Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Aaditya Thackeray on Saturday moved the Supreme Court against the Centre’s directive to universities and other academic institutions to conduct final-year examinations by the end of September amid the coronavirus pandemic. The petition was filed by the Shiv Sena’s youth arm, the Yuva Sena, which is led by Thackeray.

The exams have been pending since March due to the imposition of the lockdown to contain the coronavirus.

In its statement, the Yuva Sena said the Centre was “ignoring physical and mental health, anxiety and safety of students across the country” in allowing examinations to be held .“Covid-19 is a national disaster, in view of which the University Grants Commission should have cancelled final year exams... however, it seems the UGC has not understood the full extent of dilemma the country is facing,” it added.

The University Grants Commission on July 6 had said that final-year undergraduate and masters students would have to appear for exams to get their degrees. It said the terminal exams would be conducted by the universities or institutions by the end of September, though the mode of the exam –online and offline or a mix of both mediums – would be optional.

It had said the the decision to advise universities to go ahead with the final-year exams was taken to “ensure academic credibility, career opportunities and future progress of students globally”. The new guidelines further suggested holding special exams for students “in case a student of terminal semester or final year is unable to appear in the examination”. These special exams can be held whenever the situation will be conducive, according to The Indian Express.

However, the Yuva Sena contended that the 31 guidelines announced by the UGC to conduct the exams would not be effective given the severity of the pandemic. It said the decision poses huge risk of transmission of the coronavirus as students and exam invigilators will travel to and from exam centres.

The UGC itself could face challenges in paper checking, dates to declare examination results and admissions to postgraduate courses and delays therein, as well as network connectivity issues in rural areas in case examinations are conducted online, it added.

The group also pointed out that other prominent educational institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology, and governments such as Delhi, Punjab, Haryana and Tamil Nadu had already cancelled all examinations.

Bearing in mind that the coronavirus outbreak has assumed “monstrous proportions” in India, and in the interest of students, the body said it wrote letters to the UGC and the HRD Ministry on May 9 and July 7, respectively, requesting authorities to cancel the final year examinations. The organisation called for students to be promoted on the aggregate of marks scored in their academic year so far.

On Friday, Thackeray had called the decision to go ahead with exams “absolutely absurd and probably from an alternate universe”. The Yuva Sena chief, in a tweet, had asked the UGC if it would “take responsibility for the health of each student”. “I urge UGC to not make this a silly issue of egos and realise that lakhs of lives of students, teachers, non teaching staff are at stake,” he had said.

Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, and West Bengal have already cancelled their college and university examinations. Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu has constituted an 11-member committee to make its recommendations on the matter.

Last week, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had also said the decision to conduct examinations amid a surge in cases was unfair. Instead, Gandhi had demanded that the University Grants Commission promote students on the basis of their past performance.

India has over 10 lakh cases of the coronavirus, and more than 26,200 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.