On Friday,the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing on a batch of petitions till August 10 which challenged the UGC direction to hold final year exams.
Directions by the bench headed byJustice Ashok Bhushan were given that the parties should complete the pleadings by that time. By August 7, Affidavits are to be filed and a day after August 7, the rejoinders to be filed.
Justice Ashok Bhushan said that no interim order can be passed at this stage when AdvocateAlakhAlok Srivastava, appearing for 31 students, pressed for a stay of the notification in the light of the ‘deadly floods’ in Assam and Bihar.
Submissions were made by Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta that students should not be under the impression that the Court has stayed the notification and continue to prepare for the examinations.
The SG said, “Nobody should be under the impression that because this matter is pending here, SC has stayed the exams. Students should continue to prepare.”
Directions to the States of Maharashtra and Government of NCT of Delhi to place on record the notifications of State Disaster Management Authorities were also posted.
Appearing in the petition filed by Yash Dubey,Senior Advocate Dr AM Sighvi, submitted that the UGC took the decision without “any application of mind” and said “The reply by UGC (for conduct of exams) appears to be filed absolutely without application of mind. Coronavirus cases in India are spiralling.”
He pointed that many Universities lacked the basic online infrastructure to conduct examinations and submitted that “The new guidelines make it tighter for the students to appear for exams. The optional exam is very problematic. It will create chaos if you allow someone to appear at a later stage.”
Highlighting that Bar Council of India has postponed the All India Bar Examination, “Heavens will not fall if exams are cancelled”, he submitted.
Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah considered a batch of petitions filed by Praneeth K & 30 other petitioners, YuvaSena led by Aditya Thackarey, Yash Dubey and others.
A counter-affidavit by UGC in the matter stated that the direction was issued in the interest of “academic future of students”, and health and safety aspects were taken into consideration. It stated that the deadline of September 30 was set on the basis of inputs from experts, and argued that the scope of judicial review over academic decisions was very minimal. It expressed out that the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Human Resources Development permit the conduct of exams.
A rejoinder filed by the 31 student-petitioners to the UGC’s affidavit stated that it “has been showing apathy towards the students“ and contended that UGC has failed to take into account many aspects like rising COVID19 cases, floods in Assam, lack of connectivity in J&K, lockdown in many parts etc.
The petitioners suggested thatinstead of holding final semester exams, aggregate of previous semester exams be awarded to students. They pointed out that a final year/ final term student has already completed 85-90% of the course. This will enable many students to secure jobs or admission in foreign universities at the earliest. The award of degrees to final year students on the basis of their internal assessment/ past-performance, by July 31, will also enable many of them to get a job and financially assist their families amid COVID19.
The fact that no real or virtual classes have been conducted during last 4-5 months in most of the colleges across India has been overlooked by UGC and conducting final exams without classes is unjust, stated the students’ rejoinder.
Further, the students stated that only 1/3rd of the Indian population has access to the internet and conducting exams via online mode will deprive 2/3rd students from equal opportunity to appear in exams.