The Karnataka High Court today directed the state government to reconsider its decision to allow the conduct of the Karnataka Common Entrance Test 2020 (KCET) amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This direction was passed by the Court while dealing with a batch of petitions challenging the decision of the Karnataka Examinations Authority (KEA) to conduct the Karnataka Common Entrance Test (KCET) amid the COVID-19 pandemic [Eric E Steaphenes and ors v. State of Karnataka].
In this regard, the order passed by the Division Bench of Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka and Justice H P Sandesh reads.
Karnataka High Court
The reasons that prompted the Court to pass the above order include the large spike of COVID-19 cases in the state, the inability of persons to step out of containment zones, lack of provision for public transport etc.
The Court further expressed hope that the state government would take into consideration the aforesaid aspects as well as the possibility of certain students missing the KCET exam, if the exam is conducted on the scheduled dates - July 30 and 31.
At the outset of today's hearing, the Bench posed a number of questions to the respondents, including,
"When was the decision announced by the government to conduct KCET? Did you approach the government with a representation? Did you approach the authority who conducts the examination? Is it not the requirement of law?"
However, the Court noted that many students were willing to give the exams, despite the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It thus questioned the petitioners for approaching the Court "at the eleventh hour".
Advocate Abdullah Mannan, appearing as party-in-person, said that on the contrary, many students did not want to give the exams.
The Court went on to ask the respondents,
"How can students in containment zones give exams? They cannot step out. There are 5,000 containment zones. Please tell us that."
In response, Additional Advocate General Dhyan Chinnappa said that the students would be placed in separate rooms.
The first plea, filed by National Students Union of India (NSUI), prays for a direction to set aside the KEA notification dated May 13 to conduct KCET exams on July 30 and 31. Further, it is prayed that the authorities consult various stakeholders such as parents and students before taking a decision regarding the schedule for the conduct of KCET.
Advocates Arnav A Bagalwadi and H C Prateek appeared for the petitioners. They were assisted by Shathabish Shivanna Advocates.
The second plea, moved by two practising advocates - Pradeep Kumar SP and S Hanumanthegowda - seeks a direction to quash the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) issued in respect of conducting examinations for COVID-19 positive students.
This PIL also prays that CET 2020 be cancelled, and that the marks obtained by students at the 12th standard level be considered for preparing the rank list in order to grant admission to professional courses.
The third petition filed by Advocate Abdullah Manan also urges the Court to postpone KCET exams till the COVID-19 situation gets better. Further, the plea seeks a direction to the state government to provide insurance along with medical facilities to the students as well as their families as and when the students appear to give their KCET exams.
The matter has been next posted for hearing on July 29 (tomorrow).