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Exams issue: Arguments inconclusive, SC to hear again on Aug 18

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New Delhi: The Supreme court will continue hearing on August 18 on pleas challenging the UGC circular to conduct final term exams by the end of September.

The issue of whether to hold exams or not amid this COVID pandemic has grown to be a red hot debate. Detailed arguments were held in the Supreme Court today, but the students would have to wait longer, at least till August 18, when the hearings resume, to know whether they will have to sit for the final exams within this pandemic or not.

While arguing petitions before the three-judge bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy and M.R. Shah today in the case Students versus the UGC (the UGC insists that exams should be held, while a petition by students wants them cancelled), both Senior Advocates Abhisekh Manu Singhvi and Shyam Diwan (representing Yuva Sena) talked about the Right to Life and that the MHA guidelines which have given the states the right to enforce NDMA in stricter measure but not in a diluted form.

Here are the many points referred to in the arguments:

Singhvi began by stating that there is the important matter of right to life and health. He said the number of cases have been increasing exponentially. He rattled out numbers and then explained how it will impact the basic right to life of the students.

“The students have gone back to their hometowns,” he said. “Maharashtra has the biggest (list of) cases. Ten thousand have died. Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal, Rajasthan and Odisha are the states that have decided to not take the exams. My Lords, there is no convergence. The next academic will start late due to uncertainty. Half are here and half are not.” 

online-exam-Copy

He then read out some submissions. “Come to the case of Delhi. There is only one para here. It is important to keep in mind Article 14. Different students have different access levels. The exam is not an end in itself. Exams must happen after teaching. 

I will now show the consistent stand of the MHA that all institutions must be closed. And, MHRD reiterated and affirmed this stand at times.” 

Justice Shah said that the MHA is not concerned with the exams itself. 

Singhvi said that for 5 months, the MHA has shut everything. “There is a direct connection between teaching and taking of exams. How can there be no to teaching and yes to exams?

Singhvi said that there has been “mindless use of Article 14. The MHA’s directives under DMA are binding to every small district.”

He referred to a June 29 circular of the MHA, citing the unlock procedure. “In no circular are you warning the students that the exams will take place.”

He said “you may say that online classes were on, but nowhere are you saying that full-fledged exams are going to take place.”

He made his point for his Right to Life. He said: “Education is not special here, the pandemic is. The pandemic applies to everyone and everything. If the NDMA says don’t have physical courts, can I come and say that I have this right and that right (and that I want them to open)?”

He said: “I am not bound by this UGC circular.”

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said: “As a student you are bound, but the state isn’t bound. The truth comes out sometimes by mistake. You are bound.”

student

Singhvi said: “No one is suggesting that a useless student will get through without assessment.” 

Justice Khanwilkar asked: “What is the minimum number of seats? (he was referring to the medical exams).”

Advocate Ahmed said: “There cannot be a minimum number and it’s not been earmarked.”

Justice Khanwilkar asked: “Admissions have to close, there cannot be uncertainty. This will be third counselling then.” 

Ahmed then referred to the Medical Association letter which states that this year (in the pandemic situation) seats cannot be left vacant. “A sizeable chunk goes to states and due to this, people who have qualified the AIQ lose out on their seats.”

Justice Khanwilkar asked: “How do we reverse this?”

Advocate Gaurav Sharma said: “Many seats are not specifically medical. Most seats are those which are not sought after.

Justice Khanwilkar: We are not on the Types of seats, we are on the number of seats.

Justice Khanwilkar: He is, in effect asking that the seats should not go to State Quota.

An appeal to treat such vacant seats as lapsed has been denied. The seats go back to the states.

Read the order here;

15106_2020_35_7_23404_Order_14-Aug-2020-ugc

-India Legal Bureau

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