UGC guidelines for final year exams challenged before Supreme court
UGC guidelines for final year exams challenged before Supreme court
Litigation News

UGC Guidelines for conduct of final exams by Sept 30 not implementable says Odisha Govt; Concerns unfounded, rebuts UGC

"The UGC Revised Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 is not implementable in the current situation when the COVID-19 condition is worsening in the State of Odisha and in the entire country", the Odisha Government has submitted.

Meera Emmanuel

The Odisha Government has filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court asserting that it the UGC's July 6 guidelines mandating the conduct of final year and terminal semester University exams are not implementable in the State of Odisha, given the prevailing COVID-19 situation.

The affidavit recalls that the Odisha Government had issued a letter on June 18 to all educational institutions recommending the adoption of alternative evaluation mechanisms in lieu of final year exams in view of the COVID-19 situation at the time.

Today, the State points out that the number of active COVID-19 cases has increased by over 12 times. As on August 14, there are 54,630 confirmed COVID-19 positive cases, of which 37, 901 have recovered. There are 16,352 active cases, the affidavit states.

As such, the Odisha Government submits that, "the UGC Revised Guidelines dated 06.07.2020 is not implementable in the current situation when the Covid 19 condition is worsening in the State of Odisha and in the entire country."

The Odisha Government adds that in this scenario, the UGC ought to have permitted final year/ terminal semester students also be evaluated maded on an altemative evaluation system instead of sitting for final exams.

"... the University Grants Commission has completely failed to appreciate that if the examinations are conducted in the present COVID-19 scenario lakhs of students/ teachers/ staff/ family members of the students/ teachers/ staff will be exposed to the risk of COVID-19 infection", the affidavit states.

The State also flags the following concerns in arguing against the conduct of final exams amid the pandemic "just for the sake of conducting it", i.e.:

  • There will be single sitting examination for all subjects;

  • The duration of the examinations will be short;

  • The assessment will be made on the basis of multiple-choice questions in place of subjective questions;

  • There might be unfair practices, which may include an open book examination etc. taking into account the current COVID l9 situation.

Further, it is also submitted that it is not that the State of Odisha is "shying away from holding the final examinations", but rather that it is only seeking that the exams not be conducted in the present time and that an alternative evaluation system be adopted for now.

Responding to the affidavit filed by Odisha, however, the UGC has reiterated that the State Government does not have the authority to deviate from the UGC's decision on the issue. In this regard, the UGC's reply states,

"... it is reiterated that any decision by a State Government (or State Authority) to cancel the final year/ terminal semester examination and to graduate students without such an examination by employing an ‘alternative evaluation method’ would violate the UGC’s Guidelines and would impact the standards of higher education which the UGC alone is mandated to maintain under the UGC Act which is traced to entry 66 of List I of Schedule VII of the Constitution."

The UGC adds that "State Governments cannot take the plea that their decision to cancel the final year/ terminal semester examinations is legally valid if they give students the option to appear in special examinations to be held at a later date."

It is asserted that "the UGC has taken a policy decision backed by statute in the interest of students that universities/ institutions must conduct their final examinations by the end of September 2020."

Further the Commission has also termed the concerns raised by the state as entirely unforunded, given that "the UGC’s Guidelines have more than adequately addressed the need for conducting final (timed) examinations and have also given flexibility to universities. Institutions to conduct such examinations by various modes and means as long as the sanctity and quality of the examination process is not compromised."

The UGC's reply has been filed through Advocate Apoorv Kurup.

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