Supreme Court will now hear the plea seeking for postponement of the upcoming Civil Services Examination, 2020 on Wednesday, that is, 30th September.
A Bench comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari directed Advocate Naresh Kaushik, appearing on behalf of the Union Public Service Commission, to file an Affidavit by tomorrow, and listed the plea for day after. In today's proceedings, Senior Advocate VK Shukla, appearing for 20 UPSC aspirants, informed the Bench that a copy had been served to the opposing counsel. Kaushik, appearing for UPSC, then submitted to the Bench that it would be impossible to agree with the contentions of the Petitioners as postponement would hurt the process of recruitment. Further, UPSC had already considered the issue and had deferred it once. The Bench then asked Kaushik to file a short Affidavit listing down the logistical reasons for not postponing. Advocate Anushree Kapadia, appearing on behalf of a father of a government officer who is desirous to attempt the exam, was directed to serve a copy of her Intervention Application to Kaushik and all the other parties. The matter will now be taken up on 30th September. On 24th September, a Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna had posted the matter for 28th September, but had not issued notice.
The plea has been filed by 20 UPSC aspirants through Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava against conducting of the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination 2020, on October 4. They have submitted that this 7 hours long Offline exam, which will be taken by approximately six lakh aspirants at test centres in 72 cities across India, is likely to be a big source of further spread of the Covid-19 virus.
It is therefore submitted that the Revised Calendar for UPSC exam is utterly arbitrary and patently violative of the Right to Health and Life of the aspirants, under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Petitioners have submitted that for fear of risk of illness or death, they may not be able to take the captioned examination. Thus, it is contended that the Revised Calendar violates their right to practice their chosen profession/occupation of serving the public, under Article 19 (1) (g) of the Constitution.
It is further contended that the Revised Calendar suffers from class-based discrimination and violates Article 14 of the Constitution, inasmuch as students belonging to the middle class and/or lower middle class will not be able to afford transport, accommodation, or other expenses to take the examination amid a pandemic. Furthermore, it violates Article 16 of the Constitution as it deprives many of the aspirants from equal opportunity in public employment.
The Petitioners therefore seek postponement of the Civil Services Exam for 2 to 3 months, so that the flood/ incessant rains go away, the COVID-19 curve may flatten and the State Governments, who are otherwise "admittedly unprepared" as of today, get more time to prepare themselves for implementation of SOPs of the said Exam.
It is highlighted that Civil Services Exam, being a recruitment examination, is altogether different from an academic examination and thus in the event of its postponement, there would not be any question of delay or loss of any academic session.
Other grounds taken by the Petitioners are listed below:
· Many Civil Services aspirants, who are already working as Frontline COVID Warriors in different hospitals and/or administrative departments. It would not only be difficult for them to leave their place of work and travel to their Examination Centres, but their absence at their workplace at such critical times may lead to immense suffering to the COVID patients and/or COVID management.
· In many of similar large-scale examinations conducted recently, virtually there were no SOPs followed, no social distancing maintained and every tall claim of the Respondents have virtually failed on ground.
· Due to lack of at least one examination centre in every district of India and due to the fact that many students have returned back from their place of study to their hometowns, today there are many students whose Examination Centres are 1000 KMs apart from their present place of residence.
· COVID-19 has been found to be airborne and in many cases it is asymptomatic. This is increasing the possibility of its spurt at the large gatherings of students/ their parents at the Exam Centre.
· Many districts/ municipal bodies are still imposing Complete Lockdown in their respective areas. Many big cities have several containment zones. Free movement of students is restricted in such areas, causing a lot of harassment.
· Students would be required to wear the masks for more than 7-8 hours on the date of examinations and thus would be forced to reduced oxygen level, resulting into slowed down brain function and thus it is even in the interest of justice to postpone these Exams in the interest of health of the students.
· Even as per the Unlock-4 Guidelines, all libraries, colleges, educational and coaching institutions are also closed and hence many of the aspirants have been deprived from adequate preparation of the said Exam.