Days after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee insisted on knocking the doors of the Supreme Court over the conduct of JEE Main and NEET UG in September, Opposition-ruled states including Punjab, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand have filed a review petition in the apex court challenging the conduct of these two entrance exams on Friday, 28 August.
The petition filed before the Supreme Court Seeks a review of its earlier judgment dated 17 August, in which a three-judge bench had dismissed a similar petition asking for the postponement of JEE Main and NEET UG exams.
Following the apex court’s dismissal, JEE Main was slated from 1 to 6 September and NEET UG on 13 September, as had been decided earlier by the National Testing Agency.
What are the grounds for the review petition?
- Petitioners say the conduct of JEE Main and NEET UG for over 25 lakh students across 4,500 test centres involve large movement of students and will ‘completely defeat’ the principles of social distancing being used to fight COVID-19.
- Arguing that India has seen the highest number of COVID-19 cases and death in last two months, petitioners say that exams were postponed when cases were less but are now being scheduled when cases are peaking.
- Conducting exams now would pose serious health hazards for the numerous students and persons suffering from underlying health conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
- Petitioners argue that exam guidelines issued by the government ignore the chances of students contracting the virus during their commute and thereby acting as vectors.
- Since a large number of JEE, NEET candidates come from non-metro, semi-urban, Tier-II, Tier-III and Rural areas, they would be at a disadvantage when compared to students from urban areas and could be forced to undertake unsafe modes of transportation during the pandemic.
When & where did Mamata urge other states to go to court?
At a meeting of Opposition chief ministers hosted by interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday, 26 August, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said that students are in mental agony and that the students are in a serious situation.
“Students are in mental agony...let us do it together and let us go to SC and ask them to postpone until the situation allows students to sit for exams.”Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Chief Minister
The meeting was attended by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Maharashtra CM Uddhav Thackeray, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel and Pudduchery CM V Narayanaswamy.
What did other Chief Minister’s say?
Captain Amarinder Singh, Punjab Chief Minister – Backing Banerjee, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said that since JEE Main begins from 1 September, there’s not much time left. “Let us go to the court,” Singh said. Later, he asked the state’s Advocate General to coordinate with states ruled by Opposition parties and file a petition in the Supreme Court seeking a review of its earlier judgment permitting conduct of JEE Main and NEET UG in September.
Uddhav Thackeray, Maharashtra Chief Minister – Thackeray asked if exams couldn’t be conducted in June and July, how can they be conducted in September when the number of cases are still on the rise. He said that the state’s Cabinet minister – also his son – Aditya Thackeray had written to PM Modi urging him to count the academic year from January 2021, instead of June or July 2020.
Hemant Soren, Jharkhand Chief Minister – Soren said that although he is in favour of conducting exams in general, conducting it now would further worsen the pandemic in his state as students and their parents from other states would arrive at JEE, NEET exam centres in Jharkhand. The state would have to make transport engagements and open hotels for this activity, he said.
CM V Narayanaswamy – Puducherry Chief Minister Narayanaswamy said that he support’s Banerjee’s call to postpone JEE and NEET and would be a part of the review petition.