The Delhi High Court has adjourned the hearing in the pleas challenging the decision of Delhi University to conduct online Open Book Examinations (OBE) for final-year students in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A Single-Judge Bench of Justice Pratibha M. Singh heard the matter and adjourned the arguments to 3 PM on August 4 after it was submitted that Delhi University and the University Grants Commission (UGC) had not filed their Counter Affidavits as per the previous Order. In today's hearing, Advocate M. Rupal, Counsel for Delhi University apprised the Court that an Order had been passed in Akshay Lakra v. University of Delhi, which squarely covered the grounds in another plea Mandeep Singh & Ors. v. University of Delhi. In light of this submission, Justice Singh was inclined to place the Mandeep Singh plea before the Division Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subromaniam Prasad. Advocate HS Hora, appearing in the Mandeep Singh plea, objected to the same and attempted to clarify that the difference in the petitions lied in the fact that in Mandeep Singh, while both the pleas referred to lack of consultation with the Academic Council, it was the working of the High-Powered Committee that was being challenged, while another working committee was being challenged in Akshay Lakra. Justice Singh also raised questions about why there were problems in Delhi University's decision-making process. "You are appearing in front of me every day. I believe DU has created a wall. You have been the Counsel for DU for years, has this ever happened before? You have had the Anupam matter for a month now", Justice Singh asked Rupal. Rupal responded that the conduct of Online OBE was a challenge for DU as well, however, they were bound by the UGC Guidelines. He further sought for an adjournment, however, Justice Singh seemed inclined to hear the arguments in Anupam & Ors v. University of Delhi (the main petition). Justice Singh then noted that neither Delhi University nor UGC had filed their replies. To this, Advocate Apoorv Kurup requested for directions to file a reply on a specific point. Justice Singh instructed Kurup to file a Counter on mode of examination, format of the exam, and the timings by Monday. In response to this, Kurup submitted that some time would be taken, as he would have to call up thousands of colleges. Justice Singh then noted that there were colleges which had bypassed the final examination system and had used different evaluation processes. Kurup, in response, informed the Judge that if there were colleges which had done that, it would be wrong. Additionally, institutes like IITs/IIMs could not be judge with the same parameter as UGC Guidelines did not concern them. Justice Singh responded to this statement, "Are you saying that you are higher than IITs/IIMs?" Accordingly, DU and UGC have been directed to file replies by Monday. The matter will be taken up on 4th August, at 3 PM. During the previous hearing, Justice Singh had issued notice in a fresh plea challenging DU's decision to conduct the Online OBE. DU had been directed to submit a response to the plea by July 30. A report on the Common Service Centres (CSC) across the country was also sought. The Court, amidst concerns on the proper facilitation of Online OBE, was informed that a Committee of 4 members would be constituted post the exams to look into the grievances that may be faced by students while taking online exams. It was further brought to the notice of the Court that DU had failed to provide the list of students who would be appearing in the online exams to the Secretary of the Common Service Centres Academy. Further, service of the CSC had only been engaged for the conduct of the online exams and not the mock tests.