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[Students Vs UGC] SC To Continue Hearing On Petitions Seeking Cancellation of Final Year Exams Today

18 Aug 2020 3:51 AM GMT
[Students Vs UGC] SC To Continue Hearing On Petitions Seeking Cancellation of Final Year Exams Today
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A  Three Judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and MR Shah to continue hearing seeking quashing of UGC Guidelines dated July 6, whereby all the Universities/ Colleges have been instructed to conduct final year Examinations by September 30, 2020.

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.

During the last hearing Senior Advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Shyam Divan had addressed the Court.

Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava appearing for 31 Students will address the Court Today.

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.

"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".

Appearing for Yuva Sena, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan pointed out that COVID-19 cases are rising exponentially in several states like Maharashtra. In many places, colleges and educational institutions have been converted to quarantine centres.

Divan submitted that the UGC guidelines are subordinate to the directions issued by the Disaster Management Authority (The State Disaster Management Authority of Maharashtra has issued a direction to cancel final term exams in view of the rising COVID-19 cases. The UGC has taken a stand that SDMA cannot interfere with the conduct of examinations).

"Universities need to keep the local situation at mind before deciding to conduct the exams", he submitted before a bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhsuhan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah.

Even as per the latest 'unlock' guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on July 29, activities that won't be permitted include schools, colleges and coaching institutions. The MHA has prohibited States/Union Territories from diluting the restrictions but has allowed them to increase additional restrictions. In such a scenario, how could the UGC issue directions for holding exams, asked Divan.

Written submission by Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava

In the written submission filed through Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, the Petitioners have asserted that the impugned guidelines dated July 6, 2020, directing all the Universities to hold final year examinations by September 30 is violative of Section 12 of the UGC Act inasmuch as the UGC bypassed the statutory duty to formulate such Guidelines "In consultation with the Universities or other bodies concerned".

It is stated that despite the said mandate under Section 12, the UGC failed to "consult" with Universities or "Other Bodies".

It is submitted that the UGC purportedly relied upon the recommendations of the Kuhad Committee, however, this Committee "cannot be construed as either University or Other Bodies". It is pointed out that the Kuhad Committee did not consist of any health expert or epidemiologists, rather it comprised only of academicians alone and hence it did not qualify the statutory test of Section 12 of the UGC Act, in the present COVID-19 pandemic scenario.

The Maharashtra Students' Union has alsosought intervention in the writ petition challenging UGC Guidelines mandating conduct of examinations for final year students by September 30.

The Petitioner organization stands by the decision of theMaharashtra Government of not holding final year examinations of both professional and non-professional courses in the state, amid the pandemic.

It is contended that decision of the State's Disaster Management Authority shall prevail over all Central and State Acts, including the Universities Grant Commission Act, 1956, as it is a special law.

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