The Supreme Court of India has disposed of the petitions which challenged the guidelines issued by the UGC for conducting final semester exams by September 30.
ARGUMENTS OF STUDENTS:
If students are forced to show up for physical examinations when the COVID-19 pandemic is getting worsen then they are being exposed to serious health risks which affect their right to life.
The direction issued by the UGC without taking into account the local situations will be discriminatory towards many students as several areas are still in containment zones also, there are local lockdowns in many regions.
Conducting exams without a request number of classes is arbitrary and unreasonable.
There are many students of final semester ho have either cleared job interviews or secured admission for higher education. Therefore, the best course available as of now to protect the future of students is to give them degree certificated based on their past performance at the earliest.
The option of conducting the examination online is also not feasible in the view of a large digital divide, and the lack of uniform access to the internet.
The exam is not the only mode of evaluation. UGC follows the concept of continuous evaluation of the student from day 1. Therefore, internal assessments and performance of the past semester to award final degrees is a viable option.
1. HOW CAN THERE BE EXAMS WITHOUT TEACHING?
Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the present case is related to life and health of students. Furthermore, he submitted before the Hon’ble Supreme Court that in the light of Article 14 of the Constitution it is important to note that different students have different access levels. Since there is a direct nexus between teaching and taking exams therefore exams must happen after teaching, he submitted.
He also argued that the direction issued by the UGC is a direct attack on federalism. UGC isn’t the appropriate authority to take action on this issue, the state is.
Taking the arguments further Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that as per the Triple Talaq Verdict the decision of UGC regarding the examination of final year students was vitiated by “manifest arbitrariness”.
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2. WHEN EXAMS CANT BE HELD IN APRIL WITH 1137 COVID CASES, HOW CAN THEY BE HELD NOW WITH LAKHS OF CASES?
Senior advocate Shyam Divan argued that, since the guidelines issued by UGC are advisory in nature, therefore, they must be tailored in accordance with the local needs.
Ministry of Home Affairs on July 29 issued guidelines that, schools, colleges and coaching institution will not be permitted to open. Furthermore, MHA has also prohibited States and UTs from diluting the said restrictions. In such a scenario how can UGC direct the students to give exams asked Senior advocate Shyam Divan.
UGC CANNOT OVERRIDE THE DISASTER MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY
Directions issued by UGC are subordinate to directions issued by the Disaster Management Authority and therefore the stand taken by UGC that SDMA cannot interfere with the examination is not as per law.
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3. UGC CANNOT COMPEL THAT THE EXAMS BE HELD; CAN ONLY LAW DOWN GUIDELINES
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar argued that since the UGC Act is traced to Entry 66 of List 1 of the Constitution which deals with “Coordination and determination of standards” and as per the case of Modern Dental College Case, “Coordination and determination of standards” will not include tight to conduct examinations.
NOT HOLDING EXAMS NOT FATAL; WILL NOT DILUTE STANDARDS
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar argued that, If there are 42 courses then students a final year student has by far completed 36 courses. Not only this, but he also pointed out that job interviews take place in the last semester where the students have completed about 87% of the course.
UGC EXCEEDED THE STATUTORY MANDATE
Senior Advocate Arvind Datar argued that UGC’s direction to hold examinations by September 30 is Ultra Virus and outside the mandate of UGC Act. the uniform direction to hold exams without paying any account to the local situation is arbitrary and violative of Article 14.
He also argued that there are many institutions which are turned into COVID-19 quarantine centres which cannot be open until 31st August.
Click here to read written submissions of Senior Advocate Arvind Datar.