Supreme Court: After the UGC defended it’s Revised guidelines dated 06.07.2020 on the ground that the conduct the examinations as it is the crucial step in the academic career of a student, Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Yash Dubey, told the Court that Heavens will not fall if exams are not conducted.
He argued that the Office memorandum issued by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) dated 06.07.2020 is itself flawed and in complete disregard to the MHA Guidelines dated 29.07.2020, which provides that in areas outside the Containment Zones, all activities will be permitted, except the following: Schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions will remain closed till 31st August 2020.
Stating that the opening of the educational institutions will be in complete disregard to the MHA Guidelines dated 29.07.2020, Dr. Singhvi argued that the office memorandum issued by the MHRD, is in complete disregard to the Standard Operating Procedure for conduct of examination, which inter alia provides that “the instructions, guidelines and orders issued by the central and state government concerning the opening of educational institutions and safety and health should be abided by the universities and colleges.”
It was also brought to the Court’s attention that the UGC has failed to consider that most of the educational institutions/Universities/colleges have been converted into quarantine centre and the conduction of the examination, in this testing time, is a threat to the life and health of thousands of students.
Another issue that was highlighted before the Court was that the 29.04.2020 UGC guidelines were re-visited in view of increasing number of COVID-19 cases and that the the Revised UGC Guidelines are in complete deviation from the 29.04.2020 UGC Guideline, wherein it was clearly stated that it is advisory in nature and that each University may chart out its own plan of action taking into consideration the issues pertaining to COVID-19 pandemic.
After State of Maharashtra submitted that the decision of the State Disaster Management Committee dated 19th June, 2020 though referred in the counter affidavit has not yet been brought on record, the Court directed that the decision of the State Disaster Management Committee be brought on record.
The Court also asked the NCT of Delhi to file affidavit and listed the matter in August 10, 2020.
UGC had, in it’s affidavit, stated that it’s Guidelines dated 06.07.2020, have been issued to protect the academic future of the students across the country which will be irreparably damaged if their final year/terminal semester examinations are not held. It says that it had done so while keeping the health and safety of the students in mind. It states that,
“… it would be irrational to exempt students from final year/terminal semester examinations and to graduate them based on their past performance.”
The Rejoinder filed by Yash Dubey, one of the petitioners, states,
“it is baffling to note that just one semester of examination will be determinative of the integrity and value of a degree for which students worked hard for six (for three years course) and to ten semesters (for five year course),…”
As many as 31 students from different universities across India approached the Supreme Court to quash the UGC circular dated July 6 which has asked the universities/institutions across India to conduct terminal semester(s)/final year examinations by the end of September, 2020 in offline/online/blended mode.
The students, in their petition, urged that the exams should be canceled and the results of such students should be calculated on the basis of their internal assessment or past performance. The petition filed by students from 13 states and one union territory requested that the students’ marksheets should be issued before July 31.
Another petition on the issue, filed in the Supreme Court by final year law student Yash Dubey, also sought cancellation of UGC mandated final year exams. Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray has also moved the Supreme court on behalf of Yuva Sena, the youth wing of Shiv Sena, against the mandated final year exams in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases.
[Praneeth K. v. University Grants Commission, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 614 , order dated 31.07.2020]