State of Odisha has filed an affidavit in the plea challenging UGC’s revised guidelines dated 06.07.2020 regarding conduct of final year exams amidst COVID-19 crisis and has said that  the impugned Revised Guidelines of the university Grants commission fails to notice that the sanctity of such final examinations, if held, will be greatly compromised while holding the examinations inasmuch as:

(1) there will be single sitting examination for all subjects;

(2) the duration of the examinations will be short;

(3) the assessment will be made on the basis of multiple choice  questions in place of subjective questions;

(4) there might be unfair practices, which may include an open book examination etc taking into account the current COVID- 19 situation.

Therefore, the examinations should not be conducted just for the sake of conducting it.

The State also highlights that UGC has failed to take note of the Government of Odisha, Higher Education Department letter dated 18.06.2020 wherein the alternative evaluation method for Under Graduate and Post Graduate Final Year/Final Semester 2020 students was spelt out. Nor has it considered the letters dated 09.07.2020 and 23.07.2020 highlighting the various difficulties in the present COVID-19 scenario and requesting him to re-examine the entire issue and to allow the State Government to implement its own decision by not making the Revised Guidelines mandatory on the State Government.

The State submits that,

“State of Odisha is not shying away from holding the final examinations but only prays that during the present time the holding of final examinations should be kept in abeyance and the alternative evaluation system should be adopted.”

UGC, in its response, however, stated that the letter dated 18.06.2020 is in contravention to the Revised Guidelines and that any decision of State Government to cancel the exams or to graduate the students by using ‘alternative evaluation system’ will be in contravention of the UGC Revised Guidelines as UGC has taken a Policy Decision backed by the statute in the interest of students.

Ministry of Home Affairs filed an affidavit and has said while the MHA Unlock-3 Guidelines dated 29.07.2020 continue to require schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions to remain closed till 31.08.2020, the universities/institutions will be and are clearly intended to be exempted from the said restriction for the limited purpose of holding Final Term Examinations / evaluation work in terms of the UGC guidelines on examinations.

Earlier, in it’s response to the affidavit filed by the State of NCT of Delhi, UGC stated that Delhi’s decision to cancel final year/terminal semester examinations and graduate students without such examinations, encroaches on the legislative field of coordinating and determining the standards of higher education that is exclusively reserved for Parliament under Entry 66 of List I of Schedule VH of the Constitution. As such, the State Government’s decision dated 11.07.2020 is contrary to the UGC’s Guidelines which have been issued for maintaining the standards of higher education and is void ab initio.

UGC submitted that

“it aims to protect the academic future of students across the country which will be irreparably damaged if their final year/terminal semester examinations are not held, while also keeping in mind their health and safety.”

Maharashtra Students’ Union, a non-profit organization working for welfare of students, more particularly students pursuing higher education, filed an Intervention Application in the plea challenging UGC’s revised guidelines dated 06.07.2020 regarding conduct of final year exams amidst COVID-19 crisis.

It submitted that a Bachelor’s degree is conferred on the basis of a collective assessment of all 3 years of a Bachelor’s course and not of the final semester alone. The affidavit states that

“the last examination or the final examination of students of Higher and Technical Education does not carry any special weightage or decisive value which a final year examination used to carry in the erstwhile education system, as the evaluation is done on a cumulative assessment of all semesters in a degree course.”

The 3-judge bench of Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah, JJ, had on August 10, 2020, sought a reply on whether the Disaster Management Act can override the UGC’s guidelines and posted the matter for further hearing on August 14, 2020.

Maharashtra, in it’s affidavit, has mentioned that after deliberating on the issue at length, the State Disaster Management Authority constituted under the  Disaster Management Act, 2005 took the decision of not holding the last year final semester examinations for both professional and non-professional courses.

NCT of Delhi has submitted that the Deputy Chief Minister/Higher and Technical Education Minister of the National Capital Territory of Delhi has all Delhi State Universities to cancel all written online/offline semester examinations including final year examinationsUniversities have also been advised to devise alternative assessment measures to promote students of intermediary semesters and grant degrees to students of final semesters.

Regarding the decisions of certain State Governments to cancel the Final Year exams, UGC has, in it’s affidavit, stated that the said decision is contrary to UGC Guidelines and encroaches on Parliament’s power under Entry 66 of List I of Schedule VII to coordinate and determine the standards of higher education.

UGC has also emphasised on the need to conduct the examinations as it is the crucial step in the academic career of a student.

“… it would be irrational to exempt students from final year/terminal semester examinations and to graduate them based on their past performance.”

Final Year Student Yash Dubey, who has also challenged the Revised Guidelines, along with 31 other students,  in his rejoinder, submitted that

“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),…”

When the Court heard the matter on July 31, 2020, Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Yash Dubey, told the Court that Heavens will not fall if exams are not conducted.

On the last hearing i.e. on August 14, Dr Singhvi submitted that “a Farman has been issued with complete non application of mind to complete exams by September 2020.”

The Court is hearing the matter today.


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