‘Students should prepare for the exam’: Solicitor General tells Supreme Court

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Satya Prakash
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 31

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to pass any interim order on a batch of petitions seeking cancellation of final year/semester examinations in September and asked the Centre to clear the stand of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on the issue.

The UGC told the court that nobody should remain under the impression that since the Supreme Court is examining this issue, the final year /semester examination will be stayed. 

The bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan asked the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) also to spell out its stand on UGC’s July 6 circular in this regard.

Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, representing the petitioners, urged the top court to issue an interim order for students in flood-hit Assam and Bihar, but it refused to oblige him.

Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta made it clear that students should prepare themselves for the final year examinations. 

“Nobody should be under the impression that they cannot prepare. Students should prepare for the exam,” Mehta said.

Terming the UGC’s decision as a result of non-application of mind, senior advocate AM Singhvi, representing one of the petitioners, sought to highlight the fact that the number of COVID-19 cases in India touched 16 lakh. 

“Heavens will not fall if exams are cancelled”, he added.

As Singhvi said UGC reversed its initial guidelines issued in April, the Bench said, “UGC can always revisit its guidelines.”

“This revisiting was arbitrary,” said Singhvi highlighting lack basic IT infrastructure for conducting online examinations. 

He opposed the option of holding another examination at a later date, saying it would create chaos.

Refusing to relent on the September 30 deadline for conducting a final year of universities and colleges, the University Grants Commission (UGC) had on Thursday told the Supreme Court that the decision was taken “after due deliberation by taking into account and balancing all relevant factors.”

In an affidavit filed in the top court, UGC said its circular was issued to “protect the academic future of students”, while keeping in mind their “health and safety”.

The affidavit has been filed in response to petitions challenging the UGC’s July 6 circular for allegedly being arbitrary as it mandated conducting examinations during COVID19 pandemic.

The petitioners wanted the UGC to follow the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) which has decided to hold examinations at a later date for students not satisfied with their marks given on the basis of internal assessment.

However, the UGC said: “The nature of examinations conducted by CBSE, ICSE or ICAI…are very different from those that are the subject matter of the UGC Guidelines. In the present case, the UGC is concerned with final year/terminal semester examinations which will have a lasting and indelible effect on the academic credibility, career opportunities and future progress of the students.”

The petitioners have highlighted the fact that IITs and governments of Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Pondicherry have already cancelled final year examinations.

But UGC took exception to decisions taken by governments of Maharashtra and Delhi not to conduct final year examinations due to COVID19. 

It said “sufficient time” has been given to conduct the examinations and universities have been given sufficient flexibility to conduct examinations via online, offline or hybrid modes.

In case students were unable to appear for examinations, they would be given a chance to appear at a specially conducted examination at a later date so that they were not put to any inconvenience or disadvantage, it said.

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