Validity of Conducting Final Year Examinations amidst a Pandemic

Supreme Court in the "Students v. UGC" case

In a recent announcement, the University Grants Commission(UGC)directed the universities to hold final year examinations by the end of September 2020. The Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Redyy and MR Shah, heard pleas from more than 31 student groups across India challenging the UGC directions on conducting final year exams 2020.

The parties against UGC were represented by Senior Advocates Mr Shyam Divan and Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta represented UGC.

Arguments by the Parties.

On August 10th, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for UGC contended that it is the only body who can prescribe rules for conferring degrees and the States cannot change it.

He also contended that final exams are mandatory and it's not in the interest of students to not have exams.

On the other hand, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan appearing on behalf of Yuva Sena seeking cancellation of UGC direction to hold final exams contended on the following grounds:

1. Guidelines by the Ministry of Home Affairs

Mr. Divan argued that the MHA had issued guidelines which asked all schools, colleges and coaching institutions to remain closed and to ensure that the guidelines are not diluted and the UGC itself had in a press conference emphasized on the health of the students. In such a scenario he said how can the UGC issue directions to hold examinations.

2. The Disaster Management Authority's guidelines

He argued that in the case of a pandemic, the DMA's guidelines would be of utmost importance. He said that the UGC cannot override the guidelines by DMA, in context to the State Disaster Management of Maharashtra which had issued a direction to cancel the final term exams because of the rising COVID cases.

While mentioning figures from April 29, he said that in a period where there were only 1137 cases, the exams weren’t conducted so how could the UGC expect examinations when there are lakhs of positive cases across the nation.

3. Students are a homogenous community

While referring to the first and second-year students who were promoted without an examination based on their past performance and internals, Mr. Devan pointed out that there cannot be discrimination as the lives of third year students matter equally as the ones in first or second year.

4. Containment zones across the country

He further highlighted that the exam was not something on a small level but included students coming from all across the country, who may or may not have access to technology. He urged the bench to “look into the anxiety that the students must be going through.”

In a similar row, Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi had previously in the day contended that the cases of COVID-19 have been increasing rapidly and conducting examinations in such an  atmosphere was a matter of “life and health of students.”

He argued that when MHA who had not allowed opening of educational institutions, how could it allow holding examinations in such a case?

Moreover he questioned that there is a direct relation between teaching and taking of exams and how can there be exams without teaching?

Further, he contended that the orders to hold examinations throughout the country uniformly is nothing but an attack on federalism and called the guidelines ‘manifestly arbitrary’ which are irrational and disproportional.

The Supreme Court after listening to the arguments against the UGC guidelines adjourned the meeting until 18th August.

Views as a student

As a student it is very hard for me to imagine myself taking the final examinations because of the following reasons:

In a period of uncertainty and economic breakdown, the UGC’s directions to conduct examinations would only make the matters worse. The fear of being affected by the COVID-19 has taken a mental toll on the population at large especially on the young minds and under these circumstances preparing for final examinations which are important for future academic preferences, would deeply affect the results.

Not only this, all the students and their families especially those living  in remote areas, have been hit hard by the lockdown with respect to economic resources as well as basic necessities, the examinations would make them more miserable with the burden of preparing for exams and travelling to the centres on one hand and trying to make both ends meet on the other.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that various regions in India have been drastically affected by natural calamities like floods and landslides, and holding examinations in this scenario would mean that many students would have to miss their examinations.

I hope that all such circumstances are reinforced and taken care of while making the final decision.

References

  • SC adjourns hearing on petitions against UGC direction to universities to hold final year examinations by DNA India
  • jagranjosh.com/news/sc-hearing-on-final-year-exam-2020-today

 

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Yashita Gupta Online
on 17 August 2020
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