‘No state can promote final year students without final examination’: SC upholds UGC guidelines

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to cancel the UGC notifications as universities / colleges across the country conduct final exams by September 30. The final year exam for college / university students is scheduled for September 30.

But under the Disaster Management Act, states can postpone inspections in view of infectious disease after receiving information / permission from the UGC, the bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said.

The SC said that no state can promote final year students without a final exam as mandated by the UGC. “If any state decides that it cannot conduct tests, we give them the freedom to contact the UGC to extend the deadline,” the Supreme Court said.

The state says that states should conduct tests to encourage students, if they feel that no state can run tests, they should contact the UGC for appropriate relief. The decision by the state of Maharashtra not to conduct tests under the DM Act prevails.

The Supreme Court was issuing its verdict on applications filed in September 30 challenging the UGC’s revised guidelines for final year examinations.

What UGC said

The UGC has, in its revised guidelines, mandated that all final year tests be conducted in the midst of the COVID-19 epidemic while following standard operating procedures.

However, in the wake of the persistent worsening of the COVID-19 epidemic, some state governments have already canceled university tests, but have asked universities to consider adopting an alternative identification system.

The UGC’s guidelines have prompted the Supreme Court to not only students, but also youth sections of teachers’ unions and political parties.

The UGC has asserted in court that the direction for conducting examinations is not a mandate or an order but states cannot make a decision to award degrees without conducting examinations.

The directive told the court that the directive was “for the benefit of the students” as universities had to start enrolling for postgraduate courses and state authorities could not override the UGC guidelines.

The UGC’s authority to set such a direction was challenged before the court in violation of the provisions of the Disaster Management Act. Another question put before the court is whether state governments can declare UGC students to conduct examinations.

Senior lawyers including Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Shyam Diwan, and Arvind Datar have argued on behalf of the students. Lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava represented a large number of students.

He pointed out that the decision of some state governments to cancel the tests was only due to COVID-19 figures. Under normal circumstances, exams cannot be scheduled or postponed.

Singhvi said UGC’s initial guidelines demonstrate the sensitivity and flexibility factor. However, it is completely absent in its revised guidelines, which set the September 30 deadline without considering ground conditions at various locations.

He questioned the rationale behind the UGC’s refusal to run tests in April when the COVID-19 epidemic was still in its infancy.