UGC and Supreme Court
UGC and Supreme Court

[Breaking] UGC sticks to September end deadline for conduct of final year university exams

The UGC has further stated that in case students are unable to appear, they would be given a chance to appear at a specially conducted exam at a later date.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has informed the Supreme Court that it will not alter its July 6 guidelines mandating universities across India to conduct their final year examinations by September 2020 (Praneeth K & Ors. v. University Grants Commission & Ors).

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In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the Commission states that its decision was taken "after due deliberation by taking into account and balancing all relevant factors".

The 50-page affidavit is in response to a batch of petitions challenging the UGC guidelines for being arbitrary, claiming that conducting the exams during the COVID-19 pandemic will put students at great risk.

UGC has stated that the July 6 guidelines adequately take into account the evolving situation of COVID-19, as "sufficient time" has been given to conduct the exams. Moreover, universities have been given sufficient flexibility to conduct exam via online, offline or hybrid modes.

The UGC has further stated that in case students are unable to appear for the exam, they would be given a chance to appear at a specially conducted exam at a later date so that they are not put to any "inconvenience or disadvantage." The affidavit states,

“It is also wrong to say that students will be ‘forced’ to appear for such examinations at the cost of their health because the UGC’s guidelines permit universities/institutions to hold examinations as a special chance for those students who are unable to participate in the examinations that will be held by the end of September 2020.”

Affidavit filed in Supreme Court

UGC has also assailed the decisions of the Maharashtra and Delhi governments to not conduct final year exams amid the pandemic. These decisions, the affidavit states, are in violation of the guidelines.

"Such a decision directly affects the standards of higher education in the country and will be an encroachment on the legislative field of coordinating and determining the standards of higher education reserved exclusively for the parliament under Entry 66 of List I of Schedule VII of the Constitution of India."

Affidavit filed in Supreme Court

While requesting the Apex Court to dismiss the petitions, the UGC has stated that "final year exams are important as learning is a dynamic process where the only way to figure out what students know is by seeking evidence of their knowledge."

In response to the petitioners urging the UGC to follow the call taken by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and other boards to cancel exams this year, the affidavit states,

"The nature of examinations conduct by CBSE, ICSE or ICAI…are very different from those that are the subject matter of the UGC Guidelines. In the present case, the UGC is concerned with final year/terminal semester examinations which will have a lasting and indelible effect on the academic credibility, career opportunities and future progress of the students."

Affidavit filed in Supreme Court

It is also averred that the UGC's policy decision cannot be made the subject of judicial review.

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The lead petition in the case is a plea filed by 31 students from Indian universities across the country. They have challenged the UGC guidelines as being arbitrary, given that it would compel students to appear in exams during the COVID-19 pandemic, posing a risk to their health.

This matter was tagged with three others - including one petition by law student Yash Dubey, the plea by Aaditya Thackeray's Yuva Sena, and a petition filed by final year student Krushna Waghmare.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs had permitted the conduct of exams by universities and institutions vide notification dated July 6, 2020. Universities were directed to compulsorily conduct examination of final year students as per the UGC guidelines and Standard Operating Procedure.

In furtherance of the aforementioned notification, UGC issued revised guidelines for examinations to be given by terminal semester students, whereby it instructed universities to conduct exams through offline (pen & paper)/online/blended (offline + online) modes.

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