Don’t treat students as guinea pigs, Delhi HC to DU on open book exams

Published on Jul 06, 2020 10:59 PM IST
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HT Image
ByRicha Banka

New Delhi:

The Delhi High Court on Monday said Delhi University’s final-year students cannot be “treated as guinea pigs” and that there are “serious glitches” in the varsity’s online open book examination scheduled to start on July 10.

Justice Pratibha Singh -- on a plea by several students who sought cancellation of the examination -- said apart from the technical aspect, the mental state of the students should also be kept in mind since they are at home since February, have not been attending classes and do not even have online material available for studying.

Expressing displeasure for conducting the examination “without any basis”, the judge asked Delhi University to give a state-wise data of final-year students who will take the test. It asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to give its committee’s report on conducting exams in universities across the country.

The court was hearing a plea filed by six students through the Vera Cause Legal, a law firm, seeking to call off the open book exams. They said students are facing several problems in taking the online exams.

On Monday, advocate Shivankar Sharma, counsel for five students of DU—one from Faridabad, two from Delhi and one each from Rajasthan and Nagaland —told the court that several students would have to go to the nearest community centres to write the exams and risk their lives in a situation when Covid-19 cases are rising every day.

The Delhi University has suggested students to use common service centres in their localities to write online exams in case they do not have the internet facility at home..

Sharma said students live in remote areas where there might not be electricity and internet connections.

He contended there were glitches during the mock tests conducted on Saturday when students had to download and upload question papers and answer sheets of different subjects . Students faced trouble logging in, and downloading and uploading PDFs.

The website too crashed many times, students had alleged on Saturday, a claim the university had denied.

He said several students complained that the community centres were not aware of the mock examinations.

Appearing for Delhi University (DU), senior advocate Sachin Datta and advocate J S Rupal, told the court that DU is the only varsity in the country attempting the online exams. They said officers are taking huge risks to conduct the examinations, and that those who cannot take the exams now later appear in September.

The court then said, “You cannot make the students guinea pigs. Think about their mental status also. Suppose there are children whose family members are unwell; they need to be in the correct state of mind. This is complete callousness where the decision has been taken without any basis”.

The judge said that by conducting the exams, the university is putting their careers in jeopardy because by the time the results are declared by the end of August, many foreign universities and other higher educational institutions would already have started their academic session. It said because of the postponement of the exams, earlier scheduled to start from July 1, the interest of the students had been “jeopardised”.

Despite several attempts, DU Dean examination Vinay Gupta and Vice Chancellor Yogesh Tyagi did not respond to calls and texts sent for a comment. A member of the examination team, requesting anonymity, said, “The University will produce relevant information in the court on Tuesday. We can’t comment further since the matter is sub-judice.”

The UGC counsel told the court that its notification is not binding and advisory in nature. The UGC notification in April suggested the universities several modes of conducting exams amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which includes the open book exams. He said many universities have decided to not conduct the exams.

The judge said there can’t be any delay in UGC’s recommendations on the conduct of exams for final-year students in universities across the country. UGC is coming up with a fresh notification on exams for final-year graduation and postgraduate students.

The court asked DU to give state-wise data of final-year students, a detailed examination schedule, including declaration of results and distribution of answer sheets.

The matter would be now heard on Tuesday.

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