The Supreme Court, gathered today to conduct the hearing on pleas challenging the final-year examination guidelines issued by the (UGC) University Grants Commission. The matter will now be heard on August 18.
The case was heard by Supreme Court Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah.
Advocate Alakh Alok argued for the students to cancel the examinations in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
Abhishek Singhvi pointed out that there is a great disparity of students that would be appearing for the examination. Many students would have to travel for the exams, which poses a direct risk in these situations of the pandemic.
Adding further, Singhvi pointed out that classes were disrupted – so how can exams be conducted? ‘UGC guidelines violate Article 14 under the aspect of manifest arbitrariness’, Singhvi added.
Shyam Divan, arguing in favour of the students and representing Yuva Sena, raised the questions on the right to life. While pointing out MHA’s directive on guidelines to be followed, he argued that
“These guidelines lay down a minimum standard of strictness to be adhered to by States and UTs. They may not dilute it”.
Divan argued on the fact that “When the confirmed cases of COVID19 was only thousands, exams were postponed. So now when cases have crossed lakhs, then how can the government allow to conduct the examination”Divan asked.
In one of the latest guidelines, UGC has permitted universities to promote intermediate semester students on the basis of internal assessment and past performance. However, for final year students, the examination is still said to be mandatory which could be held in online, offline, or blended (online and offline) mode.
Divan adds that Section 6 under the Disaster Management Act is for the Prevention of Disaster and for mitigation and that this is for prevention of spread and therefore, some measures must be taken.
UGC’s decision to conduct exams by September 30 is extremely unusual because there is no mention of health concerns or improvement of the situation. Divan added that such a date can be laid down during normal times, but not during such a pandemic situation.