Bombay High Court
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[COVID-19] Students' academic futures will be irreparably damaged if exams not held: UGC tells Bombay HC

The UGC has filed an affidavit-in-response to pleas challenging its directive mandating examinations for final year students by September this year.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

The University Grants Commission (UGC/Commission) has told the Bombay High Court that the Maharashtra Government’s Resolution allowing Universities and Colleges to graduate its final year students without the prior conduct of final year exams is without legislative competence.

The UGC made this statement in response to a PIL that challenged its Guidelines mandating examinations to be conducted for final-year students before September this year (Dhananjay Ragunath Kulkarni v. State of Maharashtra and ors).

Arguing that the UGC’s role in “coordinating and determining standards of education” was conferred upon it by Parliament, the Commission has stated that its Guidelines were framed to protect the futures of students.

Only the Parliament can make law on standards of education per the Schedules of the Constitution, states the Affidavit filed through Advocate Rui A Rodrigues. These Guidelines are mandatory and binding upon Universities and Colleges, it is added.

"It is submitted that the UGC has issued such guidelines to protect the academic future of students across the country which will be irreparably damaged if their final year / terminal semester examinations are not held, while also keeping in mind their health and safety."

The Commission further records that the UGC’s revised Guidelines were issued after the Union Ministry of Home Affairs permitted conduct of examination by Universities and Institutions.

Moreover, it is added that if any student is unable to appear for the examinations conducted until September, a special exam may later be held for such a student at a later point of time.

The Commission also draws the Court’s notice to the general principle of the courts’ non-interference in matters of policy, especially those evolved by ‘expert bodies’. The affidavit reads:

"It is well-established that Courts of Law do not ordinarily intervene in academic decisions and policy, nor do they normally substitute the views of expert bodies."

Opposing the Government’s Resolution, the Affidavit vehemently asserts that the Resolution would have ramifications on the standards of higher education in the country.

In light of this, he Court has been urged to uphold the stance of the UGC i.e. for the conduct of final year exams by September.

On July 17, the Maharashtra government had reiterated before a Chief Justice Dipankar Datta-led Bench that it could not permit final-year examinations for professional and non-professional courses to be conducted in the State given the health implications of such a decision.

On a related note, the Bombay High Court had on July 17 issued notice in a plea filed by a GLC-Mumbai student, Samarvir Singh, challenging the UGC Guidelines mandating the conduct of examinations, as well as Bar Council directives on the subject.

The pleas challenging the UGC Guidelines are due to be taken up by the Bombay High Court on July 31, 2020.

Meanwhile, related pleas are also pending consideration before the Supreme Court.

Read the UGC's Affidavit here:

Dhananjay Raghunath Kulkarni v. State of Maharashtra and Ors. - UGC Affidavit - dated July 24, 2020.pdf
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