The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the respondents returnable next week, in a petition filed by students of Visvesvaraya Technological University, challenging the decision of the University to conduct semester examinations in offline mode.
A single bench of Justice R Devdas issued the notice while hearing a petition filed on behalf of 120 students, inter alia seeking to quash notification providing for conduct of exam in offline mode. It has been prayed that the exams be conducted in online mode or students be evaluated on the basis of some other alternative modes.
Advocate Tanvi Dubey appearing for the petitioners submitted "We are not asking for cancellation of the exam. The only request is change of mode of conduct of exams. Thousands of students who will have to travel down to Bangalore will be affected if examination is conducted in offline mode."
However, the court orally said "It is not for this court to take such decisions. Officers are aware of the situation. Based on Standard Operating Procedure issued by Central government as well as State government the admission process is accordingly done. We are also conducting exams for civil judges and district judges, all those are offline only. Because you raise some apprehension we cannot make them stop the process."
Nevertheless, the bench proceeded to issue notice.
The students have stated that if the examinations are conducted offline, many students will be compelled to travel from different countries and states, thereby increasing the risk of spread of Covid-19 and the also the new strain virus.
The situation is said to be urgent with respect to the fact that more than 10 cases of new strain virus have already been detected in the state, within a week. "Providing for compulsory conduct of semester end examination in offline mode, which will expose the examinees to immense risk and will amount to flagrant violation of basic principle of right to health which is an important facet of right to life," the plea states.
The decision is also said to be arbitrary, not fair, not in pursuit of promotion of healthy competition and in blatant violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. It is further pointed out that the University' decision is contrary to the Revised UGC Guidelines dated July 6, wherein it was provided that terminal semester/ final year examination by the end of September 2020 shall be conducted in offline (pen & paper)/online/ blended (online + offline) mode following the prescribed protocols guidelines related to COVID-19 pandemic.
"It is pertinent to note that even the aforesaid UGC Guidelines, in view of the risks associated with COVID-19 gave an option of offline/online/blended (online + offline) mode for conduct of examination following the prescribed protocols guidelines related to COVID-19 pandemic."
Furthermore, it is submitted that since all sessions, classes and labs have been conducted online and are decided to be conducted online for the next semester also, there is no reason why the examination has to be held in offline mode.
The Petitioners have therefore urged the Court to direct the Respondent-University to revise its circular dated 09.12.2020 and provide for the conduct of exams in ONLINE mode; and allow the students who are unable to physically appear in the examination as per circular dated 09.12.2020, due to health conditions, self-Quarantine restrictions to appear in the examination through ONLINE mode; submit a set of parameters for evaluation of the students on the basis of students past performance promote the students on the basis of the performance in the previous semesters by taking an aggregate score for all the semesters and extrapolating them to calculate the marks for the end semester.
In the interim, they have urged the Court to stay the conduct of examination tentatively scheduled from 14.01.2021, In the ends of justice and equity.