Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court
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[COVID-19] Bombay HC issues notice in Law Student's plea against the conduct of examinations during the pandemic

The Bombay High Court on Friday issued notice in a plea moved by a fourth-year student of the Government Law College, Mumbai challenging the conduct of examinations during the pandemic.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

The Bombay High Court on Friday issued notice in a plea challenging the conduct of final-year examinations by the University of Mumbai and the Government Law College (Samarvir Singh v. Union of India and Ors).

The plea moved by Samarvir Singh, a fourth-year student of the Government Law College, Mumbai, also challenges circulars issued by the Bar Council of India (BCI) and University Grants Commission (UGC) mandating the conduct of examinations.

Additionally, the BCI’s Circular requiring law students to write a “physical examination” once the pandemic eases is being challenged by Singh.

Singh’s plea makes note of the Maharashtra Government’s decision to dispense with examinations during this period, advocating instead an assessment by aggregating marks obtained in preceding semesters and an optional improvement test.

However, the BCI and the UGC have outlined distinct modes for the assessment of final-year and “intermediate” students, the petitioner lays out.

Briefly, in respect of final-year law examinations the BCI directs:

  • Online examinations and/or a project report;

  • Doubling internal marks of semester examinations.

For students at intermediate stages of the law degree programme, the BCI specifies:

  • Assessment and promotion to a higher-semester based on previous semester scores and already-computed internal marks obtained this year;

  • Appearing for end-semester examinations within a month of reopening after the pandemic.

The UGC, meanwhile, mandates examinations for final year students, either online/offline OR by a mix of online and offline methods. Other students, however, may be assessed by “alternative” methods where online examinations are not possible. The UGC's communication states that the examinations may be dispensed with if not feasible.

Singh has sought the Court’s intervention to direct that examinations for final-year students are to be dispensed with and that the scores may be tabulated on the basis of previous/internal assessment. He further prays that the same be undertaken for students at the intermediate stages of their law programme as well.

The conduct of examinations for final-year students at this point would result in their “missing out on applying for higher studies or joining firms/advocates from where they have received a job offer or to begin with preparations for competitive examinations. Students who have secured admissions in post-graduate courses in Indian as well as foreign universities would be losing a year as they would not be able to submit their degree well in time”, Singh submits in his plea.

Scheduling physical examinations for law students now or even in the near-future would jeopardise their health, he further states.

The Court has been moved seeking the reliefs described above, along with a stay on the UGC’s directives requiring examinations.

The Bombay High Court has scheduled hearings in the matter on July 31. The Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Anuja Prabhudessai also directed the State and other respondents to file affidavits-in-response by July 24, 2020.

The State appeared in this matter through Advocate General AA Kumbhakoni, and Government Pleaders Advocates PH Kantharia and Advocate Jyoti Chavan. The UGC was represented by Advocate Rui Rodrigues. Singh is arguing his case party-in-person.

Read the Court's Order here:

Samarvir Singh v. Union of India and Ors. - Notice - dated July 17, 2020.pdf
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