The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned till Friday (July 31) the hearing on the petitions challenging the UGC guidelines, which made it mandatory for universities to conduct their final year exams by September 30.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy & BR Gavai directed the Solicitor General, Tushar Mehta, to file a common reply for the University Grants Commission(UGC) to the petitions by July 29.
The petitioners are at liberty to file their rejoinder to the reply on July 30.
Four petitions were listed before the Top Court today, seeking quashing of the notification dated July 6 by Ministry of Human Resources Development and the subsequent UGC Guidelines mandating conduct of examinations for final year students by September 30.
The petitions were filed by 31 students from various Indian universities, law student Yash Dubey, Yuva Sena leader Aditya Thackeray and one student Krushna Waghmare.
Petitioners like Thackeray of Yuva Sena had demanded the UGC to allow individual state governments to pass the final year students based on the candidate's past performance.
Senior Advocate Dr A M Singhvi, appearing for Dubey, submitted that the UGC guidelines are "harsh and unworkable".
Many states including West Bengal and Maharashtra have strongly objected to the conduct of examinations amid Coronavirus pandemic, he submitted.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for UGC, submitted that "out of 818 universities in India, 394 are in the process of completing exams and 209 have already finished with exams, and 35 have not reached final year."
Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, appearing in the petition collectively filed by 31 students, urged the Court to stay the guidelines, by highlighting that more than 50,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported recently on a single day.
The genesis of all petitions sought cancellation of examinations for final years students amid Coronavirus.
"Forcing such students to appear in the final year University Examination on 30.09.2020, is flagrantly violative of their Right to Life, as enshrined within Article 21 of Constitution of India," they have submitted.
Earlier on July 7, the UGC had said the end-term examination for all final-year students would have to be mandatorily held by the end of September 2020, in offline or online mode.
The Petitioners, including a Covid positive student have pointed out that there are many final year students, who themselves or their family members are COVID positive.
Other grievances raised by the Petitioners include:
1) The decision to conduct final year examination was taken by the Respondents in an utterly arbitrary and whimsical manner, even without consulting other stakeholders, like Doctors, Teachers, Students, Universities and Colleges etc. and thus the entire genesis of the said Decision, is erroneous and misplaced.
2) The Respondents have ignored the plight of lakhs of students belonging to Bihar, Assam and North Eastern States, which are presently facing floods.
3) There is no free movement of railways and only a selected number of trains are operating. In such a situation, a student who has to travel to his/ her examination Centre through public transport will have to face immense difficulty.
4) A lot of difficulties in getting rented/ PG accommodations across India, as Landlords are unwilling to give such accommodation nowadays, due to COVID-19 outbreak.
5) Parents of the affected students are facing utmost financial distress due to reduced financial opportunities amid COVID-19 crisis. In such a situation, further burdening them with the cost of Transportation, Accommodation and Medical Treatment of their wards, for appearing in the captioned examination, is utterly unjust, unfair and unwarranted.