UGC right to make exams compulsory but states can postpone schedule: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court ruled on Friday that students should not write final year or terminal semester exams, upholding the July 6 directive of the University Grants Commission (UG) to conduct exams by September 30.

However, a three-judge bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan said states have the freedom to postpone such tests beyond the deadline of September 30 in view of the coronavirus epidemic.

“The states cannot promote students based on internal assessment or past achievement. If states wish to conduct exams after September 30, they can contact the UGC,” the bench said.

See also | JEE, NEET 2020: Postpone exams? The Minister of Education answers

The Yuva Sena, the youth wing of the Shiv Sena, is among several petitioners in the Supreme Court and has challenged the UGC’s direction to conduct tests amid a coronavirus epidemic. The court reserved its verdict on August 18.

The July 6 directive asking universities and colleges to conduct final year exams by September 30 amid the Kovid-19 epidemic is “not mandatory,” but the UGC has previously told the Supreme Court that states cannot decide on degrees.

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

The Supreme Court observed that if the state Disaster Management Authority decides that the situation is not conducive to conducting tests, they can cancel the UGC. Whether the commission overrides state officials and asks universities to conduct tests on specific dates is another matter, it said.

An applicant had previously told the Supreme Court that no one was opposed to university exams in “normal times” and students were questioning the decision of the UGC due to an epidemic.

The commission said the final test was a “critical step” in a student’s academic career, and the state government could not say that the July 6 directive was “binding.”

On August 10, the UGC challenged the Delhi and Maharashtra governments ‘decision to cancel the final year of state universities’ exams amid the Kovid-19 pandemic, saying they were against the rules. The Solicitor General had previously told the bench that 209 of the more than 800 universities in the country had completed the exams and about 390 were in the process of conducting examinations.

The UGC said it had asked a panel of experts to reconsider the April 29 guidelines in June this year, considering the evolving situation of the epidemic.

The UGC said that the committee has submitted a report recommending that the terminal semester / final year examinations be conducted by the universities / institutions by the end of September 2020 in offline or pen and paper or online / blended (online + offline) mode.

The report of the Expert Panel was discussed and approved by the UGC at its forthcoming meeting on July 6, as the conduct of the final year / terminal exam is a time-sensitive matter.

While advocating the decisions of some states, such as Maharashtra and Delhi, to cancel final year exams, the UGC said such decisions would directly impact higher education standards. It is a violation of the legislative sphere that coordinates and determines the standards of higher education reserved exclusively for Parliament under Schedule VII of the Constitution.

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