UGC final year exams: SC tells commission to respond to pleas opposing exams by 30 September; next hearing on 31 July
The petition pointed out that various boards, like CBSE and ICSE, have cancelled their remaining board examinations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the University Grants Commission (UGC) to respond to the petitions which have challenged the 6 July directive to all the universities and colleges to conduct final year examinations by 30 September amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several issues have been raised in the petitions, including the plight of lakhs of students in places like Bihar and Assam which are reeling under floods and also that many states have already cancelled the final year examinations of state universities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said that replies be filed by UGC and the Centre on the pleas and posted the matter for hearing on 31 July.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices RS Reddy and MR Shah, that they are only concerned with final year exams and out of over 800 universities in the country, 209 have completed the examinations.
Mehta said that around 390 universities are in the process of conducting the examinations.
Referring to the guidelines issued by the authorities, he said students can appear in the examinations online, offline or mixture of both.
The bench said a consolidated reply be filed on the batch of petitions, including the one filed by Shiv Sena's youth wing ''Yuva Sena'', and posted it for hearing on 31 July.
The counsel appearing for one of the petitioners told the bench that several states have raised objections over conducting exams amid the pandemic.
One of the petitions, filed by 31 final year students, has sought quashing of the 6 July directive by which all the universities or colleges across India have been asked to conduct final year examinations by 30 September.
"It is respectfully submitted that the same UGC had earlier postponed the university examinations scheduled in July, 2020, due to COVID-19 outbreak. However, shockingly, now when the COVID-19 crisis has worsened to a dangerous level, the respondent UGC has decided to conduct all examinations across India, in an utterly arbitrary manner,” said the plea, filed through advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava.
It claimed that earlier mark sheets and degrees were awarded to the students by 31 July.
“Thus, now, this year, due to such belated award of mark sheets/ degrees, the petitioners herein and many other final year students will be deprived from precious opportunities of getting admission in higher courses and/or getting jobs, which will be again violative of Article 14 (equality before law),” it said.
The plea has sought parity while referring that various other boards, like CBSE and ICSE, have cancelled their remaining board examinations due to COVID-19 pandemic and declared results on the basis of past performance or internal assessment of students.
“On one hand … UGC has exempted the students of intermediate years/semester from appearing in the examinations due to COVID-19 outbreak and has decided to promote them on the basis of their previous academic record,” it claimed.
“Whereas, on the other hand …. UGC is forcing the final year students to appear in the examinations, which is utterly discriminatory, having no reasonable nexus with the object sought to be achieved i.e. the safety of students and hence patently violative of Article 14,” the plea has alleged.
It claimed that several states, including Maharashtra, Punjab, Delhi, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, have cancelled the final year examinations of state universities whereas students belonging to other states and universities are “being forced to appear” in the final year exams.
The plea has alleged that authorities have ignored the plight of lakhs of students belonging to Bihar, Assam and north-eastern states, which are presently facing floods, and conducting online or offline examinations in such places is not possible.
It has sought directions to the authorities to not conduct the final year examinations and to declare results on the basis of past performance or internal assessment of the students.
It has also sought directions to the authorities to subsequently provide another chance to improve marks to those willing students, who may be unsatisfied with their score based on past performance or internal assessment.
India's courts have meanwhile become increasingly vocal critics of the Modi government's handling of the crisis.
Vaccination of people between the ages of 18 and 45 is slated to begin in the National Capital tomorrow. Meanwhile, Goa extended its curbs, and Haryana and Odisha announced their own lockdowns to stop spread of COVID-19
Earlier in the day, the announcement was made by the Madhya Pradesh Higher Education Department on its official Twitter handle