SC decision on plea seeking scrapping of UGC decision to hold final year exams today
The Supreme Court will, on Friday, pronounce its verdict on a batch of petitions seeking scrapping of final year/ terminal semester university examinations in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A 3-judge bench headed by justice Ashok Bhushan will pronounce its verdict at 10.30 am on the validity of the July 6 directive of University Grants Commission (UGC) asking universities across the country to hold final year examinations by September 30.
Several students and organizations had challenged the July 6 guidelines issue by UGC citing the risk posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. A Covid positive student was one of the petitioners who raised the demand for the exams to be cancelled. Shiv Sena’s youth wing Yuva Sena was also a petitioner before the court.
The petitioners have demanded the apex court to consider scrapping online/offline test and instead direct UGC to declare results based on the past performance of the students or internal assessment.
The UGC had, on April 29, published guidelines for universities to follow regarding holding of examinations taking into account the Covid-19 situation. As per the same, examinations were to be held in July 2020. The guidelines were issued based on a report by an expert committee headed by Chairperson of Central University of Haryana, RC Kuhad.
The guidelines said that universities could conduct examinations in online or offline mode and by ensuring adherence to social distancing guidelines.
However, in view of the evolving situation of Covid-19 pandemic, the UGC, in June, requested the expert committee to revisit the guidelines. Based on the expert committee’s recommendations, fresh guidelines were then issued on July 6, directing holding of examinations by the end of September.
States including Delhi, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh have cancelled university exams including final year exams taking into account the spread of Covid-19.
Delhi and Maharashtra governments told the apex court that they have decided to abort the final year examinations by invoking powers under the Disaster Management Act of 2005. The Disaster Management Act is a law intended to ensure effective management of disasters and it empowers central and state governments to take measures to mitigate disaster situations.
The UGC, however, maintained that degrees cannot be conferred on graduating students without holding final year examinations and it alone can take a call on whether or not exams should be cancelled.
“State governments cannot cancel examinations. That power lies with the UGC,” solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of UGC told the top court on August 8.
The Ministry of Home Affairs supported UGC and filed an affidavit before apex court on August 13 stating that it has permitted limited opening of educational institutions across the country for holding final year examinations.
“Final-year/ terminal semester examinations are important because the learning process of a dynamic interaction where the only way to figure out what the students know is to seek evidence of their knowledge. Academic evaluation of final-year students is, therefore, a very important milestone in any education system,” UGC said.