‘Impossible to defer preliminary exams beyond October’, UPSC tells SC

It was not “possible” to defer the prelims beyond October 4 as “it would hamper the objectives of the exam catering to the four arms of the government,” the UPSC’s counsel submitted

Supreme Court of India (File photo)
Supreme Court of India (File photo)

NH Web Desk

The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) has informed the Supreme Court that it would not be possible to defer the UPSC preliminary exams beyond October, legal news website BarandBench.com has reported.

Advocate Naresh Kaushik, appearing for UPSC, informed the Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari that it was not "possible" to defer the prelims beyond October 4 as "it would hamper the objectives of the exam catering to the four arms of the government."

"It is impossible to agree to petitioners. It was supposed to be held on September 30. Thereafter it was deferred to October 4. Deferment would nullify the objective of conducting the exam for four arms of government," the counsel for UPSC said.

The three-judge Bench has now asked UPSC to file an affidavit in reply to the plea by tomorrow so that the case can again be taken up on September 30.

The petition filed through Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava urges the court to quash the revised calendar issued by the UPSC, seeking postponement of the exam by two or three months till the COVID-19 pandemic has subsided.

Earlier, the Bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna had granted liberty to the petitioners to serve an advance copy of the plea to UPSC and the Central government.

The petitioners have stated that the decision of UPSC to conduct the exam violates their rights under Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution to practice their chosen profession/occupation of serving the public.

Citing risk of illness or death, the petitioners say that they may not be able to appear for the exam on October 4.

It is further stated that the decision of UPSC fails to meet the ‘necessity’ prong of the test of proportionality.

The plea further contends that being a recruitment examination, UPSC is altogether different from an academic examination. Thus, in the event of its postponement, there would not be a question of delay or loss of academic session.

"About 6 lakh aspirants (including the Petitioners herein) are likely to appear in the captioned Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, which is a 7 hours offline examinations, in very few centres at 72 cities across India. Meanwhile, COVID-19 cases are increasing in India at an alarming rate of more than 80 thousand cases per day. The deadly pandemic COVID-19 has already affected more than 40 lakh people in India and the situation is worsening by every passing day," reads the plea.

Moreover, it is averred that underprivileged students will be forced to suffer utmost injustice and deprivation if the exam is held as per schedule.

"Such class-based discrimination being meted out by the impugned Revised Calendar, is flagrantly violative of the fundamental rights of the Petitioners herein and other similarly situated aspirants, as enshrined within Article 14 of Constitution of India," says the plea.

The petitioners have maintained that states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have already cancelled/indefinitely postponed their State Public Service Examinations, citing the COVID-19 crisis.

Apart from the main plea, the father of a serving officer in the Central Armed Police Forces of the Government of India has moved an application.

The applicant points out that his son, a government officer himself, was set to prepare for the civil services, but the extra workload on account of COVID-19 has hindered his preparations.

The intervenor has submitted that the challenges and extra workload on the Central Armed Police Force officers during the pandemic has not only derailed his plans for preparing for the UPSC, but has also put him in a disadvantageous position vis-à-vis other aspirants, who may have managed to stay home and prepare through online resources.

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