Friday, January 27, 2023

Centre says can’t relax UPSC age limit, attempts for Covid-19 hit candidates

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The Centre has informed the Supreme Court that relaxation with regard to age limit and the number of permissible attempts due to Covid-19 is not possible in response to a plea by three Civil Services aspirants, seeking an extra attempt at the Mains examination. 

“It is submitted that any relaxation to age limit and number of permissible attempts for Civil Services Examination due to Covid-19 pandemic could lead to similar demands being made by the other categories of candidates”

-said the affidavit filed by Anshuman Mishra, Under Secretary, Department of Personnel & Training. 

It further stated,

“It will also impinge on the chances of other candidates who are eligible as per the existing provisions because it will increase the number of candidates competing with such candidates. It will also lead to similar demands by the candidates of other examinations conducted all over the country.” 

The Centre has filed its response in a plea by three Civil Services aspirants, seeking an extra attempt at the Civil Services examination, claiming that they had to miss the Civil Services Mains exam because they had contracted Covid-19.

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On the previous hearing, the bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice C.T. Ravikumar opined the UPSC will only have to make a statement whether an opportunity be granted to petitioners or not. 

ASG Aishwarya Bhati had submitted that there is no urgency in this matter as the UPSC results have already been declared and the only issue that remains to be decided is whether an extra attempt will be awarded or not. She had further submitted that the call regarding extra attempt will have to be taken by the Department of Personnel and Training. 

The petition has been filed by the UPSC aspirants who had cleared UPSC-2021 Prelims Examination and were thus entitled to appear in the UPSC Mains Examination as scheduled from 7th January to 16th January 2022 but missed to take the same owing to covid infection.

“The Petitioner No. 1 and 2 had to leave after appearing for only two papers, whereas Petitioner No. 3 could not appear for any of the papers of the Mains Examination 2022. The aforementioned Petitioners could not write the Mains Examination owing to the fact that they were Covid Positive and in accordance with the restrictions imposed by the Government under the strict quarantine guidelines, they were prevented from writing the Exam. It has been contended in the Writ Petition that there wasn’t any kind of policy of UPSC which could provide arrangements for Covid-Positive examinees. Additionally, it was contended that the 2022 Exams were the last or second-last attempts of the aforementioned Petitioners, owing to the age-bar”

-said the plea. 

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They further argued that their fundamental rights under Article 14 and 16 of Indian Constitution were violated as there was absence of any kind of policy of UPSC which could provide arrangements for Covid positive aspirants during the span of mains examination or before. 

Fencing this facet, the petitioners in the alternate also sought relief for making some arrangements to enable the petitioner to appear in the rest of papers which they could not do before the publication of result of Civil Service Mains Examination 2021.

The Petitioners further substantiated instances of public services exams like of  state MP and CASF exam conducted by UPSC itself directions for alternative accommodations  for Covid infected students were issued, Uttarakhand and Orissa also made relaxation in upper age limit of candidates.

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It is pertinent to mention here that earlier petitions were filed for deferment of the prelims exam which was disposed of in case Vasureddy Govardhana Sai Prakash & ors vs UPSC and an extra attempt was also sought previously for Prelims test in  cases Abhishek Anand Sinha & ors and Rachna & ors vs UOI which too was disposed of.

Further, the Apex Court in July 2021 had nixed to pass directions to the Central Government and the Union Public Service Commission to grant one-time age-relaxation to those candidates who could not appear in the 2020 examination due to Covid-related restrictions. 

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