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[Breaking] 'How Can There Be Exams Without Teaching? UGC Directions Arbitrary': Singvhi Seeks Cancellation Of Exams

14 Aug 2020 6:45 AM GMT
[Breaking] How Can There Be Exams Without Teaching? UGC Directions Arbitrary: Singvhi Seeks Cancellation Of Exams
"No one is against the exams in normal times. We are against exams during the pandemic", he submitted in SC.
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On Friday, Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi opened the arguments for the petitioner, Yash Dubey, in the petition challenging the direction issued by the University Grants Commission(UGC) to hold final term exams by September 30.

Stating that the number of COVID-19 cases have been increasing exponentially, Singhvi submitted before  bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah that the matter was related to "life and health of students".

"It is important to keep in mind Article 14. Different students, different access levels. The exam is not an end in itself. Exam must happen after teaching", he submitted.

"There is a direct nexus between teaching and taking of exams. How can there be exams without teaching?", he asked.

He pointed out that the Ministry of Home Affairs has not permitted the opening of educational institutions even now, but has allowed the conduct of exams. This, according to him, was done without a proper "application of mind".

In none of the guidelines issued by the MHA at various points of time regarding the lockdown, students were warned that there will be full-fledged exams. Suddenly, by a circular issued in July, UGC asked Universities to hold final term exams by September 30, he said.

"Education is not special here; pandemic here is special. Pandemic applies to everyone and everything. If NDMA says that don't have physical courts, can I come and say that I have this right and that right?", Singhvi asked.

He also said that the UGC had no consistent stand regarding the conduct of exams, as it had voiced apprehension about the rising COVID-19 cases in an earlier circular.

Attack on federalism

The uniform direction issued by the UGC to hold final term exams, without having regard to the special local conditions is an "attack on federalism", he said. The States should have the autonomy to take a call on this issue based on the assessment of the local conditions.

"Even a first-year will be able to say that this is not federal. This special situation is extra-ordinary. The pandemic is state-neutral, political colour-neutral, people-neutral", he said.

UGC guidelines 'manifestly arbitrary'.

Singhvi said that the UGC decision was vitiated by "manifest arbitrariness" as per the principles laid down in the Shayara Bano case (triple talaq verdict).

"What is manifestly arbitrary ? When something is irrational, capricious and disproportional. The UGC guidelines would violate Art. 14 under the aspect of manifest arbitrariness", he submitted.

The Guidelines are a "one-size fits all" method which doesn't take into account the accessibility, transport etc of students. 

He also submitted that the affidavits of the UGC and the MHA did not deal with the aspect whether the provisions of Disaster Management Act can override UGC guidelines (Maharastra government took the decision to cancel the exams based on the decision taken by the State Disaster Management Authority).

"No one is against the exams in normal times. We are against exams during the pandemic", he submitted in conclusion.

Update : The SC has adjourned the hearing in the case till August 18, after hearing Shyam Divan, Senior Advocate, for Yuva Sena. The report about the submission of Shyam Divan may be read here.

Complete updates from the SC hearing may be read here

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