On Monday, the hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the direction issued by the University Grants Commission (UGC) to Universities to hold end term examinations by September 30 has been adjourned by the Supreme Court till August 14.
The Solicitor General’s Stand in the End Term Exam Plea
Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta representing the UGC sought time to respond to the affidavits filed by Maharashtra & Delhi governments’ conveying to the Supreme Court that they have directed the cancellation of final year exams in a way adjourning the matter by the apex Court.
The SG asked, “How can states cancel exams when UGC is empowered to confer degrees?”
The students should continue to prepare regardless of the pendency of the case and that “If exams aren’t conducted, students can’t get a degree. That’s the law”, SG commented.
On the direction of the State Disaster Management Authority, the Maharashtra Government had taken the decision of cancelling state exams.
On this point, the bench questioned the SG to respond to the issue whether the Disaster Management Act will override the directions of UGC.
A batch of petitions filed by Praneeth K & 30 other petitioners, by Aditya Thackeray Yuva Sena leader, Yash Dubey and others were considered by a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah.
Last week, the Apex Court had questioned both Delhi & Maharashtra to bring on record, their stand regarding the conduct of exams.
The Supreme Court was informed by the Maharashtra Government as a response that the State Disaster Management Authority has taken the ‘conscious decision’ of not holding final year examinations of both professional and non-professional courses in the state after assessing all the pros and cons in the matter.
The Court was also informed by the Delhi Government that on July 11 the Deputy Chief Minister/Higher and Technical Education Minister of NCT of Delhi directed all Delhi state Universities to cancel all written online and offline semester examinations including final year examinations.
Submissions were made that the government has suggested that Universities devise alternative assessment measures to grant degrees to students of final semesters and promote students of intermediary semesters.
A counter-affidavit by the UGC has been filed in the matter stating that the direction was issued by taking health and safety aspects into consideration and also looking at the interest of “academic future of students”.
The deadline of September 30 was also set on the basis of inputs from experts, and expressed that the scope of judicial review over academic decisions was very minimal and that conducting exams is permissible under the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Human Resources Development.
Rejoinder filed by students in the End Term Exam Plea
A rejoinder to the UGC’s affidavit was filed by the Students stating that it “has been showing apathy towards the students” and 31 student-petitioners contended that many aspects like rising COVID19 cases, floods in Assam, lack of connectivity in J&K, lockdown in many parts etc. have been overlooked by the UGC.
The petitioners suggested that instead of conducting final semester exams the aggregate of previous semester exams be awarded to students as a final year/ final term student has already completed 85-90% of the course.
The step 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 will also enable many of them to get a job and financially assist their families amid COVID19.
Students’ rejoinder expressed that the fact that no real or virtual classes have been conducted during last 4-5 months in most of the colleges across India was overlooked by UGC and in a way conducting final exams without classes is unjust.
Further, the students stated that only 1/3rd of the Indian population has access to the internet and this will deprive 2/3rd students from equal opportunity to appear in exams if exams are conducted via online mode.