Students vs UGC: Supreme Court adjourns hearing in the matter till August 10

Though the counsel for 31 students pressed for a stay of the notification in light of ‘deadly floods’ in Assam and Bihar, the court said that no interim order can be passed at this stage

Supreme Court of India
Supreme Court of India
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NH Web Desk

The Supreme Court on Friday adjourned till August 10 the hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the UGC direction to hold final year exams by September 30, legal news website LiveLaw.in has reported.

A bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan directed that the parties should complete the pleadings by that time. Affidavits are to be filed by August 7 and rejoinders to be filed a day after August 7.

Though Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, appearing for 31 students, pressed for a stay of the notification in the light of the 'deadly floods' in Assam and Bihar, Justice Ashok Bhushan said that no interim order can be passed at this stage.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted that students should continue to prepare and should not be under the impression that the court has stayed the notification.

"Nobody should be under the impression that because this matter is pending here, SC has stayed the exams. Students should continue to prepare," the SG said.

The court also directed Maharashtra and Government of NCT of Delhi to place on record the notifications of State Disaster Management Authorities.

Senior Advocate Dr AM Sighvi, appearing in the petition filed by Yash Dubey, submitted that the UGC took the decision without "any application of mind".

"The reply by UGC (for conduct of exams) appears to be filed absolutely without application of mind. Coronavirus cases in India are spiralling," he said.

He highlighted that many universities lacked the basic online infrastructure to conduct examinations.

"The new guidelines make it tighter for the students to appear for exams. The optional exam is very problematic. It will create chaos if you allow someone to appear at a later stage," he submitted.

"Heavens will not fall if exams are cancelled," he submitted, highlighting that Bar Council of India has postponed the All India Bar Examination.

A bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah considered a batch of petitions filed by Praneeth K & 30 other petitioners, Yuva Sena led by Aditya Thackarey, Yash Dubey and others.

The UGC as filed a counter-affidavit in the matter stating that the direction was issued in the interest of "academic future of students", and health and safety aspects were taken into consideration. It stated that the deadline of September 30 was set on the basis of inputs from experts, and argued that the scope of judicial review over academic decisions was very minimal. It pointed out that the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Human Resources Development permit the conduct of exams.

The students filed a rejoinder to the UGC's affidavit, stating that it "has been showing apathy towards the students". The rejoinder filed by the 31 student-petitioners contended that UGC has failed to take into account many aspects like rising COVID19 cases, floods in Assam, lack of connectivity in J&K, lockdown in many parts etc.

Instead of holding final semester exams, the petitioners suggested that aggregate of previous semester exams be awarded to students. A final year/ final term student has already completed 85-90% of the course, they pointed out. This will enable many students to secure jobs or admission in foreign universities at the earliest. The award of degrees to final year students on the basis of their internal assessment/ past-performance, by July 31, will also enable many of them to get a job and financially assist their families amid COVID19, they said.

UGC has overlooked the fact that no real or virtual classes have been conducted during last 4-5 months in most of the colleges across India, and conducting final exams without classes is unjust, stated the students' rejoinder.

The students further stated that only 1/3rd of the Indian population has access to the internet and conducting exams via online mode will deprive 2/3rd students from equal opportunity to appear in exams.

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