Delhi High Court has refused to provide relief in plea challenging the constitutionality of the directions given by the Bar Council of India to all Law Universities in the country to conduct the final year law examinations through online mode or through any other appropriate method, and to conduct intermediate year law examinations after reopening of colleges.
The Division Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad allowed the Petitioner to withdraw the petition with the liberty to approach the Supreme Court.
While recording the order, the court stated that:
'The concerns raised by the Petitioners refer to issues that are pan-India, so much so, that one of the Petitioners is not even a student of a University over which this court can exercise jurisdiction. Therefore, the court does not have a mandate to entertain this petition in its present form.'
The 27th May Guidelines issued by the BCI, along with their Press Release dated 9th June, stated that the final year law students would be allowed to appear in online examinations, and the Universities would have the liberty to adopt an alternative strategy for conducting examinations for those students who are unable to avail the online examinations.
For intermediate students, the Guidelines prescribed promotion on the basis of performance of previous years and marks obtained in internal examination of the current year. The Universities were directed to the conduct the end semester examination within a month of reopening of colleges.
The plea, filed by Advocates Gunjan Singh and Pragya Ganjoo on behalf of law students Purbayan Chakraborty and Vishal Tripathi, further challenges the 27th June notification of University of Delhi which states that the new date sheets for all UG and PG programmes in Open Book Examination mode would be notified by the examination branch on 3th July, and the examination would commence from 10th July.
The issue underlined in the plea is that "25% law students, at the maximum, have smart phones, computers and internet connection" and in this context, the plea highlights the suicide of a 16-year-old student in Assam who was troubled due to being unable to participate in online classes and examinations as he did not have a smart phone.
"The basic submission is that any direction to hold examinations would be discriminatory and exclude the poorer 75% of the student population. The online trainings that are said to have happened, even assuming that they did take place, would not be freely accessible to the poor who have neither the device, nor the internet facilities to access these trainings".
Therefore, as averred in the plea, "the online/internet mode education which was adopted as an alternative soon after the shutdown of the educational institutions was essentially limited to the rich and comfortable class of the society".
The plea submits that the alternative is to have no examinations and to take the average of the students' grades/marks over the previous semesters and confer grades/marks on the basis of this average. In this regard, the plea alludes to the CBSE notification wherein similar steps were taken.
"In the present case, it is suggested that the average performance of the students in the earlier years be taken to allow the students to graduate. This would obviate the need for having a system of examinations which would discriminatory on a large scale."
The online lectures delivered by the Universities have also been criticized in the petition.
"…the so-called lectures that were online were delivered haphazardly and partially, in that many of the lectures on account of COVID-19 were not delivered at all. The BCI may be called upon to produce the information as to what percentage of the lectures supposed to be done online were actually done."
The petition also highlights the situation in Delhi University wherein the students have not been provided physical copies of case material. Additionally, as the lockdown had been announced during the University mid-semester break, many outstation students were stuck in their hometowns, with no access to their study material.
Moreover, the petition submits that many students did not have access to online classes due to lack of accessibility to laptops, internet, phones compatible with video-conferencing applications, a quiet space, printers or finances to avail hard copies of study material.