-By Snehi Suryash
There seems a battle brewing between the Delhi government and the UGC in the SC over the holding of exams in the state during this pandemic. The government of Delhi has informed the Supreme Court that Delhi State Universities exams have been cancelled. This was in response to a petition challenging UGC guidelines mandating the conduct of final year exams before September 30. The Court had asked all parties in the matter to file their affidavits by August 7. The issue of cancelled exams in Maharashtra has also come up.
Today, the state government informed the top court that there will certainly be no exams held in the state in all state-run universities. For which, the UGC has put forth a protest.
The hearing has been adjourned to Friday after the UGC asked for time to respond to affidavits filed. The affidavits was filed by Delhi and Maharashtra governments which have cancelled exams despite UGC guidelines.
Delhi Govt. has directed “all Delhi State universities to cancel all written online and offline semester examinations including final-year exams.”
The petitioners argue that the UGC guidelines for holding exams are not legal or constitutionally valid. The counsel, senior Advocate AM Singhvi, said there is complete inconsistency in the MHRD and UGC guidelines.
Senior Advocate Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General is representing the UCG. He argued that while Delhi and Maharashtra have taken the decision to cancel exams in state universities, it remains that UGC is the only body that can prescribe rules for conferring a degree. Thus, stated that states cannot change rules.”
Advocate Mehta said that it was not in the interest of students to not have exams. He said degrees won’t be recognised if there are no exams.
Delhi Government’s argument against university exams
The Delhi Government did not change its decision of not conducting the exams after July 11, 2020. Views of vice-chancellors along with MHRD/UGC guidelines were placed before Deputy CM/Higher and Technical Education Minister of NCT of Delhi. Manish Sisodia has reiterated his decision to cancel all written online and offline semester examinations and final year examinations.
Delhi Government has further stated that in Delhi’s State universities, best efforts were made to conduct online classes. But the reality of the digital divide is that online classes are not accessible equally by all.
The please by the Delhi government includes that during such extremely tough period, regular physical classes got completely interrupted. The students had no access to study material and the college libraries were closed. Although getting access through online mode in such peculiar circumstances, the students did not get the kind of preparation needed to attempt a full-fledged examination.
Directives for universities given by Delhi Government
Delhi Government has informed the Court that the Universities have been suggested to come up with alternative measures for assessment. Which is in order to promote students of intermediary semesters and give degrees to final year students.
Present status of exams in Delhi universities following UGC orders or not
As per the present status, GGSIP University has around 27,000 final year students. The University is devising mechanism for assessment to award marks to final year students. This is also the case for Delhi Pharmaceutical Science and Research University (DPSRU). The other six universities have completed the final year examination by online mode.
The affidavit issued on July 11
The affidavit was issued on July 11 by the Deputy Chief Minister/Higher and Technical Education Minister of NCT of Delhi. It directed all Delhi state Universities to cancel all written online and offline semester examinations including final year examinations.
However, while some vice-chancellors informed that they had already completed their examination process online. Some other vice-chancellors opined that even if other semester exams were cancelled, final semester exams should still be conducted.
According to MHRD/UGC guidelines, final year/semester examination to be conducted mandatorily to maintain quality to some extent by September, 2020.
Previously, UGC had also filed its affidavit before the Court and had claimed that conducting examinations for final year students are essential. As it is required to test them on specialised elective courses that they studied. Therefore, the mandate was issued to protect the academic future of students.
The Supreme Court was approached by 31 students from all over India seeking that the circular issued by University Grants Commission (UGC) asking universities to conduct final year examinations by September 30 be quashed.
Challenge by Maharashtra Government
Maharashtra cabinet minister Aaditya Thackeray, and president of Yuvasena, had also challenged UGC’s decision to hold final year university exams. Also appealed to SC to direct universities to chart out their own plan of action vis-à-vis final year examinations.
The appeal said that this should depend on the local conditions in their respective states to provide relief to students.
The petition had pointed out the challenges involved in conducting the exams and its procedure which include:
- Paper checking.
- When to declare examination results and admissions to post graduate courses and delays therein.
- Network connectivity issues in rural areas in case examinations are conducted online. Which is unfavourable to students in rural areas versus those in urban areas.
- Risk of increased transmission of COVID-19 among students if examinations are conducted by Universities and Colleges offline. As this will involve physical presence of a large number of students in enclosed spaces.