UGC Exam Guidelines: Supreme Court Hearing Closed, Counsels Asked To Submit Notes Within Three days
UGC Exam Guidelines: The Supreme Court of India gathered today to hear the pleas challenging the final-year examination guidelines issued by the University Grants Commission, or UGC. The Bench was headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan.
The Supreme Court of India gathered today to hear the pleas challenging the final-year examination guidelines issued by the University Grants Commission, or UGC. The Bench was headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan. All Counsels have been directed to submit a note on their submissions within three days.
In one of the latest arguments, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta noted that the Universities can seek for the deadline to be pushed, however, they cannot take the decision to confer degrees without holding exams.
Before the hearing, petitioners filed a written submission before the Supreme Court on Monday, mentioning that UGC's decision to hold final year exams violates provisions of the UGC Act and Regulations. The petition file by Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava said that the guidelines from July 6, 2020, asking all the universities to conduct final year exams by September 30 violates Section 12 of the UGC Act.
During the hearing today, Senior Advocate Arvind Datar began taking submissions for the State of Maharashtra. He pointed out how badly Maharashtra is affected, and therefore, shed light on the issues relating to the conduct of examination in the entire state.
In questions relating to the Disaster Management Act, Justice Ashok Bhushan explains the scope arrogated to an authority under the Disaster Management Act and said that “Only the authorities can decide what is in their welfare. Students are not competent enough to decide.” Justice Bhushan said to Datar, “The arguments need to be addressed in a manner that affects the entire country, and should not be limited to a State as UGC applies across the country.
Justice Bhushan states that if there are different dates for different States, then the argument would be raised that UGC is being discriminatory.
Hearing On August 14
During the last hearing on August 14, Advocate Alakh Alok argued for the students to cancel the examinations in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic.
Lead Counsel, Abhishek Manu Singhvi pointed out that there is a great disparity of students that would be appearing for the examination. Many students would have to travel for the exams, which poses a direct risk in these situations of the pandemic. Adding further, Singhvi pointed out that classes were disrupted - so how can exams be conducted? ‘UGC guidelines violate Article 14 under the aspect of manifest arbitrariness’, Singhvi added.
Addressing the question posed by the Supreme Court in the last hearing, Singhvi has stated that the NDMA is applicable to every district. The court had asked if the DM act overrides the statutory privileges of the UGC, which gives it the authority to conduct exams and grant degrees.
What Happened Earlier?
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, a group of 31 students from Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, and other states have demanded that final year students be promoted on the basis of their past performance as opposed to the UGC guidelines that mandate final year examinations by September-end.
During the hearing on August 10, the apex court has asked the UGC to clarify if the Disaster Management Act supersedes UGC's notification. Maharashtra and Delhi Governments have filed the affidavit with the court and stated that they would not allow the examinations to be conducted.
Maharashtra Government has on Aug 10 stated that the decision to cancel the examinations is in accordance with the State's DMA. To this reply filed by the states, the Supreme Court had asked UGC to file its response.
Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava has questioned the right to health and safety. As the coronavirus cases continue to grow in the country, he has said that decision to conduct final exams is illegal and unconstitutional.
In one of the latest guidelines, UGC has permitted universities to promote intermediate semester students on the basis of internal assessment and past performance. However, for final year students, the examination is still said to be mandatory which could be held in online, offline, or blended (online and offline) mode.
Different states, including Maharashtra and Delhi, had previously decided to cancel final year university exams. However, UGC in the Supreme Court argued that states have no power to cancel university exams.
In the last hearing, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan that states cannot change the rules of the UGC as only it is empowered to prescribe rules for conferring degrees.
Only July 18, UGC had released a notification which showed the number of universities that have agreed to conduct the final year exams. As per the data released by the UGC, out of the 818 universities, 209 others have already conducted examination (on-line/off-line) and 394 are planning to conduct examination (on-line/off-line/blended mode) in August or September.