Ker HC | Citing ‘limited scope of judicial review in scheduling of examinations’, HC declines to put a stay on examinations to be conducted by Kerala University and Kerala Law Academy

Kerala High Court: While deciding the instant petitions seeking directions for the Kerala University to postpone the examinations scheduled on 1-7-2020, C.S. Dias, J.,  declined to pass an ad-interim order to stay the examinations whilst stating that scope of judicial review in the scheduling examinations is very limited.

The present petitions were filed by various students who contended that the University, regardless of UGC (Minimum Standards of instructions for the Grant of the Master’s Degree through Formal Education) Regulations, 2003, has notified the examinations. The students via their counsel George Poonthottam further argued that their study materials are left in their colleges and hostels, which have now been converted to quarantine centres; they cannot continue the research under their Guide, in view of the travel restrictions. Another petition filed by a sixth semester law student of Kerala Law Academy, submitted that a sudden call for examination would result in a large gathering of students in a single room, which will increase the chances of Covid-19 spread manifold. Furthermore the students, who have gone to their homes in other States and abroad, would have to undergo 14 days of compulsory quarantine, when they return to the State. Therefore, the call for the examination infracts the fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. However the standing counsel for the University, Thomas Abraham submitted that the University successfully conducted the examinations for undergraduate courses and that they received no adverse report on this. The students in fact responded positively to the arrangements made, particularly in view of the fact that they got accommodated to their nearby places to write the examinations. The counsel argued that a few students, forming a microscopic minority want to postpone the examinations indefinitely with an intention to thwart the examination schedule. It was argued that postponement of the examinations any further would result in a ‘situation with unimaginable ramifications’.      

Perusing the facts and contentions and referring to a plethora of Supreme Court decisions on the similar matters, the Bench observed that there should be extreme reluctance on the part of the Courts to interfere into the academic matters formulated by professional men possessing technical expertise and rich experience of actual day-to-day working of educational institutions. Referring to Maghi Devi v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 546 the Bench pointed out that the Courts should not substitute the wisdom of specialists in the field of academics. Noting that the Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, and it created situations that led to an All India Lockdown and closure of schools and colleges. The Court further observed that the Central and the State Governments have issued protocols to avert community transmission of the virus, and the same protocols are being implemented and followed strictly.

Thus declining to issue any stay order for cancellation, the Court clarified that if the exams are held as per the schedule and the petitioners appear and write the examinations, it would be without prejudice to their rights and contentions raised in the instant writ petitions. [Megha Sarkar v. State of Kerala, 2020 SCC OnLine Ker 2492 , decided on 29-06-2020]

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