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State Govt/SDMA Can Override UGC Deadline For Exam Based On Local Pandemic Situation: SC [Read Judgment]

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
28 Aug 2020 11:46 AM GMT
State Govt/SDMA Can Override UGC Deadline For Exam Based On Local Pandemic Situation: SC [Read Judgment]
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""No State shall permit health of its subject to be compromised"

In its judgment delivered on Friday, the Supreme Court observed that the State Disaster Management Authority and State Government has authority under Disaster Management Act, 2005, to take a decision that for mitigation or prevention of disaster it is not possible to hold physical examination in the State.

"The direction of the University Grants Commission in Revised Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 insofar as it directs the Universities and Colleges to complete the final year/terminal year examination by 30.09.2020 shall be overridden by any contrary decision taken by the State Disaster Management Authority or the State Government exercising power under the Disaster Management Act, 2005." the bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah held.

The court observed that, with regard to conduct of examinations, the State authorities are competent to assess the situation in a particular State regarding possibility of holding of examinations. The bench was considering the submission that the UGC guidelines does not prohibit a State or State Disaster Management Authority in taking appropriate decision in exercise of power under Disaster Management Act, 2005 not to hold examination looking to the situation in a particular State. The Court said the guidelines dated 06.07.2020 of the UGC insofar as it directs completion of final examinations by 30.09.2020 which direction is overridden by the decision of the State Disaster Management Authority and State Government where it resolved not to hold the examinations. The bench observed:

"No State shall permit health of its subject to be compromised that is why overriding power has been given to the State Disaster Management Authority and the State Government with regard to any inconsistency with any other law for the time being in force. We have noticed above that there are no orders or directions in the guidelines of the National Disaster Management Authority or National Executive Committee fettering the powers of the State Disaster Management Authority and a State Government to take a decision as to whether examinations by physical mode be permitted in particular State looking to the situation in the State."

The court recorded the UGC counsel's submission that it shall be ready to consider any request received from any State to allow the Universities to re­schedule the date of final examinations and in the event any request is made to 144 the UGC the deadline for completion of the examination can be extended by the UGC and the date of final examinations can be rescheduled. The Court has grant liberty to State/Union Territory to make an application to the University Grants Commission for extending deadline of 30.09.2020 if, in exercise of jurisdiction under Disaster Management Act, 2005, it has taken a decision that it is not possible to conduct the final year/terminal semester examination by 30.09.2020.

Referring to the Section 72 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 empowers the State Disaster Management Authority as well as the State Government to take decision for prevention and mitigation of a disaster and the action taken by the authorities under the Disaster Management Act have been given overriding effect to achieve the purpose and object of the Act. "In case of a disaster the priority of all authorities under the Disaster Management Act is to immediately combat the disaster and contain it to save human life. Saving of life of human being is given paramount importance and the Act, 2005 gives primacy, priority to the actions and measures taken under the Act over inconsistency in any other law for the time being in force. Section 72 begins with non obstante clause.", the bench observed.

State Govt./SDMA Cannot Promote The Students Without Holding Final Year/Terminal Semester Examinations

State Governments or State Disaster Management Authority in exercise of power under Disaster Management Act, 2005 has no jurisdiction to take a decision that the students of final year/terminal students should be promoted on the basis of earlier year assessment and internal assessment.

The Court said that University Grants Commission is the Authority to issue guidelines for determination and maintenance of standards of education and teaching of the Universities. The bench observed thus while considering the issue whether the State and State's Disaster Management Authority in exercise of jurisdiction under Disaster Management Act, 2005 can take a decision not to hold examination by 30.09.2020 disregarding the direction in the UGC guidelines dated 06.07.2020? This issue arose since the State Disaster Management Authority (State of Maharashtra) had resolved to promote the students without taking the final examinations. It was contended before the Court that the decision of the Disaster Management Authority or the State Government that students should be promoted without appearing in the final year/terminal semester examination, is not within the domain of the Disaster Management Act, 2005

Agreeing with the said view, the bench observed:

The decision to promote students and grant Degree by a State if contrary to any Central enactment or guidelines issued thereunder the Central enactment and the guidelines thereunder shall have precedence by virtue of the same being referable to Entry 66 List I. We, thus, conclude that the State Disaster Management Authority and the State Government has no jurisdiction to take a decision that the students of final year/terminal examination should be promoted on the basis of earlier years assessment and internal assessment whereas the UGC guidelines dated 06.07.2020 directed specifically to conduct final year/terminal semester examination.

The court also noted that the UGC guideline shall override the decision of the State Government and the State Disaster Management Authority regarding promoting the students, does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and shall have no protection of Section 72 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

We, thus, conclude that the State or the State Disaster Management Authority have no jurisdiction under Disaster Management Act, 2005 to take a decision for promoting the students on the basis of previous performance or internal assessment which decision being contrary to revised guidelines of the University Grants Commission cannot be upheld and has to give way to the guidelines of UGC which is the Authority to issue guidelines for determination and maintenance of standards of education and teaching of the Universities.

The bench also observed that the direction of the University Grants Commission in its revised guidelines dated 06.07.2020 insofar it directs the Universities and colleges to complete the final year/terminal examinations by 30.09.2020 shall be overridden by any contrary decision taken by a State Disaster Management Authority or the State Government exercising power under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

The Court has grant liberty to State/Union Territory to make an application to the University Grants Commission for extending deadline of 30.09.2020 if, in exercise of jurisdiction under Disaster Management Act, 2005, it has taken a decision that it is not possible to conduct the final year/terminal semester examination by 30.09.2020.

The following is the conclusions arrived at by the court after examining various issues involved in the case:

  1. The Revised Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 issued by the UGC [whereby all the Universities and Colleges across the country had been directed to conduct terminal semester/ final year examinations by 30.09.2020] are not beyond the domain of the UGC and they relate to coordination and determination of standards in institutions of higher education.
  2. The Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 are in continuation to the earlier Guidelines dated 29.04.2020 and are not contrary to the earlier Guidelines. We have to look into the substance of the Guidelines to find out the intention and object of the Guidelines. The Guidelines were issued with the object that a uniform academic calendar be followed by all the Universities and final /terminal examinations be held.
  3. Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 has to be treated to have been issued in exercise of the statutory powers vested in the Commission under Section 12. As per the Statutory Regulations, 2003, it is the 154 statutory duty of the Universities to adopt the Guidelines issued by the UGC. The Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 cannot be ignored by terming it as non-statutory or advisory.
  4. The differentiation made in the Revised Guidelines to hold final or terminal semester examination and to give option for earlier years/intermediate semester for not holding the examination has a rational basis. The differentiation has nexus with the object to be achieved. We, thus, reject the challenge to the revised Guidelines on the ground that there is any discrimination between the students of final year/terminal semester and those of intermediate and first year.
  5. The revised Guidelines also cannot be termed to violate Article 14 of the Constitution on the ground that one date, i.e., 30.09.2020 has been fixed irrespective of the conditions prevailing in individual States. The date for completion of examination was fixed throughout the country to maintain uniformity in the academic calendar.
  6. The Revised Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 as well as Standard Operating Procedures for conduct of examinations circulated vide letter dated 08.07.2020 of UGC as well as O.M. dated 06.07.2020 issued by MHRD clearly shows deep concern with the health of all stakeholders, i.e., students as well as the exam functionaries. Challenge to the Guidelines on the ground of it being violative of Article 21 is repelled.
  7. The expression "other bodies" used in opening part of the Section 12 of the UGC Act, 1956 is in reference to other bodies apart from Universities as enumerated under Section 12. The submission that other bodies as occurring in Section 12 should include State Disaster Management Authority or health experts is misconceived. Section 12 never contemplated any such expression. The revised guidelines dated 06.07.2020 are not in breach of Section 12 of 1956 Act.
  8. The direction of the University Grants Commission in Revised Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 insofar as it directs the Universities and Colleges to complete the final year/terminal year examination by 30.09.2020 shall be overridden by any contrary decision taken by the State Disaster Management Authority or the State Government exercising power under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
  9. The State Governments or State Disaster Management Authority in exercise of power under Disaster Management Act, 2005 has no jurisdiction to take a decision that the students of final year/terminal students should be promoted on the basis of earlier year assessment and internal assessment, which decision being contrary to UGC Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 has to give way to the UGC Guidelines. The UGC Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 specifically directed to conduct the final year/ terminal semester examination which shall override such contrary decision of the State Government or SDMA.
  10. The State Governments or State Disaster Management Authority in exercise of power under Disaster Management Act, 2005 has no jurisdiction to take a decision that the students of final year/terminal students should be promoted on the basis of earlier year assessment and internal assessment, which decision being contrary to UGC Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 has to give way to the UGC Guidelines. The UGC Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 specifically directed to conduct the final year/ terminal semester examination which shall override such contrary decision of the State Government or SDMA.



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