Civil services exams cannot be postponed over COVID-19: UPSC tells Supreme Court

The civil services exam was rescheduled to 4 October due to the coronavirus pandemic. At least, 20 civil services aspirants had approached the Supreme Court, seeking for the crucial exam to be deferred by two to three months.

Press Trust of India September 28, 2020 21:47:22 IST
Civil services exams cannot be postponed over COVID-19: UPSC tells Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India. PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday asked the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to apprise it by Tuesday about the "logistical arrangements" made for conducting civil services preliminary exams on 4 October in view of the alarming spurt of COVID-19 cases as also floods in various parts of the country.

The (UPSC) opposed in the top Court a plea seeking postponement of the prelims amid the pandemic and the floods.

In a hearing conducted through video conferencing, a bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari asked the UPSC to file an affidavit by Tuesday. The bench will take up the plea for hearing on Wednesday

"You file your affidavit tomorrow. Whatever logistical arrangements are there, you put them in a short affidavit," the bench ordered.

The UPSC counsel said the Civil Services exams were fixed on 31 May and it was impossible to defer them again.

"This is an examination for the core services of the Government of India. Several candidates have already downloaded their e-admit card for the examination," the UPSC lawyer said.

The bench asked the UPSC to serve the copy of its affidavit to lawyer Alakh Alok Shrivastava, the counsel for the petitioner Vasireddy Govardhana Sai Prakash and 19 other aspirants who have filed the petition for the postponement of the examination.

The top court had said earlier that it would take up on 28 September a plea seeking postponement of civil services 2020 examinations in view of alarming spurt of COVID-19 pandemic and floods.

It had granted the liberty to the petitioner to serve an advance copy of the petition on the Standing Counsel for the UPSC as well as on the Standing Counsel for the Central Agency representing Union of India through email/online.

The petitioners have sought postponement of the Civil Services Exam for two to three months, so that the flood/incessant rains recede and the COVID-19 curve flattens.

The plea submitted that the UPSC's decision to conduct the exam in accordance with the impugned Revised Calendar, violates the rights of the petitioners and those similarly situated, under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution to practice their chosen profession/ occupation of serving the public.

According to the plea, the 7-hour offline exam will be taken by approximately six lakh aspirants at test centres in 72 cities.

Conducting the aforesaid examination across India at such perilous time, is nothing else but putting lives of lakhs of young students (including Petitioners herein) at utmost risk and danger of disease and death. Also, the natural calamities like flood, incessant rain, landslides etc are likely to directly affect the life and health of the Petitioners and many similarly situated students.

Hence, the impugned Revised Calendar is utterly arbitrary, unreasonable, whimsical and patently violative of the Right to Health and Right to Life of the Petitioners herein and lakhs of similarly situated students, under Article 21, the petition stated.

The plea said the Civil Services Exam, being a recruitment examination, is altogether different from an academic examination and in the event of its postponement, there would not be any question of delay or loss of any academic session.

It said that due to non-availability of exam centres in their home towns, many aspirants are facing unimaginable hardship due to non-availability of or unsafe health conditions in, the PG accommodation/ hostels/ hotels etc, where they are forced to stay with their family members, once they are travelling to an outstation Examination Centre.

It is pertinent to mention here that despite alarming spurt in COVID-19 pandemic, UPSC did not increase the number of Examination Centres, resulting into a situation where many candidates from rural areas will be forced to travel for around 300-400 Kilometres, in order to reach to their Examination Centres and there will be high probability of such aspirants, getting affected while using public transportation for such travel, the plea said.

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