Maharashtra cabinet minister and Yuva Sena chief aditya Thackeray moved the Supreme Court Saturday against the centre's decision to hold final year exams for colleges and universities in September, after they were postponed from earlier this year due to the coronavirus outbreak and lockdown.
The petition has been filed by the Yuva Sena, which is the youth wing of the ruling Shiv Sena.
"We wrote letters to the UGC, the HRD ministry requesting them to not hold exams and rethink the decision. But we didn't receive any response. And then lakhs of students approached us from all across the country and then, based on guidance of Aaditya Thackeray, we filed a writ petition," Varun Sardesai, the Secretary of the Yuva Sena, said.
Mr Thackeray tweeted, "We believe academic excellence cannot be judged by one exam... if students still feel the need to appear for an examination, they voluntarily may do so post-COVID."
The petition is for each and every student across the country, being forced to appear for an examination in an absolutely bizarre judgement of the situation by UGC and non flexibility when it comes to human safety— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) July 18, 2020
In its statement the Yuva Sena also said the central government was "ignoring physical and mental health, anxiety and safety of students across the country" in allowing examinations to be held.
"COVID-19 is a national disaster, in view of which the UGC should have cancelled final year exams... however, it seems the UGC has not understood the full extent of dilemma the country is facing," the Yuva Sena statement said.
Noting that the challenges included risk of COVID-19 transmission as students and exam invigilators travel to and from exam centres, the Yuva Sena pointed out that major educational institutions across the country, such as the IITs (Indian Institute of Technology) had already cancelled final year exams.
The organisation called for students to be promoted on the aggregate of marks scored so far in their academic year. The Maharashtra government earlier said that students looking to improve on these averages could sit for exams, but only when these can be held safely.
On Friday Aaditya Thackeray slammed the Human Resources Ministry after the UGC (University Grants Commission) said final year exams would be held later this year. He called the decision "absolutely absurd and probably from an alternate universe".
Mr Thackeray tweeted, asking if the UGC would "take responsibility for the health of each student" and warned that the lives of lakhs of students and teaching staff were at stake.
The decision of the HRD Ministry of Union Govt, and the UGC is absolutely absurd and probably from an alternate universe. I urge UGC to not make this a silly issue of egos and realise that lakhs of lives of students, teachers, non teaching staff are at stake. (1/n)— Aaditya Thackeray (@AUThackeray) July 10, 2020
Meanwhile, students of Mumbai's Government Law College have moved an intervention plea in the Bombay High Court.
This has been allowed as the court is hearing a PIL against the state government's decision to cancel exams. The students say their voices must be heard as they will face serious difficulties if examinations are to be conducted.
On Monday the UGC said final year/semester exams would be held by the end of September, in either fully offline (pen and paper), fully online or blended (offline + online) mode.
The Maharashtra government isn't the only one to call for final year exams to be scrapped; earlier this month Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to "personally intervene".
Final year exams for universities and colleges run by the Delhi government have already been cancelled.
The conduct of final year exams during the coronavirus outbreak has been a contentious one, with several opposition leaders, like Congress's Rahul Gandhi, against holding them this year.
COVID-19 cases have been rising exponentially over the past weeks, with over 25,000 new cases reported every day since July 10; the last three days have seen over 30,000 each. Across the country 26,273 deaths have been recorded.
Maharashtra remains the worst-affected state in the country, with nearly three lakh total cases. Of this more than 1.2 lakh are active and 11,452 are deaths linked to the virus.
With input from ANI, PTI