State Government Has No Power To Cancel Exams: UGC To Bombay High Court
The University Grants Commission (UGC) on Friday told the Bombay High Court that the Maharashtra government does not have the power to cancel final year degree examinations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an affidavit filed in the Bombay High Court on Friday, higher education regulator UGC said the Maharashtra government does not have the power to cancel final year examinations amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The University Grants Commission or UGC filed the affidavit in response to a petition filed by Dhananjay Kulkarni, a retired teacher and former university senate member from Pune. Mr Kulkarni had challenged the state government's decision to cancel examinations of final year students of both professional and non-professional courses.
The state government, keeping in view of the current COVID-19 situation, had canceled final year examinations to be conducted in the state universities and professional colleges last month by stating that it has the power to do so under the Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act.
But, news agency PTI reported that, the UGC today argued that these acts can not be invoked to "render the statutory provisions of another special Act such as The University Grants Commissioner Act nugatory".
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta posted the matter for further hearing on July 31.
The UGC has issued two separate guidelines on April 29 and July 6, 2020, asking all universities and institutions across the country to conduct exams by the end of September 2020. The Maharashtra government's decision was contrary to these guidelines by the higher education regulator.
The guidelines were issued after the Union Ministry of Home Affairs allowed holding of examinations by universities and other institutions, the UGC said.
The guidelines were issued to protect the academic and career interests of students and at the same time safeguard their health, it said.
The Maharashtra government's decision "to defer the final year examinations or to graduate students without holding exams would directly affect the standards of higher education in the country," the UGC said in its affidavit.
UGC was the apex body for regulating the standards of examination, the affidavit asserted.
"All universities/institutions in the country are obligated to conduct the final year examination by the end of September 2020," it said.
Apart from Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana have also decided to cancel examinations of all university students, and to promote them based on their previous performances.
Meanwhile, in a related development of Thursday, a group of 31 students have filed a petition against the UGC on its decision to compulsorily conduct final year exams by September-end. The case has been listed for the hearing on July 27. The students, from Karnataka, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Meghalaya and many other states, have sought to quash the UGC notice released on July 6, in which the Commission has asked universities to compulsorily conduct the final year exams by September 30.
Earlier, the Shiv Sena's youth wing Yuva Sena had also moved the Supreme Court seeking cancellation of the final year exams of universities across states in view of the COVID-19 crisis.
Yuva Sena secretary Varun Sardesai told PTI the petition filed by him was admitted on last Saturday. The Yuva Sena has demanded all states be given the right to take an appropriate decision based on the prevailing situation in their respective areas.
The youth wing is headed by Aaditya Thackeray who holds environment and tourism portfolios in the Shiv Sena-led state government.
(With PTI Inputs)