A letter petition has been sent to the CJI, stating that the Government order directing Universities to compulsorily conduct examination of final year students is in "sheer violation" of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India, as it fails to consider the principles of health, safety, fair and equal opportunity for the students.
The representation has been made by Yash Dubey, a final year law student in the Bhopal University and also the Circle Head at the Youth Bar Association of India (Student Wing). He has urged the Apex Court to take suo-moto of the issue and to put the Academic Calendar for the Universities "in abeyance", till the situation of Covid-19 normalizes.
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had permitted the conduct of exams by Universities and Institutions vide notification dated July 6, 2020 and had ordered the Universities to compulsorily conduct examination of final year students as per UGC guidelines and Standard Operating Procedure.
In furtherance of the aforementioned notification, UGC has issued revised guidelines for University examination for terminal semester students whereby it instructed Universities to conduct exams in offline (pen & paper)/ online/ blended (offline + online) mode.
In his letter, Dubey has asserted that in addition to the health risks, it will also be extremely difficult for a large section of the students to pay their examination fee or to bear stay and travel expenses to the source where the examination will be conducted.
"The UGC has cited examples of top-ranking Universities such as MIT, Cambridge for conduction of examination during Covid-19 Pandemic. However, by doing so, the UGC has totally neglected the unprecedented difficulties that our country is facing in times of pandemic. To say the least, in these testing days, a section of our society is not able to arrange bread and butter for a day. Therefore, in view of the current difficulties that our country is facing, it is quite unrealistic to justify the reasoning of conduction of virtual examination by relying on examples of the premier institutions of the world," the letter states.
Dubey has challenged the compulsory conduct of examination of the final year students, inter alia, on the following grounds:
- The Revised Guidelines are in sheer violation of the fundamental rights enshrined under Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) of the Constitution of India, as it fails to consider the principles of health, safety, fair and equal opportunity for the students;
- In view of rising numbers of the Covid-19 cases in the country, the conduct of examination (either online/offline/blended) will expose both the examiners and examinees to great health risks;
- The conduct of offline exams will entail students (who have already travelled to their hometown) to migrate from one place to another, in order to attend the examination. This will also involve risk of staying in shared accommodation as various colleges and hostels have been converted into quarantine centres;
- It will be absolutely unjust to neglect the problems that will be faced by thousands of students, who will sit for online examination as the same will indubitably work against the interest of students whose access to internet is precarious and who do not have personal computers or laptops in their house, which are imperative to conduct online examination;
Further he said,
"The suggested model of conduction of compulsory examination takes the students backwards rather than forward. It effectively brings in second phase of postponement of examination, which creates a cloud of uncertainty for the states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh, Punjab and West Bengal, which already decided to cancel examination."
He has therefore urged the Top Court to take steps for formulation of "alternative system of evaluation", so as to do complete, equal and fair justice to the students and to exclude possibility of discrimination, disadvantage and risk of life.
The letter has been supported by 34 other signatory students from the State.
Earlier, a law student from the Delhi University had addressed a letter to the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice DN Patel, highlighting the plight of students in view of the said Government order. "Academic evaluation and examination system shall not outweigh the lives of students," the letter urged.