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[DU Exams amid COVID-19] Responsibility of DU to provide scribes for visually impaired students, OBE a mockery otherwise: Delhi HC

The Court was hearing petitions regarding the conduct of online Open Book Examination for students in the PWD category.

Aditi Singh

The Delhi High Court today observed that it was the responsibility of the Delhi University to make available scribes for visually impaired students, failing which the process of online Open Book Examination would be a mockery for them (Prateek Sharma vs UOI).

The statement was recorded in the order passed by Division Bench of Justices Hima Kohli and Subramonium Prasad on petitions filed by Prateek Sharma and the National Federation of the Blind.

The petitions raise concerns with respect to the conduct of online Open Book Examination for students in the PWD category, especially on the availability of scribes for visually impaired students at the common service centres (CSC).

Appearing for Prateek Sharma, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal asserted that the CSC did not have any arrangement for Persons with Disabilities (PWD) students.

While the Delhi University claimed that it had an agreement with the CSC to provide scribes at the centres, the CEO of CSC, Dinesh Tyagi today conceded that the CSC had no special arrangement for PWD students.

Tyagi stated that CSC would only render "help" but would not provide scribes as such.

"We said we will facilitate, not arrange.", Tyagi said.

The Court was thus constrained to observe that there was a "complete mismatch" of statements from the two sides.

Senior Advocate SK Rungta, for the Federation, contended that over 100 students, out of which several resided in remote areas, wrote to the Delhi University seeking scribes, assistive devices and reading material. However, no response was received.

After detailed submissions on the point of making available the scribes for visually impaired students at the CSC and their homes, the Court asked Delhi University to get some clarity on their position with respect to the arrangement of scribes for visually impaired students.

Senior Advocate Sachin Dutta, who appears for DU, assured the Court that once a request is received, all possible help would be provided by the University to visually impaired students.

During the course of the submissions, the Delhi University, time and again, asserted that the "overwhelming majority" of students would be able to sit for the online OBE and that the left out students would have the option of sitting for the physical examination in the second phase.

It was clarified that the PWD category students would be able to sit for the physical examination if they are unable to perform in the online examination.

Delhi University asserted that the process was in the best interest of students and that it was not prejudicial to anyone.

"Your endeavours are not enough to say that person standing at the end of the queue has been covered ...", the Court remarked.

Today, the Court also examined the data on the first two days of the first phase of the mock test.

It recorded that out of over 2.5 lakh final year students in Delhi University, 1.82 lakh registered for the mock test and 74,184 logged in.

The Court added that 39,159 attempted the test and around 22,000 uploaded the answer script.

Observing that ultimately, less than 8% of the total registered students completed the entire process, the Court opined that the figures were "not encouraging". The data for visually impaired students was equally low, the Court added.

"Even now you have not shown us data to satisfy us. Nothing before us has impressed us, especially for visually impaired students.", the Court said.

The Delhi University contended that the status would become clear only on August 4 when the mock test ends as the present phase was only to familiarise the students with the portal.

The Court thus directed Delhi University to give tabulated data on the two phases of the mock test conducted by it.

The matter would be heard next on August 5.

The petition challenging the conduction of OBE is pending before a single judge bench of Justice Prathiba M Singh.

Read the Order:

Prateek Sharma vs UOI - July 30.pdf
Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news