The University of Kerala told the High Court of Kerala Court that it has taken a decision to conduct additional examinations for those candidates who cannot appear for the examinations scheduled on July 1 due to pandemic related difficulties. Such exams will be treated as 'special examinations' and no additional fee will be collected for the same. Also, the special examination will not be treated as a 'supplementary examination' and will have the legal status of an ordinary examination.
In the light of such submissions, the Court turned down the pleas to stay the exams scheduled by Kerala University on July 1.
However, the Court directed the Vice Chancellor of the University to take a decision by today (June 30) on the representations filed by the petitioners-students.
The single bench of Justice C S Dias, who considered the pleas, ordered :
"As the scope of judicial review in the scheduling of the examination is very limited, and the fact that the students who are willing to appear and write the examination have not been impleaded at least in their representative capacity and since the examinations are to commence from 01.07.2020 and further for the elaborate arrangements and reasons pleaded by the University in the statements filed before this Court, I decline to pass an ad-interim order to stay the examinations scheduled on 01.07.2020".
Citing SC precedents, the High Court said that the Courts should not substitute the wisdom of specialists in the field of academics.
The Court was considering two writ petitions - one filed by 23 PG students and the other filed by a sixth semester law student of the Kerala Law Academy.
Appearing for the PG students, Senior Advocate George Poonthottam submitted that the scheduling of the exams, without the requisite number of teaching days, is arbitrary. As per the UGC regulations, there has to be a minimum of 90 teaching days; but the semester had only 29 days due to suspension of classes since March 9 on account of COVID-19. It was urged that the students' study materials are left in the hostels, many of which have been converted into quarantine centres. The students have been without access to their research guides on account of the lockdown restrictions, submitted the senior counsel.
Advocate E Adithyan, appearing for the law student, submitted that due to lockdown, the students are stranded in different parts, including containment zones and hotspots. The sudden call for examination will involve gathering of nearly 400 students in a single room, which is highly risky.
The standing counsel for the University, Advocate Thomas Abraham, told the bench that the University has already conducted semester exams for some undergraduate courses successfully from May 21 to June 15. He assured that all safety protocols have been adopted for the exam. It was pointed out that majority of the students are willing to appear in the regular exam. The Division Bench has, on an earlier occassion, refused to order the postponement of University, upholding the contention regarding adherence to academic calendar.