State governments will not be able to promote students without conducting the final year university exams, the Supreme Court said in a ruling today. However, the states can ask the UGC to extend the deadlines, if required.
The special bench of the SC which gave the decision had R Subhash Reddy, MR Shah and Ashok Bhushan on board. This judgement was earlier reserved by the Bench of Justices on 18thAugust.
After analysing the current scenario in Maharashtra, the Bench gave the state clearance on its decision to cancel exams amid the pandemic. Maharashtra took the decision under the Disaster Management Act.
Earlier, UGC issued guidelines that made it mandatory for the states to conduct final year examinations following SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). This lead to students, teachers, and the youth wings of several political parties knocking at the Supreme Court’s door.
The court was asked whether the UGC has the authority to override the decisions taken under the Disaster Management Act. Questions were also raised on whether state governments could decide on not having exams despite the UGC having the power to award students with degrees.
Arguments in favour of the students were made by Advocates Abhishek Singhvi, Arvind Datar, and Shyam Divan. Singhvi suggested that the UGC had been ‘completely insensible’ while releasing the new guidelines. He argued on the grounds of UGC setting a deadline for conducting the final exams. “Why weren’t the exams held when the pandemic was still in its initial stages?”, questioned Singhvi.
Adv. Shyam Divan argued that conducting exams will be against the guidelines that the Union Home Ministry released for educational institutions. Adv. Arvind Datar proposed that an alternative way should be deduced to award marks to the students.
Non-availability of online resources in remote areas and not considering the problems of specially-abled children were also among the issues raised by the Senior Counsel of lawyers.
When enquired, the UGC said that the states are taking antipodal decisions regarding the new academic session and conducting the final year examination. Adv. Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General argued in favour of the UGC. He said that the decision has been taken keeping the interests of the students in mind.
Mehta said that the UGC cannot offer students degrees without them passing the final examinations. He further added that students might encounter problems as many have already applied for jobs or opted for higher studies.
Initially, 31 students approached the Supreme Court against the new guidelines of the UGC. Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava argued in favour of this plea which was earlier filed by Advocate Anubha Srivastava.