Thanks to Right to Information Act, now students can get certified copies at nominal cost !!
Today, I have a great news to share with you all, especially for the students of Professional courses viz., CA - Chartered Accountancy, CS - Company Secretary, CMA - Cost and Management Accountancy and also useful for other students.
On 11th of April, 2019 The Supreme Court of India under the Coram, HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE N.V. RAMANA and HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE S. ABDUL NAZEER directed THE INSTITUTE OF COMPANIES SECRETARIES OF INDIA to provide Certified Copies to the applicant as per the fee prescribed under Rule 4 of the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005.
In this article, I would like to throw some light on the Provisions framed by the Council of Professional bodies to obtain certified copies, Provisions of the RTI Act, 2005 and how to make an RTI application at your door steps without visiting any office & my experience with ICAI on filing RTI Applications.
Having filed more than FORTY ('40) applications with The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) under the Right to Information Act, 2005 I'm the eligible one to write on this matter.
What is the Right to Information Act, 2005?
RTI Act is the most revolutionary act for setting out the practical regime of Right to Information; the 3 Key building pillars behind the act are Responsibility, Transparency and Accountability, which empowered Indian Citizens to secure access to information directly from the Government/Public Authorities. Under the RTI Act, it is mandatory for the Public Authorities to provide information sought by the citizens within 30 days, thereafter a penalty of Rs.250 per day subject to a maximum of Rs.25,000 will levied as per sec 20(1) of the RTI Act, 2005 and disciplinary action may be taken on the Public Information Officer.
To which public authorities we can file application under the RTI Act, 2005?
An applicant who desires to obtain information under the RTI Act,2005 can make a request through RTI online portal to the Central Ministries/Departments/Central Public Authorities, and for State Ministries/Departments/ State Public Authorities physically on a plain paper, by hand or registered post along with the prescribed fee.
Detailed procedure on filing the RTI Application at Online portal will be discussed in the later part of this article. As on date total 2,237 Central Ministries/Departments/Central Public Authorities are available to make RTI application online, you can view the detailed list of Central Ministries/Departments/Central Public Authorities from below link:
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), The Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI), and The Institute of Cost Accountants of India (ICMA) are available under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA).
What is a Certified Copy and what does regulations of Professional body say's?
Certified Copy is an evaluated answer book / answer scripts of the student, valuated by the evaluator appointed by the Examination body. The Examination body will send the scanned copy of the answer sheet on receipt of application along with the prescribed fee from the student within the prescribed time limit.
Below is the list of Time limit for making an application and fee of the professional bodies for certified copies as per the procedures and regulations laid down by the respective Institute:
Professional (Examination) Body
Fee for Certified Copy
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI)
Rs. 500 per subject/answer sheet
The Institute of Companies Secretaries of India (ICSI)
Rs. 500 per subject/answer sheet
The Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of India (ICMAI)
Rs. 500 per subject/answer sheet
The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) - As per the announcement dated 24th of January, 2019 Certified Copies will be provided on receipt of the application within 30 days from the date of declaration of the results in prescribed format along with the fee of Rs. 500 per paper at all the levels of CA viz., CPT, Foundation, IPCC, Intermediate Final and before providing certified copies verification will be carried out on suo moto basis within the scope of Regulation 39(4)(i) of Chartered Accountants Regulations, 1988
The Institute of Companies Secretaries of India (ICSI) - ICSI laid down the Guideline No.3 of the Guideline, Rules Procedures for and of Providing Inspection and/or supply of Certified Copy(ies) of Answer Books to students, framed by the Examination Committee of The Institute of Companies Secretaries of India's statutory council at its 148th Meeting held on 14th of August, 2018 and before providing certified copies verification will be carried out on suo moto basis within the scope of Regulation 46(2) The Company Secretaries Regulations, 1982
The Institute of Cost and Management Accountants of India (ICMAI) - As per the announcement dated 23rd of August, 2015 Certified Copies will be provided on receipt of application within 21days from the date of declaration of results in prescribed format along with the fee of Rs. 500 per paper at all the levels of CMA Course. And before providing certified copies verification will be carried out on suo moto basis within the scope of Regulation 41(5) of The Cost and Works Accountants Regulations, 1959
What does the Right to Information Act, 2005 says about the FEE for Certified Copies and Inspection of answer scripts:
Rule 4, The Right to Information (Regulation of Fees and Cost) Rules, 2005 stipulates,
'4. For providing the information under sub-section (1) of section 7, the fee shall be charged by way of cash against proper receipt or by demand draft or bankers cheque or Indian Postal Order payable to the Accounts Officer of the public authority at the following rates:-
(a) Rupees two for each page (in A4 or A3 size paper) created or copied;
(b) Actual charge or cost price of a copy in larger size paper;
(c) Actual cost or price for samples or models; and
(d) for inspection of records, no fee for the first hour; and a fee of rupees five for each subsequent hour (or fraction thereof).' (Emphasis supplied)
What does the Supreme Court Judgement says?
The supreme court under the justice of HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE N.V. RAMANA and HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE S. ABDUL NAZEER, in the recent judgement dated 11th of April of THE INSTITUTE OF COMPANIES SECRETARIES OF INDIA VERSUS PARAS JAIN, commented that 'It is clear that the avenue for seeking certified copies as well as inspection is provided both in the Right to Information Act as well as the statutory guidelines of the ICSI'
No doubt the ICAI, ICSI and ICMAI are not restricting the students to access certified copies, and it is fundamental right of every student and brings out transparency and accountability of the Examination conducting body.
But the main issue is with the HUGE AMOUNT of FEES charged by the institute for providing certified copies and Inspection of certified copies.
Say, a student of CA FINAL sought certified copies of all the Eight papers then he has to pay total fee of Rs.4,000/- (four thousand rupees) (Rs. 500 per answer script).
Whereas the same can be sought under the RTI Act, 2005 with a total fee of Rs.400 (four hundred rupees) assuming student has written answer 25 pages in each of the paper.
YES!!! You heard it correctly RS. 400 only and Inspection of certified copies can be done at FREE OF COST.
The SC said 'The rules / procedures prescribed by the Institute may provide for much more than what is provided under the Right to Information Act, such as re-evaluation, re-totalling of answer scripts.'
At the same time The Right to Information (Regulation of Fees and Cost) Rules, 2005 which also entitles the candidates to seek inspection and certified copies of their answer scripts.
Argument made by ICSI in front of SC:
The learned counsel appearing on behalf of the ICSI argued that it is undisputed that the Right to Information Act, 2005 is applicable to the ICSI. However, in light of specific guidelines formulated under the Company Secretaries Act, 1980, the same should be applicable and not that which is provided under the Right to Information Act. He further contends that owing to quashing of Guideline No. 3 by the Division Bench of Delhi High Court, the ICSI cannot collect any amount of fee except the one prescribed under Rule 4, The Right to Information (Regulation of Fees and Cost) Rules, 2005 which adds to financial strain on the ICSI.
'In our opinion, the existence of these two avenues is not mutually exclusive and it is up to the candidate to choose either of the routes. Thus, if a candidate seeks information under the provisions of the Right to Information, then payment has to be sought under the Rules therein, however, if the information is sought under the rules / a procedure prescribed by the Institute, then the Institute is at liberty to charge the candidates as per its statutory provisions laid by the council of the Institute.'
AND THE DELHI HIGH COURT DIVISION BENCH ORDER DATED 22.04.2014 QUASHED GUIDELINE NO.3 NOTIFIED BY THE ICSI AND HELD THAT THE ICSI CAN CHARGE ONLY THE PRESCRIBED FEE UNDER RULE 4, THE RIGHT TO INFORMATION (REGULATION OF FEES AND COST) RULES, 2005 FOR PROVIDING CERTIFIED COPIES, IF THE SAME IS SOUGHT UNDER RTI ACT,2005.
Other Supreme Court Judgements on CBSE, ICAI, ICSI for your reference:
1. CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6454/2011
CBSE Vs. Aditya Bandopadhyay & Ors.
Outcome: SC has made it clear that students can inspect their answer sheet under RTI Act
2. CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7571 OF 2011
THE INSTITUTE OF CHARTERED ACCOUNTANTS OF INDIA Vs. SHAUNAK H SAYTA & ORS
ICAI submitted that they cannot disclose Model Solutions issued to the evaluator and marks moderation procedure and Supreme Court Punched ICAI by saying 'Examining bodies like ICAI should change their old mindsets and tune them to the new regime of disclosure of maximum information.
3. CIVIL APPEAL NO. 5665/2014
THE INSTITUTE OF COMPANIES SECRETARIES OF INDIA Vs. PARAS JAIN
SC set aside Guideline No.3 notified by the statutory council of appellant Institute of Companies Secretaries of India and directed it to charge fee prescribed as per Rule 4 of the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005.
The argument made by the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the ICSI, that if LOW FEE is charged for certified copies, many number of students will turn up for Certified copies under the RTI Act, 2005 and its adds work burden on the employees and also adds to financial strain on the ICSI.
I strongly condemn the argument made by ICSI, many students will work out day and night for the Examination Preparation and there few cases came out on social media that where evaluators valuing the answer sheets during their daily commute & valued by article assistants.
No doubt, that the three professional bodies set out robust system in conducting and evaluating answer sheets but there are few unavoidable cases, and this can be overcome by bringing more transparency and accountability by providing evaluated answer scripts to each and every student.
Not only about transparency in the evaluation system, but every student will get an opportunity for self-analysis and can perform better in forthcoming examinations.
In the last five years, Institute has INCREASED Examination fees, Course registration fees and Membership fees and also stepped towards DIGITAL VALUATION of answer scripts. So, In my opinion there will be no hurdle and work burden on the employees of the Institute, as papers will be evaluated digitally and not adds any financial strain on the Institute.
How to file an RTI Application with the Institu0 te for Certified Copies:
Filing application under the RTI Act, 2005 at RTI ONLINE PLATFORM is the simple task and it will be a cakewalk, here are the steps to file RTI Application Online:
1. Visit the website https://rtionline.gov.in and SIGN UP by clicking 'SIGN UP HERE' option, if you are a first time user.
2. After successful creation of the account, login with your credentials.
3. After login, click on 'SUBMIT REQUEST' to file RTI application.
4. After reading all guidelines, you need to put tick mark on 'I HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD THE ABOVE GUIDELINES' check box and click on submit.
5. Select the Department or Ministry and your Personal details like name, address, phone no. will auto populated, if you wish you can alter the same.
6. Mention the information that you want from concerned department in the field provided. In our case Name, Roll Number, SRN, Required Papers etc., and also state the references of above Supreme Court judgements.
7. Pay the application fee of Rs. 10/- or enter BPL card number and upload the pdf of the same if you are eligible and wish to claim exemption from paying the fee.
8. On submission of the application, a unique registration number would be generated, which can be used for future reference.
9. Within 30 days, applicant will get the information sought from the concerned department.
My experience with ICAI on making the Application under RTI Act, 2005:
As on date, I have filed more than FORTY applications under the Right to Information Act, 2005 with the ICAI seeking various information relating to admissions, examinations, funds, CABF etc., and thanks to the CPIO of ICAI, Mr. Dinesh Kumar Mishra and his team, always he was provided with the satisfactory information within the stipulated time limit.
My first application with ICAI was on the Certified Copies itself, I had filed an application on 8th of august, 2017 and the same was disposed on 5th of September, 2017 by replying Certified Copies of answer books can be obtain by the procedure laid down by ICAI in terms of the provisions of Regulation 39(4) of the Chartered Accountants Regulations, 1988.
Thereafter, I didn't go for any appeal. Now, I have SC judgement where they have specifically pointed out that the application for the certified copies can be made as per the RTI Act, 2005 or as per the procedure laid down by the Institute at his will.
Soon, I'm going to file an application under RTI Act, 2005 in this regard and look forward for ICAI positive reply. Whatever the outcome I'll keep you all updated.
I wish and Hope, the professional bodies will consider this and make available Certified Copies at free of cost or nominal cost. If not, always we have a weapon - RTI Act, 2005, where we can get certified copies at a nominal cost of Rs.400-500/-
Thanks for the reading and look forward for your feedback.