The Andhra Pradesh government will be held responsible "if there is even one fatality" as a result of holding in-session Class 12 exams next month, the Supreme Court said Thursday. The court also said it "may order compensation amounting to Rs 1 crore" in the event of any deaths.
"If there is even one fatality we may order compensation amounting to Rs 1 crore... when other boards had cancelled, why (does) Andhra Pradesh want to show it is different?" a two-member bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari said this morning.
"There are states giving Rs 1 crore as compensation to families of those who died. We may keep this amount for Andhra Pradesh also," the court added, as it asked the state why it was necessary to hold classroom exams when there were new, and aggressive, variants of COVID-19 in circulation.
"Other boards took a conscious decision based on the ground reality. There is a new variant - 'delta plus'. Nobody is clear how it will affect us... Who took the decision to hold these exams and what are the parameters on which the decision was taken?" the court asked.
"It is question of the health of everybody... not only about conducting exams. We are not convinced about your plan," it declared.
The court then directed the state to submit file notings that identify the individual or government body that took the decision to hold in-session exams, and if all concerns had been examined.
The court was hearing a plea to cancel Class 12 exams in the state.
The hearing will continue tomorrow.
Class 12 exams held by state boards of education have been cancelled in 21 states because of the pandemic. Class 12 exams held by the central board (CBSE) and CISCE have also been cancelled.
On Tuesday Andhra Pradesh told the court it would hold state board exams in view of the improving Covid situation. The court ordered an affidavit filed in response to the pleas for cancellation.
In the affidavit, which was filed on Wednesday, the state government said it was pressing ahead with in-session exams because there is no other alternative available.
It said the state education board had no control over schools' internal marks - which other states have taken as the basis of an alternative assessment system - and internal assessments may not be accurate enough to declare Class 12 results.
The affidavit also mentioned details such as number of rooms available to hold the exams. It said 15 to 18 students would be seated in a room to ensure social distancing protocols are followed.
"One issue... in your affidavit you said students will be divided - 15 to 18 students in one room. Have you worked out the number of rooms needed? You require 34,634 rooms... where will you get so many rooms? Are you going to have exams in the open?" an unconvinced court asked today.
The state replied that 34,000 rooms had been identified and around 50,000 teaching and non-teaching staff had been vaccinated and were ready to conduct the examinations.
Around 5.20 lakh students will be appearing for the Class 12 exams in Andhra Pradesh.
Justices AM Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari have also approved the CBSE, CISCE scheme to calculate marks for Class 12 students whose exams were cancelled, calling it "fair and reasonable".
An appeal by some parents and students, who sought the option of in-session exams, was rejected.