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Six months after the Supreme Court (SC) upheld that answer sheets should be made available to students under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, the state board has finally ‘proposed’ to provide students with photocopies of answer sheets. Until now, the board only allows student to verify answer sheets for a fee of 500 per subject. But that’s not without reason. The board officials have recently come under fire for refusing to provide answer sheets to a HSC student from Thane despite the Supreme Court (SC) order. Officials at Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education (MSBSHSE), responsible for conducting state board exams, said that they have requested higher officials to ‘allow’ them to provide photocopies to students.
“The SC order states that students should be allowed to see answer sheets which we are allowing, it doesn’t make specific mention of a photocopy. Students can come here to see their answer sheets after paying a fee. However, if we are to provide photocopies, we have written to higher officials to clarify and give us permission to do so. We hope to get permission soon," said MSBSHSE chief Sarjerao Jadhav. He added that if permission was granted, then, students writing their board exams this year onwards shall be able to get photocopies of the answer sheets. However, students will only be given photocopies of answer sheets within six months of declaration of results.“That’s because of storage capacity. Once the results are declared, we store answer sheets for six months. The volume is huge and after six months, other exams are conducted and the racks are emptied and answer sheets destroyed to accommodate new stack of papers. Hence, after applying within six months, we can provide copies," he said. On January 7, mother of the Thane-based student of standard XII had asked for certified copies of three answer sheets. However, the request was turned down and instead, the parent and student were only allowed to see then answer sheets at board office under CCTV surveillance after paying a fee of Rs 500 for 10 minutes of viewing the paper. When asked about the conditions, Jadhav said that a standard fee as prescribed by rules is charged from students and sufficient time is provided. “Three students had applied for copies and all three were allowed to see the answer sheets,’’ he clarified. While MSBSHSE officials say it is not necessary for them to provide photocopies and just seeing answer sheets is enough, state information commissioner Vijay Kuvalekar said disclosure under RTI entitled students to get photocopies too and not merely seeing answer sheets. Divya Jyoti Jaipuriar, a Jaipur-based advocate from Human Rights Law Network, who had successfully argued the SC case on disclosure of answer sheets, too said that boards are using the term ‘disclosure’ to suit their own needs. “If students are allowed to see their answer sheets, it is already disclosure. Hence there is no reason why students shouldn’t get a photocopy of their answer sheets. Boards must welcome such transparency," he said.
Courtesy: DNA India
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