UGC guidelines on intermediate semester exams advisory, State has discretion to not conduct exams during pandemic: Karnataka HC
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UGC guidelines on intermediate semester exams advisory, State has discretion to not conduct exams during pandemic: Karnataka HC

As per the July 10 government order, students of intermediate semesters shall be promoted to the next semester based on internal evaluation marks and their performance in the previous year.

Rintu Mariam Biju

The Karnataka High Court recently dismissed a petition challenging a government order on evaluation of intermediate semester students of undergraduate and postgraduate courses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While doing so, the Court held that the University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines on conduct of intermediate semester exams at universities were advisory in nature, and that the state government had the discretion to decide whether or not to allow the conduct of these exams during the pandemic.

The order passed by a Division Bench of Justices BV Nagarathna and Ravi Hosmani reads,

"The UGC has issued the Guidelines as an advisory. Ultimately it is the discretion of the State to take a policy decision, as to, whether, the examination could be conducted by the physical appearance of the students or through any other mode the students could be promoted, bearing in mind the spread of the Covid-19 Pandemic in the Sate and also the health and safety of the students, all stake holders and citizens of the State. The State Government has always the power as well as the discretion to guide the Universities individually or issue advisories to the respective Universities coming within the scope and ambit of the Universities Act, 2000."

Karnataka High Court

The Bench further observed that the State had taken such a policy decision to ensure uniformity amongst all universities so that there is no disparity/difficulty caused amongst the students on account of different methods being adopted by different colleges.

As per the July 10 government order, students of intermediate semesters shall be promoted to the next semester based on internal evaluation marks and their performance in the previous year, given 50% weightage each.

If the previous semester marks are not available, particularly in the case of first year year students, then 100% evaluation would be done on the basis of internal marks, reads the government notification.

Advocate Sunil Kumar H, appearing for the petitioners, challenged the government notification as being an unscientific and illogical way of promoting the students, as many meritorious students would suffer as a result.

He also argued that while final year exams were being conducted in the month of September, either in offline, online or blended mode, the conduct of intermediate semesters examinations has been scrapped.

Further, it was contended that UGC had issued guidelines for the conduct of exams in view of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. These guidelines said that it was necessary to consider academic credibility, career opportunities and future progress of the students globally.

It was the petitioner's case that discretion ought to have been given to the universities to conduct the examinations, rather than the government deciding on their behalf by passing the July 10 order.

On the other hand, state government counsel YH Vijay Kumar contended that a policy decision had been taken in this regard, bearing in mind the fact that the number of COVID-19 cases in the state are rampantly increasing.

He further argued that students cannot be exposed to the dangers of COVID-19 by appearing physically for writing exams.

After noting the contentions, the Court observed that the government had passed the July 10 order keeping in mind the health, safety, and future of the students.

"The State Government being conscious of the fact that there is a steep rise in the Covid-19 cases in the State and in its wisdom that the students must not be exposed to such a risk by conducting examination in the colleges in the usual form thereby leading to spreading of the disease and exposing lakhs of students and other stake holders in the system, as well as their parents and families to the Covid-19 Pandemic, has passed the impugned Government Order.

Therefore the State in its wisdom has formulated the manner in which the promotion and career advancement of the students could be made only for the academic year 2019-20, i.e., for one semester only."

On these grounds, the Court refused to entertain the plea challenging the July 10 order.

[Read order]

Intermediate exams - Karnataka HC.pdf
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