Observing that "It is the duty of both the respondents (State and Karnataka Secondary Education Examination Board) to take all possible precautions to ensure that the children who are going to appear for SSLC examination are not exposed to any danger." The Karnataka High Court has allowed the government to conduct SSLC exams starting from June 25.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice P Krishna Bhat disposed of a public interest litigation filed by Advocate Lokesh M and others seeking directions to the respondents to cancel the SSLC examination for the academic year 2019-2020 and consequently, to declare the students who have registered for SSLC examination eligible for promotion to the next higher class based on the marks obtained by them in the Pre-Board/Preparatory examinations.
Advocate M S Bhagwat appearing for the petitioners had argued that "In view of the provisions of the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, the academic year 2019-2020 came to an end on 11th April 2020 and therefore, after the end of the academic year, SSLC examination cannot be held. About 8.48 lakhs students will be appearing for SSLC examinations, forcing such a large number of young students to appear for the examination will amount to exposing them to the risk of getting infected with coronavirus. Moreover, large number of migrants have already left the State and therefore, it will be impossible for the migrant students to appear for the examination.
Advocate General Prabhuling Navadgi tendered a circular of the Standard Operating Procedure (for short 'SOP') for conducting SSLC examination in view of COVID-19. He pointed out that all the necessary provisions have been made therein for protection of students. In case of migrant children who have migrated from one place to another in the State and as regards the children staying in hostels/residential schools, an option will be given to them to choose alternate centre which is nearby to their present residence. In case of students who have migrated or travelled outside the State or are staying in the bordering States, an option is available to skip the examination commencing from 25th June 2020 and to appear for the supplementary examination which will be conducted two months after 4th July 2020.
Further, in case of students who appear for the supplementary examination, the State Government will endeavor to ensure that the academic year 2020-2021 is not lost due to delay in declaration of results of the examination.
The court after going through circular said "As far as the issue of cancellation of SSLC examination and promoting the students to the next higher class is concerned, a writ court should be always slow in interfering with academic matters. These are the matters which should be best left to the decision of the experts in the field."
It added "We find from the SOP that various safeguards have been provided to the students to ensure that they do not get infected with coronavirus. If SOP is effectively implemented, it will take care of apprehensions expressed by the petitioners. The SOP tendered across the Bar shows that the State Government and the Board are fully conscious about the safety
issue of the children who are going to appear for the examination. All the issues of safety have been taken care of by the SOP contained in the circular dated 27th May 2020."
The court while refusing to grant any relief disposed of the petition. However, it issued directions to be followed by the authorities for the safety of children.
1: We direct the respondents to ensure that social distancing norms are scrupulously followed in all the examination halls by ensuring that the distance between two students appearing for the examination shall be minimum one metre;
2: The respondents shall ensure that helplines are immediately created by the Deputy Commissioners of every District to enable the registered students/their parents/guardians to seek the help of the State Government machinery for providing public transport to facilitate the children to reach the centre of the examination. Adequate publicity shall be given to the details of the helpline. The Deputy Commissioners shall ensure that all possible help is rendered to such students;
3: The respondents shall ensure that messages are forwarded on the cell phone numbers of the migrant students/their parents available on record of the Board clearly informing them about the option provided in Clause (VII) of the SOP as well as the option provided in Clause (VI) thereof. Wide publicity shall be given by the respondents by all possible modes to the options available to the migrant students as provided in Clauses (VI) and (VII) of the SOP;
4: As regards the children staying in containment zones, by all possible methods, the students/their parents shall be informed about the option to appear for supplementary
examination to be held two months after 4th July 2020;