Plea re UGC Guidelines, seeking Exams to be conducted online amid COVID-19: LIVE UPDATES from Karnataka HC [Day 2]
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Plea re UGC Guidelines, seeking Exams to be conducted online amid COVID-19: LIVE UPDATES from Karnataka HC [Day 2]

Yesterday, the Bench had asked the VTU to respond on why exams cannot be conducted online, given that vivas have already been done online and since the July 6 UGC guidelines also allow the conduct of online exams.

Bar & Bench

The Karnataka High Court is hearing a petition which concerns the UGC's directive mandating the conduct of final year examinations by September end this year. The Petitioners are final-year engineering undergraduates at the Bangalore Institute of Technology.

Yesterday, the Bench had asked the VTU to respond on why exams cannot be conducted online, given that vivas have already been done online and since the July 6 UGC guidelines also allow the conduct of online exams.

Live updates of the hearing before the Karnataka High Court today feature on this page.

Court begins hearing. The matter is being heard by Justice Sunil Dutt Yadav.

Government Advocate submits that there will be no impediment as far as appearing for exams is concerned.

Even for those in quarantine, there are mandatory procedures already adopted when CET exams were conducted, counsel tells High Court.

Grievances may be made to Principal Secretary for Higher Education, Government Advocate says.

High Court asks if a specially designated grievance officer can be appointed.

Court: You can also have an officer in charge to address grievances.

Government Counsel: That can also be done.

She adds that an order may be passed on this count so this can be facilitated easier.

Court says that it can pass an order for the appointment of a grievance officer who can be contacted in the event of any issues relating to relaxation of quarantine or related issues.

Court adds that it also needs a response on what would be the position in respect to those students who come with COVID-19 negative report.

Within how many days the report must have been obtained, the Court asks.

Appearing for petitioners, Adv Bhargav Bhat submitted that the State's response that has been filed does not answer the queries posed by the Court yesterday.

He added that the students would prefer not to be confined to institutional quarantine, but stay with family/ friends.

HC says it will pass over the matter and pass an order at 1.30 pm today after the State responds to the queries posed today regarding:

1. The nomination of a special grievance officer

2. What would be the situation if a student produces a COVID-19 negative report

Justice Yadav: The only thing running in the mind of the Court is that the paramount interest of students is to be considered

Karnataka HC: It is important for the students who are taking up final exams.

The other agencies must step up, in the interest of the students.

You must make a study of Central Universities that have conducted exams.

Matter passed over to 1.30 pm.

Hearing resumes.

Advocate Bhargav Bhat (petitioner side): The responses filed by the State are vague, perfunctory and regurgitation of earlier stance.

There is nothing new in this memo. They have not answered the Court's pointed queries.

Advocate Bhat: By Jan-Dec they say we will conduct the (special) exams "if possible."

That cannot be the response of the University when the future of the students is at stake.

Adv Bhat: Travelling to a place with a stable internet connection will be much, much easier than travelling to where the exam is conducted.

Students can travel within the districts.

Adv Bhat responds to concerns over whether there would be manpower for conducting online exams:

In today's day and age, there are many platforms offering this service for free or for a price.

For proctoring, you can always take the assistance of other agencies

Bhat: The task of proctoring does not require an Engineering professor. Teachers can do it. This can be done.

Bhat: You have to be creative in situations like this.

If can't adapt, it is a scathing indictment of our education system.

Bhat also refers to various other Universities that have conducted online exams.

Bhat: So, for a technical university to say that they cannot do it today because of technical problems is not fair.

I am not saying tomorrow, but within a reasonable time when the infrastructure is made available.

Bhat: You don't need a high internet speed for this, a normal, stable internet connection is needed.

Court: We need to hear what the UGC has to say. What is the stand of the UGC?

UGC counsel refers to revised guidelines dated July 6 which states that the exams can be conducted in online/offline/blended mode and by the end of September.

UGC counsel is facing connectivity issues.

Court hears UGC counsel via call.

UGC Counsel informs that University can make the decision regarding the manner of conducting the exam in interest of students

He adds that the special chance exam for those students who don't take the exam can be conducted in Jan-Dec and an order can be passed on that aspect.

Court queries whether the "special chance exam" can be conducted in online mode.

UGC Counsel: The University should know whether its capable of doing it.

I cannot say that the University should do it "like that". University is the ideal party to make this submission.

If University is capable of doing it, UGC has given guidelines

Court: The question of passing any order for the present exam doesn't arise, practically.

We intend to list the matter 1 week after the closure of the exams.

Direction can be given to University to reconsider the request for online when it comes to "special chance exams."

Bhat urges for the Court to pass a direction earlier, after a week's time.

If the University comes back in September and says that "we cannot conduct it (special exam) online", I (students) will be left in a lurch.

Our clairvoyance on the ending of this pandemic has been proven wrong so far: Bhat

He adds that if the University can inform earlier whether the special exam can be conducted online, students can take a call on whether they want to risk going for the Uni exam.

Court: Let them (University) be given some time.

They may not be in a position to come back with an informed decision by next week.

If they cannot come back with a decision then, we can see if orders can be passed.

Bhat: What if they (University) were to say they cannot do it online on September 25?

Court says it can pass an order then if required.

Bhat also requests the Court to ask VTU to justify their present stance on affidavit.

Karnataka HC begins dictating order.

Karnataka HC recounts that the VTU had been asked to respond on the feasibility of conducting "special chance exams" online, and that the State had been asked to respond on relaxation of quarantine restrictions for appearing students.

Karnataka HC records that the VTU had made submissions indicating practical difficulties in holding the exams online.

VTU has submitted that they will try to hold the special chance exams "little earlier than December or January."

Karnataka HC records submission of UGC that it requires some time to respond to submissions by students for having an online option for the special chance exam.

Court: In any decision to be taken, the interest of the students to be foremost.

In this time of COVID, whatever technical options that could be feasibly applied should be explored.

Court: The University is directed to reconsider the issue, take assistance and counsel from experts to the extent possible.

The number of "special chance exam" students may be smaller, so university may be in a position to take a better decision after the exam is conducted

The exam is due to be conducted on September 15, Court records.

Court: This time is sufficient for the University to reconsider (the issue of whether special exams can be conducted online).

The matter to be listed on 25 September, by when the University should file a detailed affidavit after taking note of court's orders of today and yesterday: Court

Court: University should keep in mind that the final exam would have a great impact on the students' future prospects.

University is expected to explore all grievances made by students with all seriousness.

Court records State's submissions that the SOPs applicable for the CET exam conducted in Karnataka earlier (amid the pandemic) would also be followed in the conduct of these exams.

Appointment of Grievance Redressal Officer:

Grievances by students, including students from out of Karnataka, to be addressed by a grievance officer nominated by the Government along with the Registrar of VTU

Court: The contact details of the government official designated as Grievance Officer to be put up on the website of VTU to enable the students to contact and get their grievances addressed.

Matter posted to September 25. Hearing has ended.

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