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Supreme Court disposes of plea seeking CBSE, CISCE exams in hybrid mode, tells petitioners too late, don’t mess up education system

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The Supreme Court disposed of the plea seeking hybrid/blended examinations of the CBSE and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations. The Apex Court observed CBSE term exams had already commenced on November 16, 2021, and it won’t be feasible to disturb the process now.

The bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and C.T. Ravikumar noted the submissions made by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the CBSE, “All precaution have been taken to prevent spread of Covid-19 for the exams commenced on November 16. This time only 12 students will sit in class to prevent spread of Covid, Exam centres have been increased to 16000, which reduces the travel distance for the students, more importantly the examination time has been reduced from 3 hours to 1.5 hours. All these measures have been taken, with these broad measures & other Ccovid arrangements (Covid appropriate behaviour & covid protocol) is observed at all centres. In case of any exception, the same can be reported to centre in-charge. For CBSE, ICSE & ISC as well.”

During the hearing today, Senior Advocate Sanjay R. Hegde, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that over 14 lakh students will be writing these exams, these were mid-term exams and our request is till the Covid pandemic is not over, we can’t have full-fledged physical exams, wherever there is a gathering of large number of people, Covid virus can spread. Even last year, hybrid system was adopted we can do the same.

The Bench asked what was the experience previous year. Solicitor General Mehta said there was no hybrid. Sanjay Hegde clarified it was online last year. 

Mehta said, “Now the exams have already commenced, disturbing the ongoing exams will have a negative impact.”

Hegde argued, “It’s not a question only for 34 lakh students, along with students there parents are also involved. I am not saying they haven’t taken some precautions.”

The Bench asked, “If exams have already started, how can they be made online?”

Hegde replied that major exams are yet to be conducted which should be attempted by a large number of students. “I am not saying to completely conduct online, please allow those of us, who seek to avail hybrid should be allowed.”

The Bench replied, “It’s too late now. Why have you come so late? If you had come early, we could have looked (at it) but the last minute changes will be hectic.”  

Hegde replied the CBSE notification says, “In case the situation of pandemic turns complete closure of schools, exams will be taken online.” 

The Bench said, “Don’t mess up education system.” 

Hegde argued, “There are many of us who have particular problems. I am only asking for them. They have already planned for this possibility and the infrastructure cannot go away.”

The bench noted in its order, “This petition was filed on October 1, 2021, seeking to conduct exams online for 10th & 12th CBSE board, and ISCE board. Multiple options are available, one of the option was to conduct MCQ based Examination online, that may be so, however, the examination has already commenced from 16th November, it will be inappropriate to interfere now.”

“All precautions have been taken to prevent spread of Covid for the exms commenced on November 16. This time only 12 students will sit in class to prevent spread of Covid, Exam centres have been increased to 16000, which reduces the travel distance for the students, more importantly the examination. The ICSE term exams are commencing from next Monday, November 22,” noted the bench. “All these measures has been taken, with these broad measures & other Covid arrangement (Covid appropriate behaviour & Covid protocol) is observed at all centres. In case of any exception. Same can be reported to centre in-charge. For CBSE, ICSE & ISC as well. Petition & accompanying applications are disposed of,” it stated in its order. 

The petitioners had prayed to set aside two circulars-
–  Circular dated 14.10.2021 which states CBSE will conduct the examination of Class X and Class XII in offline mode.

–  Circular dated 22.10.2021 states ISC and ICSE revise plan of examination of conducting the exams in offline mode.

The petition had stated that the Government of Delhi on reopening of schools itself stated that only upon the consent of parents, students can opt for an offline mode; else can continue classes on a hybrid mode. However, it contradicted its own statement by conducting exams only by way of offline mode. Despite high Covid infection rates reported by the Ministry of Health, the respondents decided to conduct exams in offline mode.    

Case Name: Abhyuday Chakma and Ors Vs Union of India and Ors WPC1240/2021

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