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Supreme Court Dismisses CBSE-ICSE Students' Plea Seeking Hybrid Option For Class X-XII Term Exams

Shruti Kakkar
18 Nov 2021 6:43 AM GMT
Supreme Court Dismisses CBSE-ICSE Students Plea Seeking Hybrid Option For Class X-XII Term Exams
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The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a writ petition filed by students seeking urgent directions to conduct Class X and XII CBSE and ICSE Term I exams in hybrid manner for November 18, 2021.The bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar dismissed the petition observing that the CBSE term exams have already commenced on November 16 and an intervention at this juncture will disturb...

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The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a writ petition filed by students seeking urgent directions to conduct Class X and XII CBSE and ICSE Term I exams in hybrid manner for November 18, 2021.

The bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar dismissed the petition observing that the CBSE term exams have already commenced on November 16 and an intervention at this juncture will disturb the process. The bench also noted in the order that the ICSE term exams are commencing from next Monday, November 22.

"...as the exam has commenced on November 16, it will be inappropriate to intervene now and disturb the entire process. At this belated stage, the Writ Petition cannot be entertained. We hope and trust that all the precautions will be taken by the authorities and COVID SOP will be adhered to", the bench noted in the order.

The bench took note of the submissions of the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the CBSE, that adequate arrangements have been adopted to address the concerns of the petitioners regarding COVID. The SG said that the exam centres have been increased to 15,000 from 6500 of last year to ensure more social distancing and less travel time. Now only 12 students will sit in a centre, as opposed to 40 students earlier. Also, the exam time has been reduced from 3 hours to 90 minutes.

The SG added that nearly 34 lakh students are appearing for the exams and to alter the mode of exam now will be tough.

Senior Advocate Sanjay Hegde, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that all they seek is a hybrid option, as the threat of COVID pandemic is not yet over.

"This is not adversarial. This is a unique situation.  Lakhs of students will be writing the exam. These are mid term exam brought because of pandemic. Our request is ..pandemic is not yet over. It is premature to say that we can have a physical exam. Wherever there is a large congregation of people, virus can transmit. These children live among people with comorbidities", Hegde submitted. He pointed out that exam was held online last year, and the same option be given this year as well.

When the bench pointed out that the exams have already started, Hegde submitted,  "Those were minor papers, which only a few students write. Major papers, which include languages, Maths, science, they have not yet come". Hegde added that since the exams are in MCQ format, an online option can be easily given.

"You have come so late Mr.Hegde", Justice Khanwilkar said.

Hegde pointed out that the notification came on October 14, and the parents and students have been filing representations before the authorities, and they ultimately approached the Court in November first week.

"They are conducting exam for 34 lakh students,...we could have tested if you had come early. This last minute exercise should be discouraged. We can't mess up the process. Let the authorities do their job", Justice Khanwilkar observed. The bench noted that the petition was listed for the first time on November 5, and the next posting was on November 15, when the bench asked the petitioners to serve advanced copy on the respondents. The bench said that the petitioners could have sought for urgent listing after mentioning.

While declining interference, the bench noted in the order that it hoped and trusted that the authorities will adhere to COVID protocol while holding exams

Details of the Petition

The petition filed through Advocate Sumanth Nookala had challenged the revised examination schedule directing the exams to be conducted in offline mode only instead of adopting Hybrid mode from November 16th and November 22nd onwards.

The petition had sought quashing of the following two circulars:

* Circular dated 14.10.2021 in so far as the schedule for Term 1 Exams for X and XII class students of CBSE Board was to be conducted in Offline mode alone

* Circular dated 22.10.2021 in so far as the schedule for Semester 1 Exams for ISC and ICSE was revised to be conducted in Offline mode alone

The petitioners had argued that the Date Sheet discloses exams for major subjects spread over three weeks placing the petitioners and the like in great apprehension on the risk of infection and the impact on subsequent exams.

* It has been stated that preceding the exams for major subjects in December 2021 are the exams for Minor subjects in November 2021 in physical mode further aggravating the likelihood of turning the exams for Major subjects into Super Spreader Event.

"At any rate, such continuous exposure through offline exams sharply increases the risk of infection to Covid 19 rendering the impugned action as arbitrary and in violation of Right to Health," the plea stated.

The petitioners had taken a specific stand that Hybrid or Blended Mode of Examination was the need of the hour and better facilitates Social Distancing reducing the strain on logistical constraints.

Arguing that obtaining consent without giving a choice is ex-facie arbitrary and illegal, the petitioners had submitted that many students have reported that consent was being secured by resorting to misrepresentation and coercion.

Case Title: Abhyuday Chakma & Ors vs Union of India & Ors| WP(C) 1240/2021

 

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