Petition Against UGC Guidelines Accepted By Supreme Court; UGC To Reply In 3 Days
The petition by 31 students against the UGC Guidelines issued on July 6 has been accepted by the Supreme Court, said their lawyer. The next hearing is on July 31.
The Supreme Court has accepted the petition filed by 31 students against the revised guidelines on final-year exams by the University Grants Commission, or UGC. A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan asked the UGC to submit its reply within three days. The next hearing is scheduled on Friday, July 31.
The latest UGC guidelines have made final year exams compulsory for all institutes. Final year University exams, according to the UGC guidelines, are to be conducted by September-end in online, offline, or a blended mode.
According to a report by the Press Trust of India, several issues have been raised in the petition, including plight of lakhs of students in places like Bihar and Assam which are reeling under floods and also that many states have already cancelled the final year examinations of state universities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 And University Exams
Students, since the release of the revised guidelines, have been arguing that the conduct of final year examination by September-end invites serious health risks and demanding that the exams be canceled.
The petitioners have also demanded that the final year examinations be cancelled and results be calculated on the basis of past performances.
“Now when the COVID-19 crisis has worsened to a dangerous level, the respondent UGC has decided to conduct all examinations across India, in an utterly arbitrary manner,” the plea said.
“Thus, now, this year, due to such belated award of mark sheets or degrees, the petitioners herein and many other final year students will be deprived from precious opportunities of getting admission in higher courses and/or getting jobs, which will be again violative of Article 14 (equality before law),” the plea by students said.
The plea further added that different boards, including the Central Board of Secondery Education (CBSE) and the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) had previously cancelled remaining exams and evaluated students on the basis of past performances.
The recent UGC guidelines have exempted intermediate students from appearing in exam and said that they will be evaluated on the basis of internal assessment and previous semester marks.
“On one hand…UGC has exempted the students of intermediate semester from appearing in the examinations...whereas, on the other hand…. is forcing the final year students to appear in the examinations, which is utterly discriminatory, having no reasonable nexus with the object sought to be achieved i.e. the safety of students and hence patently violative of Article 14,” the plea has alleged.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, however, told the bench, also comprising Justices R S Reddy and M R Shah, that they are only concerned with final year exams and out of over 800 universities in the country, 209 have completed the examinations. Mehta said that around 390 universities are planning to conduct examinations in August or September, in online, offline, or blended mode.
Responding to criticism by the stakeholders, Union Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ had previously said that examinations are a “reflection of their (students’) ability, performance, and reliability that is essential for global acceptance”.
Concerned about the health and safety of students amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Maharashtra and different states had previously decided to scrap final year university exams and evaluate students on the basis of alternative methods.
UGC, however, in response to an affidavit at the Bombay High Court said that the state government has no power to cancel university exams.