The Union Public Service Commission on Monday told the Supreme Court that it would be impossible to postpone the civil services preliminary exam scheduled for October 4, Live Law reported. The petitioners have urged the court to defer the civil services exam for two to three months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A three-judge bench comprising of Justices AM Khanwilkar, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari directed the UPSC, which is the central recruiting agency for appointments and exams for civil services, to file an affidavit by Tuesday. The court will hear the matter next on Wednesday.

Advocate Naresh Kaushik, representing the UPSC, told the court that it would be impossible to agree with the petitioners’ demand as postponing the exams would hurt the recruitment process, adding that the matter has been considered already. The exam was earlier scheduled for May 31, but postponed to October 4 because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The top court asked Kaushik to list the logistical reasons for not postponing the exams in his affidavit.

The petition, filed by 20 UPSC aspirants through advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, has argued that conducting the exams in the midst of a dangerous public health crisis was a violation of the fundamental right to life of lakhs of aspirants.

They stated that about six lakh candidates are expected to take the exams in 72 centres spread across the country. “Conducting the aforesaid examination across India at such perilous time, is nothing else but putting lives of lakhs of young students (including petitioners herein) at utmost risk and danger of disease and death,” it said. “Also, the natural calamities like flood, incessant rain, landslides etc are likely to directly affect the life and health of the petitioners and many similarly situated students.”

With the rate of the infection peaking, the exam would be a cause for further spread of the virus, they argued. “It is pertinent to mention here that despite alarming spurt in Covid-19 pandemic, UPSC did not increase the number of examination centres, resulting into a situation where many candidates from rural areas will be forced to travel for around 300-400 kilometres, in order to reach to their examination centres and there will be high probability of such aspirants, getting affected while using public transportation for such travel,” the plea added.

The aspirants said many students may also opt to not take the exam for fear of contracting the virus. “It is highlighted that Civil Services Exam, being a recruitment examination, is altogether different from an academic examination and thus in the event of its postponement, there would not be any question of delay or loss of any academic session,” it said.

The Supreme Court had earlier this month rejected petitions to postpone NEET and the Joint Entrance Examination in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The JEE has already been held from September 1 to 6, and the results declared. NEET was held on September 13 and more than 16 lakh students took the exam.