Supreme Court today reserved its judgement with regards to the UGC guidelines, reports barandbench.com. The report says that the Court has asked all parties to file written submissions within 3 days.
The UGC guidelines state that all the universities need to conduct final year exams before September 30. UGC conceded in the court today that states can request for extension in the deadline. Several states had challenged these guidelines stating that conducting exams amid COVID-19 pandemic situation is not possible.
Representatives made arguments for and against the conduct of the final year exam, according to Bar and Bench live update. Representatives arguing against the UGC guidelines said that states were not consulted before finalisation of the guidelines and states have the authority over issues related to health. Thus, guidelines issued by the UGC impedes on the states’ rights to make decisions.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta representing UGC said that the Commission does not have the luxury to confer degrees without an exam, and added that final year exam cannot be done away with, says the report.
Mehta said that the UGC guidelines, based on recommendations from the Kuhad Committee, are mandatory in nature. He also cited that many universities have already opted for online exams. However, states can request UGC to push the deadline.
Justice Bhushan commented during the proceedings that UGC has to come up with a minimum standard to assess the students. The universities cannot say they cannot hold the final year exam if the standard has been fixed by the UGC. However, UGC also cannot say that the exam has to be conducted before a deadline without taking into account the health of the students.
Senior Counsel Arvind Datar who argued against the guidelines said that if the exams could not be conducted when the overall number of cases was 15,000, then how is it possible to conduct the exam when the number of cases has crossed the 25 lakh mark. He said that UGC has the authority to lay down the standards but it has no jurisdiction regarding the conduct of the exam.
Datar highlighted that UGC said that all VCs were consulted before coming up with July 6 guidelines; however, no ministers or VCs from Maharashtra were consulted before issuing the guidelines. Advocate General of Odisha said he supports the stance of Datar and said that the UGC guidelines has compromised with the sanctity of the exams.
Datar stressed that the most important element today is the welfare of the students. However, Justice Bhushan said that the welfare of the students can be decided by the authorities. Bhushan also said that though Disaster Management Authority can give them authority to cancel the exam but does not give them authority on declaration of the result.
Datar pointed out that most universities follow semester based system and the final year is not important as the assessment is done on a cumulative basis. SG Mehta argued that the system is not uniform throughout the country and many universities still follow the year system.
Datar also said that UGC can say it cannot award degrees without an exam but it cannot say that the exam has to be held before September 30. This does not take into account the COVID-19 situation prevalent throughout the country where some states like Maharashtra, Delhi and Tamil Nadu are severely affected.
Manish Sisodia, representing the Delhi government, filed an affidavit that there is a class divide when it comes to conducting online exams and not everyone has equal access to books and study material. He also said that the issue is related to health which states have control over.
Senior Advocate Vinay Navare arguing for the UGC guidelines said that states have not been given rights on university exams. He added that the UGCs have not exceeded their power. Universities can still ask the deadline to be pushed but not to cancel the exam, reports Bar and Bench.
Navare also said that UGC has the authority to confer degrees and thus students cannot demand cancellation of the exams and ask UGCs to confer degrees, adds the report.
Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta who was representing Organization of Teachers from West Bengal termed the UGC guidelines as arbitrary and unreasonable. He added that no effective consultation was taken with all the states and the guidelines does not take into account the difficulties that various states will face to conduct the exams.