ICSI can not charge fee higher than prescribed under RTI Rules to supply certified copy of answer sheet where application made under RTI Act – Supreme Court
ABCAUS Case Law Citation:
ABCAUS 2894 (2019) (04) SC
The instant appeal was filed by the Institute of Companies Secretaries of India (ICSI) against the order of the High Court setting aside Guideline No.3 notified by the statutory council of ICSI and directed it to charge fee prescribed as per Rule 4 of the Right to Information (Regulation of Fee and Cost) Rules, 2005.
The respondent student had appeared in the final examination for Company Secretary conducted by the ICSI in December, 2012. On being unsuccessful in qualifying the examination, the respondent made an application under the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI Act) for inspection of his answer sheets and subsequently, sought certified copies of the same from the ICSI.
The ICSI demanded Rs. 500/ per answer sheet payable for supply of certified copy(ies) of answer book(s) and Rs. 450/ per answer book for providing inspection thereof respectively as per Guideline No.3 notified by the statutory council of the Institute.
Being aggrieved by the demand made by the appellant, the respondent student preferred a Writ Petition before the High Court wherein the Learned Single Judge dismissed the petition. However, the Division Bench quashed Guideline No.3 notified by the Institute 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.
Aggrieved, the ICSI had approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that the ICSU is governed by the provisions of Company Secretaries Act, 1980 and under Sections 15, 15A and 17, the Examination Committee of the statutory Council had framed Guideline No. 3 providing an avenue to the candidates to either inspect their answer scripts or seek certified copies of the same on payment of the stipulated fees. Guideline no.3 stipulated payment of Rs. 500 for obtaining certified copies and Rs. 450 for seeking inspection of the same.
It was also observed that in contradiction to the said guidelines, Rule 4 of the said Regulations stipulates a fee of rupees two for each page (in A4 or A3 size paper) created or copied and for inspection of records, no fee for the first hour; and a fee of rupees five for each subsequent hour (or fraction thereof) to be charged.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that guidelines of the ICSI, framed by its statutory council, were to govern the modalities of its day to day concerns and to effectuate smooth functioning of its responsibilities under the Company Secretaries Act, 1980.
However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court said that the said guideline does not override the said Rule 4 of 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.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court opined that 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 Guidelines of the appellant, then the ICSI is at liberty to charge the candidates as per its guidelines.
The Institute submitted that the quashing of its Guideline no.3 is affecting not only the appellant but also the candidates.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court, taking into consideration the fact that such quashing was done despite no prayer being made to that effect on behest of the respondent, held that quashing of Guideline No.3 was unwarranted and to this limited extent allowed the appeal.