Bombay HC disposes of plea challenging cancellation of SSC exams
After the Maharashtra government clarified that Class 10 students across all the boards could take the optional common entrance test (CET) for admissions to junior colleges, the Bombay high court (HC) disposed of the petition which challenged the state’s decision to cancel the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) exams for academic year 2020-21.
However, the court allowed the petitioner to challenge the May 28 government resolution (GR) that laid down the evaluation formula for SSC students in lieu of the board exams.
A division bench of chief justice Dipankar Datta and justice Girish Kulkarni, while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by retired Pune-based professor Dhananjay Kulkarni and a bunch of intervention applications challenging the cancellation of the exams, was informed by advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni for the state that the government had on May 28 announced a formula for evaluation of SSC students and hence, the grievance of the petitioner was addressed. Kumbhakoni further stated that admissions to Class 11 would be conducted offline through CET, based on the board syllabus.
However, Kulkarni’s advocate, Uday Warunjikar, objected the submission and said that the May 28 formula could not be effective, as it stipulated evaluation based on Class 10 assessments. He submitted that as many schools and parents did not have facilities for virtual studies, the curriculum for Class 10 could not be completed and hence, internal tests, practical exams and other exercises physically could not be conducted. In light of this, there was a need to conduct board exams offline, he said.
Warunjikar added that as the May 28 GR did not clarify whether students from all boards could take CET, there would be discrimination among students of different boards for Class 11 admissions.
The bench reiterated its views expressed on June 1 and asked the petitioner whether he was willing to take responsibility of any adverse situations that may arise out of conducting physical exams amid the current Covid-19 situation, more so in the light of the fear expressed by experts of a third wave, which would affect those between 10 and 18 years of age.
“Why do you think tests should be held? And if they are held and the student community is affected, who will bear responsibility for that?” the court questioned.
The judges added, “Whether exams are being held or not, under the Constitutional scheme, states are entrusted to make policy decisions. When the executive has made a decision, it may appear to you and us to be a foolish policy, but only because we think it’s not good policy, that’s not grounds for us to interfere. You have to manifest arbitrariness infringing on the rights of persons affected by the policy. How will the public be affected by this policy decision?”
Kumbhakoni, while responding to the apprehension of the petitioner, said that though the state’s May 12 GR that cancelled SSC exams had not clarified about CET, he was making a statement that all students from various boards who are willing to participate in the entrance test for Class 11 admissions will be allowed to do so.
In light of this clarification, Warunjikar submitted that the issues of cancellation of exams and CET were “virtually over” and the court may grant the petitioner liberty to challenge the evaluation formula.
“In view of the statement made by Kumbhakoni, the petitioner does not wish to proceed to continue with the petition. As per the petitioner, as the May 28 circular did not appropriately lay down the procedure for evaluation of Class 10 exams, the liberty to petitioner to challenge such circular be reserved,” the court noted in its order, and disposed of the PIL as it was withdrawn.