Thursday, February 22, 2024

Supreme Court castigates Kerala for continuing with Class XI exams despite rising Covid-19 cases, stays exams

It was submitted that the Supreme Court had taken action in the cases of Kanwar Yatra in Uttar Pradesh and Bakri Eid in Kerala and therefore the Court’s intervention is needed in this case also.

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The Supreme Court on Friday took exception to the fact that Kerala Government had not considered the alarming situation of Covid-19 pandemic in the state and had decided to continue with the examination for class 11th students in offline mode.

The Bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Hrishikesh Roy and C.T. Ravikumar directed that the matter be listed on September 13 and stayed the exam. It held that there was a prima facie force in the submission that the state government had not seriously considered the situation for class 11th students, for whom exams were going to be held from September 6. It recorded that there was no satisfactory response from the State in relation to its appraisal of the situation.

Submissions of parties and observations of the Court

Prashant Padmanabhan appeared for the petitioner and informed the Court that this was the second round of litigation. On an earlier occasion, exams for class 12th had been cancelled by CBSE and CISCE. The State Boards had decided to continue with the exams. Subsequent to the PIL filed in the Supreme Court by child rights activist Anubha Srivastava Sahay, which the bench wherein Justice Khanwilkar was a part of had heard, the exams were cancelled with the exception of the states of Kerala and Karnataka.

It was submitted that the Supreme Court had taken action in the cases of Kanwar Yatra in Uttar Pradesh and Bakri Eid in Kerala and therefore, the Court’s intervention is needed in this case also. 

Padmanabhan submitted that the state is pushing more than three lakh students, when Kerala accounts for more than 70 percent of the total COVID cases in the country. He said the government was not at all mindful of the situation. 

C.K. Sasi, appearing for the state of Kerala, submitted that earlier, exams had been conducted in the months of April and July for class 12th students and SSLC, where more than four lakh students had appeared and that there was no problem. He added that the entrance exams were also held in a physical mode. 

Further, it was his submission that the comparison with Kanwar Yatra is uncalled for as there are substantial measures like sanitization of the classrooms and air circulation. Further, the parents associations apart from the health department and volunteers were also actively involved.

The Court thereafter asked Sasi, “What was the infection rate in the state in April?” After trying to evade the question, finally Sasi conceded that he was unaware of the figures. 

It was the opinion of the bench that comparison was necessary. Justice Maheshwari said, “You ought to consider that…today (there is) very alarming situation in Kerala. Has the government analyzed?” Justice Roy asked “Whether as a state government, you analyzed in April/May?”

Justice Maheshwari said that everyday, there were more than 30,000 cases and the situation was alarming. “You never bothered to enquire also,” he noted. It was observed by the bench that the model exams that were conducted recently were online.

It opined that the government may conduct online exams or otherwise work out some method to evaluate the students. “You admit the students are of a tender age and not vaccinated,” added Justice Maheshwari.

Also Read: Supreme Court restores appeal filed by Mandakini Badh Prabhavit Samiti seeking more compensation for 2012 Uttarakhand flood victims

Justice Roy remarked that Kerala had one of the finest medical infrastructures and despite that the situation was such. Justice CT Ravikumar also mentioned that the students would have to travel from all over the state to reach the exam centers. 

Justice Khanwilkar said that the options would have to be generated by the state. “You have to assure us that children will not be exposed. Don’t play with lives. They are not fully equipped. They are of a tender age. 11th standard is what age?,” he added.


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