30% multiple choice questions (MCQs) and 70% descriptive questions. Therefore, she claims that she is entitled to access the MCQs question as well as answer key.
The FAA in its orders had explained that MCQ papers are framed by subject-experts and the Institute has a limited question bank and therefore, exemption u/s 8(1)(d) of the RTI Act was claimed by the FAA.
CPIO clarified the rationale behind non-disclosure of the such answer-script to any candidate is that the MCQ section of the examination contains questions to check the candidates conceptual and analytical memory, which differs from one to another. If those question are made available to the public and published the possibility of the following years aspirants becoming aware of the questions is most likely and therefore inadvisable.
In summary, the Commission, examining the records of the case upheld the decision of FAA stating that CA examination is a highly specialized and competitive examination wherein the candidates are asked to deposit back even the rough pages they have used during the examination, and disclosure of question-and-answer key would invalidate the selection process and have a consequential effect on the training of financial experts practising in the country.
Rasmita Behera | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL