Imphal, Apr 29:
In a landmark judgement, the Chief Information Commissioner of Manipur Information Commission (MIC), Oinam Sunil Singh has directed the SPIO of Manipur Public Service Commission (MPSC) to allow three candidates of the MCSCC main- examination-2016, which was held in the year 2022, to inspect /examine all of their respective answer sheets.
The three candidates, Begum Khaleda Bogie, Nawaj Sharif, and Kh. Robindro Singh, filed their respective RTI applications on November 24, 2022, January 12, 2022, and December 8, 2022, to the SPIO/Deputy Secretary, MPSC, seeking information in connection with the Manipur Civil Services Combine Competitive (Mains) Examination 2016 held in the year 2022 from May 26th, 2022, to June 1st, 2022, under Section 6 (1) of the RTI Act, 2005.
The SPIO (MPSC) had replied to the appellants, stating that the MPSC has made a policy decision not to furnish answer scripts mechanically for descriptive-type papers under normal circumstances. Being aggrieved by the response of the public authority, the above appellants filed their respective first appeals to the Secretary, MPSC, under Section 19 (1) of the RTI Act, 2005.
Lastly, the appellants filed their respective second appeals to the MIC under Section 19(3) of the RTI Act, 2005.
On the day of hearing on 23.3.2023, the SPIO (MPSC) is directed to furnish respective written objections or statements of the present appeal cases to the Commission, with copies endorsed to the present appellants.
On the day of hearing, 30.3.2023, the SPIO (MPSC) handed over the respective written statements to the appellants. The appellants also acknowledged receipt of the same. The appellants further prayed to the Commission to grant some more days for filing written statements.
Accordingly, the Commission advised the appellants to file their written statements within 10 days with a copy endorsed to the SPIO (MPSC) without fail.
On the day of the last hearing, on April 19, 2023, the SPIO (MPSC) submitted three sets of rejoinders and counter affidavits to the statements and rejoinders of the three appellants filed on April 4, 2023, and April 5, 2023 and 19.4.2023 to the Commission.
The appellants, however, refuted the reply of the SPIO (MPSC), which stated that the answer sheet cannot be provided in normal circumstances. They asked the public authority under what circumstances it could be provided. The appellant also strongly opposed the comparison of MPSC with UPSC. They argued that the MPSC is conducting the said examination within the limited jurisdiction of Manipur, whereas UPSC conducts examinations on an all-India basis for a huge number of candidates at the highest standard. It is wrong to compare horizontal institutions like MPSC with vertical institutions like UPSC. As such, the appellants prayed the Commission to issue a direction to the MPSC to allow inspection of their respective written answer scripts even though the public authority has denied them the right to collect certified copies of their answer scripts.
The SPIO (MPSC) argued that the inspection of answer scripts and books was not requested in their original RTI applications. He stated that a new amendment to their earlier prayers may have changed in the nature and structure of the RTI applications, and it is unacceptable and impermissible under the Act. Further, MPSC submitted that the policy decisions of the Manipur Public Service Commission are now challenged by some petitioners at the Manipur High Court. And the same writ petitions filed by different petitioners are still pending in the Hon’ble Manipur High Court. As such, MPSC submitted that it is res-jubjudice as envisaged under Section 10 of the Civil Procedure Code.
Upon hearing from both parties and perusal of the entire case records in the files, the Commission observes that the aim and objective of the RTI Act 2005 are to bring transparency and accountability for good governance in the state. The Commission here wants to put on record that the highest form of transparency in conducting examinations relating to recruitment in Manipur is maintained by the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur. Recently, under this RTI Act, 2005, the Registrar (Judicial), Hon’ble High Court of Manipur, has provided certified copies of the answer sheet of the main examination for appointment to Manipur Judicial Services, Grade I, as asked for by one applicant in an RTI application. This shows that there is transparency in the appointment of judges in the examination conducted by the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur. As the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur has set the trend, the MPSC is expected to follow it. As such, the public authority of the MPSC shall give up its old mind set of the erstwhile British rule in India. This 21st century is an era of information. The Commission also observes that the main issue facing the MPSC is a lack of public trust. The MPSC is expected to work towards regaining the public’s trust besides conducting its examinations in a professional manner. And allowing inspection of answer scripts will be a step towards winning public trust. The Commission further observes that the interpretation of the word ‘information” also includes inspection of records. There is no question of additional information, as claimed by the public authority. On further examination, as alleged by the public authority, there is no question of res-jubjudice in providing the sought information, as there is no specific direction given by the Hon’ble High Court of Manipur to bar the information.
In a number of instances, the public authority of the MPSC has allowed inspection of records or documents as asked by the applicants or appellants. In an earlier RTI case, the MPSC had allowed the MPSC to inspect the answer scripts in the Manipur Combined Engineering Services (Written) Examination, 2013 for recruitment of Assistant Engineers held on 2013 as asked by an RTI applicant. Accordingly, the Commission directs the SPIO (MPSC) to allow the three appellants to inspect and examine all the answer sheets for the MCSCC mains examination, held in the year 2022 (i.e., from May 26th, 2022, to June 11th, 2022) within 4 weeks from the commission decision dated 28.04.2023.