The Quint : Aug 10, 2020, 04:07 PM
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday, 10 August, asked if college exams cancelled in Maharashtra under the National Disaster Management Act will have an “overriding effect on the University Grants Commission guidelines” that have asked for final-year exams to be held by the end of September.A three-judge bench of Justices Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah posed this question after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for UGC, questioned “how can states cancel exams and expect UGC to confer degree” when the UGC “ is the only body to confer degrees.”Mehta was referring to the responses filed by Maharashtra and Delhi, in which both the states have communicated their decision to cancel college exams.Requesting that the UGC be allowed some time to file its reply over submissions made by Delhi and Maharashtra, SG Mehta said students must continue preparing for exams.“Students have to continue preparing for exams. If exams are not conducted, the students will not be granted degrees. That’s the law!”Mehta also said that he will file a response on the impact of orders passed under the NDMA act on the UGC guidelines soon.The SC hearing on a bunch of petitions challenging the guidelines issued by the University Grants Commission on the conduct of final-year exams before the end of September has now been adjourned till 14 August.What did the UGC affidavit say?Earlier, the UGC had told the Supreme Court that it had framed the guidelines to protect the “academic future of students across the country,” which it said would be “irreparably damaged if their final year, terminal examinations are not held.”It also added that in case, students are unable to appear, then they would be given a chance of a specially-conducted exam at a later date.What are states saying?While the University Grants Commission remains firm on its stand, both Delhi and Maharashtra governments have informed the Supreme Court that final-year exams have been cancelled.Delhi Government had informed the Supreme Court on 9 August that it had asked “all Delhi State Universities to cancel all written online and offline semester examinations including final year exams.” According to the government, digital divide in online classes, coupled with unavailability of study material for scores of students had led to cancellation of exams.Maharashtra Government had on 7 August told the Supreme Court that the State Disaster Management Authority had decided not to conduct examinations due to the COVID-19 situation in the state. The government listed declaration of lockdown by municipal bodies, existence of containment zones, the use of college buildings as containment centres and the opinion of majority Vice Chancellors against conduct of examinations as reasons behind its decision.Who are the petitioners?Yuva Sena - The youth wing of Maharashtra powerhouse Shiv Sena has filed a petition on the directions of its leader Aditya Thackeray, challenging the guidelines of the UGC and requesting the apex court that each university be allowed to chart out its own plan of action with regard to terminal semester/final-year examinations depending on the conditions in their states.Students Across India - Around 30 students from across the country, including a COVID-19-positive student, have moved the Supreme Court asking that final-year students be considered at par with CBSE, ICSE & NIOS and that results be declared on the basis of internal assessment.Yash Dubey - A final-year law student in Bhopal, Dubey has argued that the revised UGC guidelines are in violation of the fundamental rights enshrined under Article 14 (Right to Equality) and Article 21 (Right to Life and Personal Liberty) of the Constitution of India, they undermine the health, safety, fair and equal opportunity for the students.What do revised UGC Guidelines say?According to revised UGC guideline, final-year university examinations may be conducted by the end of September, either online, offline or through a combination of both.The guidelines also say that in case a student is unable to write final-year exams, she can appear for a special examination at a later period, as and when feasible.For students of the first and second semester, there have been no change in guidelines. This means that universities can evaluate students on the basis of internal assessment and marks scored in previous semesters, if they are unable to conduct exams due to the prevailing situation.