New Delhi: There seems to a battle brewing between the Delhi government and the UGC in the Supreme Court over the holding of exams in the state during this pandemic. Today, while the state government informed the top court that there will certainly be no exams held in the state in all state-run universities, the UGC has put forth a protest and has asked for time to respond. The issue of cancelled exams in Maharashtra has also come up.
The hearing has been adjourned to Friday after the UGC asked for time to respond to affidavits filed by Delhi and Maharashtra which have cancelled exams despite UGC guidelines.
The Delhi government stood firm on its directive to all state universities to cancel all exams, semester or final.
The petitioners argue that the UGC guidelines for holding exams are not legal or constitutionally valid. The counsel, senior Advocate AM Singhvi, said there is complete inconsistency in the MHRD and UGC guidelines.
Senior Advocate Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General, argued that while Delhi and Maharashtra have taken the decision to cancel exams in state universities, it remains that UGC is the only body that can prescribe rules for conferring a degree. “States cannot change rules.”
Mehta said that it was not in the interest of students to not have exams. He said degrees won’t be recognised if there are no exams.
The Delhi government’s affidavit came in response to the top court’s direction in a plea filed challenging the UGC’s mandate to conduct all final year exams by September 30. The Court had asked all parties in the matter to file their affidavits by August 7.
Delhi Government has informed the Court that the Universities have been suggested to come up with alternative measures for assessment in order to promote students of intermediary semesters and give degrees to final year students.
The affidavit states on July 11, the Deputy Chief Minister/Higher and Technical Education Minister of NCT of Delhi had directed all Delhi state Universities to cancel all written online and offline semester examinations including final year examinations. However, while some vice-chancellors informed that they had already completed their examination process online, some other vice-chancellors opined that even if other semester exams were cancelled, final semester exams should still be conducted.
The Deputy Chief Minister/Higher and Technical Education Minister of the National Capital Territory of Delhi took cognisance of both the views of vice chancellors along with MHRD/UGC guidelines. According to MHRD/UGC guidelines, final year/semester examination had to be conducted mandatorily to maintain quality to some extent by September, 2020.
The affidavit states that the Deputy Chief Minister/Higher and Technical Education Minister of the National Capital Territory of Delhi has finally decided that all Delhi State Universities should cancel all written online or offline semester examinations including final year examinations.
Previously, UGC had also filed its affidavit before the Court and had claimed that conducting examinations for final year students are required to test them on specialised elective courses that they studied and the mandate therefore was issued to protect the academic future of students.
The Supreme Court was approached by 31 students from all over India seeking that the circular issued by University Grants Commission (UGC) asking universities to conduct final year examinations by September 30 be quashed.
Maharashtra cabinet minister Aaditya Thackeray, and president of Yuvasena, had also challenged the University Grants Commission’s decision to hold final year university exams and had appealed to the Supreme Court through his organization, to direct universities to chart out their own plan of action vis-à-vis their final year examinations. The appeal said that this should depend on the local conditions (regarding the COVID spread) in their respective states to provide relief to students. The petition had pointed out the challenges involved in conducting the exams and its procedure which include “paper checking, when to declare examination results and admissions to post graduate courses and delays therein, network connectivity issues in rural areas in case examinations are conducted online which is unfavourable to students in rural areas versus those in urban areas, risk of increased transmission of COVID-19 among students if examinations are conducted by Universities and Colleges offline i.e. involving physical presence of a large number of students in enclosed spaces.”
– India Legal Bureau