Karnataka High Court
Karnataka High Court
Litigation News

Law student files plea in Karnataka HC against exams for students in "intermediate semesters" amid COVID-19 pandemic

The plea questions the fairness of holding examinations during the pandemic given the disproportionate access to online classes conducted and the threat to the health of students writing an in-person examination.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

A student of the Karnataka State Law University (KSLU) has filed a public interest litigation petition challenging the conduct of intermediate semester examinations from October 5, arguing that the same would affect the fundamental rights of the students (Purbayan Chakraborty v. Bar Council of India and Ors.).

The petitioner, Purbayan Chakraborty, assails the KSLU’S notification for the conduct of exams from October as a deviation of the University Grants Commission’s revised Guidelines dated July 10 (UGC Guidelines) and a Karnataka Government order.

The Government order had mandated Universities in the State to evaluate students other that those in the graduating batch by a formula based on the scores of previous semesters and internal examinations.

Chakraborty records that the KSLU is mandating exams pursuant to a Bar Council directive from May, which he argues to be outdated given the rise in COVID-19 infections. He also challenges the holding of "even semester" examinations now that the institutions have commenced with teaching for the following semester.

"... it is manifestly unreasonable to ask the students to appear for a previous semester examination while the students are in a different semester. It is humanly impossible to write examination for a previous semester while studying 5 or 6 different law subjects for a different semester. This will have a damaging impact on the mental health of the students", the plea states.

Chakraborty also questions the fairness of holding examinations during the COVID-19 pandemic considering that a major chunk of lessons were taught online and that many did not have access to these classes.

"Almost 70-80% of the syllabus of this semester was covered through online mode and therefore, if there is an examination, it will have a disproportionate impact on the students who were unable to take part in the online classes due to various reasons such as internet accessibility, affordability, remote locality etc.", the petition reads.

The disparate impact on various classes of students violates Article 14 of the Constitution, he argues in his plea.

Chakraborty further raises concern about why the KSLU has gone so far as to announce physical examinations from October 5 in the backdrop of the Karnataka State Government’s tentative notification about physical classes. The government’s notification in July had mooted the possibility of physical classes commencing depending on the Union Home Ministry’s directives.

The petition additionally questions the reasonableness of the exam notification, given that most law students require access to libraries to access study material for tests.

With the pandemic shutdown, most students have returned to their homes and cities without study material, he submits, and will be unable to prepare for examinations. This is further aggravated by the difficulty in access to classes online, Chakraborty avers.

The student argues that law students ought to be brought within the ambit of the Karnataka Government Examination Scheme and the UGC Guidelines. The failure to include law students amounts to an unreasonable classification violative of Article 14 of the Constitution, Chakraborty states.

Only examinations for final year students were mandated by the Union Home Ministry, he states. Therefore, “permitting an offline examination and asking Intermediate semester students who are four times in number, to appear for the exams, would amount to directly exposing them to danger and risk to their health and lives”, he sets forth.

This would make the notification a violation of the right to life guarantee under Article 21 of the Constitutional, particularly the right to health, the petitioner contends.

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