The conduct of examinations is entirely within the domain of the UGC and the States cannot cancel examinations on their own, says Solicitor General Tushar Mehta
The University Grants Commission (UGC) on Monday strongly objected to Maharashtra and Delhi governments employing the Disaster Management Act to cancel the examinations of students amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying “sooner this issue is resolved the better for the students”.
Appearing before a Bench led by Justice Ashok Bhushan, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said the conduct of examinations was entirely within the domain of the UGC, a statutory body. The law officer said the States could not go on and cancel examinations on their own. The UGC had specific guidelines and procedure for conducting them.
“Sooner this issue is resolved, better it is for the students,” Mr. Mehta said.
The court decided to hear detailed arguments on Friday.
In the last hearing, the Solicitor General had orally made a submission in the Supreme Court that students should not break their preparation for final-year examinations to be conducted “by the end of September 2020”.
Though a UGC affidavit filed on July 31 said the examinations were scheduled “by the end of September 2020” to give varsities sufficient time to make arrangements amid the pandemic, the same affidavit had also gone on to inform the court that information received from 818 universities shows that 603 varsities had already conducted their final year examinations or were in process of conducting them during August-September 2020.
Mr. Mehta had added a word of caution to the students, saying “let nobody be under the impression that final exams will be stayed because Supreme Court is hearing the case. Students should continue to prepare for their exams”.
The UGC is strongly advocating the conduct of the final year examinations by September 30 in compliance with its July 6 guidelines while keeping in mind the safety and health of students.
The hearing is based on a bunch of petitions filed by over 30 students challenging the conduct of exams amid the pandemic.
The court had then ordered both Maharashtra and NCT Delhi governments to submit reports about the ground situation in the fight against COVID-19 from their respective State Disaster Management Committees within a week.
In its written response to the students’ petitions, the UGC said the “final year/terminal semester exams is a crucial step in the academic career of a student”.
It had said the ‘UGC Guidelines on Examinations and Academic Calendar for Universities in view of COVID-19 Pandemic’ was revised on July 6 in consultation with the Prof. K.C. Kuhad expert committee.
The revised guidelines offer students the choice to opt for offline (pen and paper) mode of taking examinations, online exclusively or the “blended” manner in which students could alternate between online and physical modes of attending the examinatons, the Commission said.
Besides, it said universities could conduct special examinations for students later on as and when feasible “so that a student is not put to any inconvenience or disadvantage”.
The UGC said courts of law had a limited role in framing policy in academic issues.