On Monday, the Supreme Court adjourned the hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the directions issued by the UGC (University Grants Commission) to hold the final year exams by September 30, till August 14.
After Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, who is appearing for the UGC, sought time to respond to the affidavits filed by the Delhi and Maharashtra governments’ conveying the Supreme Court that these governments have directed the cancellation of the final year exams, the apex court adjourned the matter.
The SG asked that how can the exams be canceled by the states when the power to confer degrees lies with the UGC?
The decision taken by the Government of Maharashtra is on the basis of the State Disaster Management Authority.
The bench asked the SG to respond, in this regard, whether the directions of UGC can be overridden by the Disaster Management Act.
The students should continue to prepare regardless of the pendency of the case, said SG.
The SG also said that if the exams are not conducted, students cannot get a degree, this is the law.
A batch of petitions filed by Praneeth K and 30 other petitioners, Yash Dubey, Yuva Sena led by Aditya Thackeray, and others were being heard by a bench comprising Justices R Subhash Reddy, Ashok Bhushan, and M R Shah.
The Solicitor General Tushar Mehta has been granted time by the Supreme Court to file a reply on the affidavits of Delhi and Maharashtra government where they have stated that no examinations shall be conducted in the state of a pandemic.
The next date of hearing for this case is August 14.
The top court had, last week asked both the Maharashtra and Delhi governments to bring their stands on record regarding the conduct of exams.
The Maharashtra government, in response, has informed the Supreme Court that the State Disaster Management Authority has taken the decision of not holding final year exams after taking into consideration the pros and cons of the matter.
The court was also informed by the Delhi government that the Higher and Technical Education Minister/Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi had directed all the Delhi state universities to cancel all written offline and online semester examinations on July 11.
The Delhi government has also submitted that it has suggested that the Universities should devise alternative assessment measures to promote the students of intermediary semesters and grant degrees to the final year students.
A counter-affidavit has been filed by UGC in the matter stating that the direction was issued in the interest of the academic future of the students. The safety and health aspects had been taken into consideration. The UGC stated that the guidelines were set on the basis of inputs from experts. The UGC also argued in its affidavit that the scope of judicial review over the academic decisions was very minimal.
The UGC also pointed out that the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Human Resources Development and the Ministry of Home Affairs also permit the conduction of exams.
A rejoinder has been filed by the students to the affidavit of UGC saying that apathy has been shown towards the students by UGC. The rejoinder contends that the UGC has failed to take into account the aspects of floods in Assam, rising COVID-19 cases, lack of connectivity in J&K, lockdown in many parts, etc.
The petitioners suggested that instead of holding exams, the aggregate of previous semester exams be awarded to students. They pointed out that a final year/term student has already completed 85-90% of the course. They said that the award of degrees to final year students based on their past-performance/internal assessment by July 31, will also enable many of them to get a job and financially assist their families in the post-lockdown economy.