The Union home ministry told the Supreme Court on Thursday that it has given permission to the University Grants Commission to conduct college examinations “in the academic interest of students”, NDTV reported. The commission has asked universities across the country to conduct their final exams by September 30.

The decision was taken following requests by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the home ministry said. “Pursuant to Human Resources Ministry request, directions have been issued under the National Disaster Management Act to conduct exams,” the home ministry said.

Some students had filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking cancellation of examinations in view of the coronavirus pandemic and floods in many parts of the country. However, the University Grants Commission said it cannot cancel the exams. It added that the governments of Delhi and Maharashtra also cannot cancel the exams.

On August 7, the Maharashtra government had informed the Supreme Court that the State Disaster Management Authority had on July 13 decided that the exams cannot be conducted. The decision was taken after a majority of university vice chancellors voted against conduct of examinations. The Delhi government had similarly informed the Supreme Court of its intention not to hold exams.

On Thursday, the commission said the Maharashtra government’s decision to commence the new academic session is contrary to its own claim that universities cannot function even to hold final year exams, Bar and Bench reported. “The state government avers that the next academic session must begin in the interest of students, while, at the same time, contending that the final examinations should be cancelled and degrees can be awarded without such examinations even though such a step would irreparably damage the future of students,” the commission said. “Such contentions by the state government [to cancel the exams] are therefore clearly meritless.”

The commission also said that the Delhi government’s decision was in contravention of its guidelines. “Decision taken by Delhi government will impact the standard of higher education in the country which the UGC is mandated to maintain,” the commission said.

According to the commission’s guidelines, universities can promote intermediate year students on basis of internal assessment and past performance. However, exams will be mandatory for final year students, irrespective of whether they are conducted online or in physical locations.

In previous hearings on the matter, UGC had questioned states’ authority to cancel the exams if UGC is empowered to confer degrees to the students. UGC had said that the students should continue preparing for the exam and not assume that the exam will get postponed or cancelled.