Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) have been evading CAT answer key requests and other RTI requests related to CAT evaluation process in the name of RTI exemption clauses. But the escape route that IIMs have taken so far does not stand legal scrutiny as the Supreme Court restricts public exam authorities taking shield of testing partners to evade answer sheet release. In its order relating to answer key release, SC order says that “no exemption under section 8 is available in respect of evaluated answer books” and hence “the examining bodies will have to permit inspection sought by the examinees.”
Careers360 has earlier reported how IIMs have been violating Supreme Court order that binds public exam authorities to release answer sheet or response sheet if requested by examinees.
We further dig into the Supreme Court order to bring clarity on why the secrecy that IIMs maintain in the name of RTI exemption is not legally valid.
What IIMs say is illegal
On requests for Common Admission Tests (CAT) answer keys from CAT examinees, IIMs have maintained that answer key release is not required as they already follow standard testing and evaluation practices.
Further, they cite commercial interest of their testing partners as the reason behind not making the mechanical evaluation process public.
Another argument that they present is that the announcement of answer keys/response sheet and raw scores will create confusion among test takers.
None of the above logics stand in the face of the SC order in this regard.
Interest of third party (testing partner) can not hinder ‘right to information’
The Supreme Court order says that examining body is the ‘principal’ and the examiner is the agent entrusted with the work, that is, evaluation of answer-books. The order further says that once the paper is evaluated, it again becomes the record held by exam authorities and not the examiner. Therefore, third party interest can’t be cited as a reason under RTI Act for not sharing answer sheets by public exam authorities.
“Once the examiner has evaluated the answer books, he ceases to have any interest in the evaluation done by him. He does not have any copyright or proprietary right, or confidentiality right in regard to the evaluation. Therefore it cannot be said that the examining body holds the evaluated answer books in a fiduciary relationship, qua the examiner,” the SC order reads.
In complete violation of the SC order, an IIM evaded a specific reply to a CAT taker who requested information on his CAT performance, through an RTI application. Taking shield of its testing agency, the concerned IIM denied the information saying the details if divulged “will affect their (testing agency) commercial interest and thus barred from disclosure.”
Careers360 brings SC order excerpts which define fiduciary relationship (relationship of trust):
“Fiduciary relationship: On a careful examination we find that this contention has no merit. The examining body entrusts the answer-books to an examiner for evaluation and pays the examiner for his expert service. The work of evaluation and marking the answer-book is an assignment given by the examining body to the examiner which he discharges for a consideration. Sometimes, an examiner may assess answer-books, in the course of his employment, as a part of his duties without any specific or special remuneration. In other words, the examining body is the ‘principal’ and the examiner is the agent entrusted with the work, that is, evaluation of answer-books. Therefore, the examining body is not in the position of a fiduciary with reference to the examiner. On the other hand, when an answer-book is entrusted to the examiner for the purpose of evaluation, for the period the answer-book is in his custody and to the extent of the discharge of his functions relating to evaluation, the examiner is in the position of a fiduciary with reference to the examining body and he is barred from disclosing the contents of the answer-book or the result of evaluation of the answer-book to anyone other than the examining body. Once the examiner has evaluated the answer books, he ceases to have any interest in the evaluation done by him. He does not have any copyright or proprietary right, or confidentiality right in regard to the evaluation. Therefore it cannot be said that the examining body holds the evaluated answer books in a fiduciary relationship, qua the examiner.”
“We, therefore, hold that an examining body does not hold the evaluated answer-books in a fiduciary relationship. Not being information available to an examining body in its fiduciary relationship, the exemption under section 8(1)(e) is not available to the examining bodies with reference to evaluated answer-books. As no other exemption under section 8 is available in respect of evaluated answer books, the examining bodies will have to permit inspection sought by the examinees.”
Thus, the Supreme Court in its crucial order maintained that the response sheet, which is evaluated by exam authorities, is a record of information which essentially falls under the purview of RTI. The IIMs, however, have not only been refusing to share the evaluated response sheet but also denying access to answer keys of its question papers, which according to the Supreme Court is a piece of information that can be shared with candidates.
Will CAT take a step forward for transparency?
Ever since CAT turned computer-based, the question papers are no more accessible to the candidates or others, after the test. This often raises questions regarding the credibility of evaluation and scoring process as the test takers cannot revisit questions and estimate their score.
Till 2013, the test was conducted in a window of 20 days, 2 slots each day. This meant, there were 40 question papers, which might not have been feasible for the authorities to upload. However, in 2014 the test was conducted in 2 days with 4 slots and the window was further reduced to a single day with 2 slots in 2015. With a shorter window, the IIMs could have conveniently shared or uploaded the question papers which would have only helped the test takers. It would have also helped the future MBA aspirants to know the types of questions to expect, important topics, difficulty level etc. Despite having a shorter window and lesser number of slots, IIMs are still not open about making the question papers public.
Making the question papers available is a standard practice which is followed by many high profile competitive exams like JEE, NEET, UPSC etc. Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which conducts the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) for the engineering admission to IITs, NITs, IIITs and GFTIs makes question papers available not only for offline paper but also for the test conducted in computer-based mode. Further, answer keys for these exams are also released after the exam. This makes the test process completely transparent and helps strengthen its credibility.
Test conducting authorities like CBSE (Joint Entrance Exam) and XLRI Jamshedpur (XAT) make individual answer sheet of the candidates accessible to them on their individual login ID, making the process further transparent after releasing question paper and answer keys. For CAT, IIMs deny any such access to candidates to go back and see what they have marked in their answer sheet.
Similarly, CAT takers also look for question papers and answer keys for more transparency in the system. Also, the answer keys help test takers to estimate their score and help them plan admission at a suitable B-School.
Being a public examination body and elite league of management institutions, IIMs are expected to lead ways for transparency.
If IIMs release all three above documents, question paper, answer key and answer sheet, then the major issues related to lack of transparency can be addressed. The need to release the important documents are realised even more when controversies like securing 55 percentile in CAT despite ‘no’ attempts ensue.
Will IIMs come straight on this? Will they take a step forward towards greater transparency in their testing and evaluation system?