UGC Rebuts Maha, Delhi Govt’s Final-Yr-Exams Stand Amid COVID-19

UGC said the guidelines accord enough time till the end of September 2020 to conduct the final year exams.

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Education
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The school in Salem, Tamil Nadu, allegedly did not allow Class 10 and Class 12 students to write their exams. Image for representative purpose. 
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The University Grants Commission (UGC) on Thursday, 13 August, filed its opposition to Maharashtra and Delhi government’s decision to not conduct final year examinations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Bar and Bench, Dr Nikhil Kumar, Education Officer, UGC asserted before the Supreme Court that if the circumstances are fit enough to start the new academic session, they are also fit for final year exams.

“Needless to say, those alleged circumstances should then prevent even the commencement of the next academic session. That apart, the State Govt. avers that the next academic session must begin in the interest of students, while, at the same time, contending that the final examinations should be cancelled and degrees can be awarded without such examinations even though such a step would irreparably damage the future of students. Such contentions by the State Govt. are clearly therefore meritless.”   
UGC, according to Bar and Bench   

Adequate Time, Adequate Flexibility Granted: UGC

The UGC said that it is “entirely wrong” on the part of a state government to assert that UGC’s 6 July guidelines are “void-ab initial” or “not binding on the State Government and its Universities”, reported Bar and Bench.

The UGC said that the guidelines accord enough time till the end of September 2020 to conduct the final year exams, in keeping with prescribed protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Sufficient flexibility is also accorded to universities/institutions to conduct the exams in online, office or blended (online + offline) mode, the UGC reportedly informed the Supreme Court.

According to Bar and Bench, the UGC also stated that the guidelines provide for a “special chance” for students who “or whatsoever the reason(s) may be are unable to appear for the examinations”.

No State Disaster Management Committee in Maharashtra: UGC

The UGC further contended that while the Supreme Court had asked for the decision of the State Disaster Management Committee, no such committee exists in Maharashtra. It was the State Disaster Management Authority that was functioning, read the UGC reply.

“Disaster Management Act 2005 does not contemplate the constitution of the ‘State Disaster Management Committee.’ Section 17 contemplates the constitution of an advisory committee by the authority and section 20 contemplates the constitution of the state executive committee. Section 14 thereof contemplates the constitution of the state disaster management authority. Thus there is no decision of 19 June order of state disaster management committee as such a body does not exist in Maharashtra.”
UGC affidavit, according to Bar and Bench

The UGC also said that, in May, the UGC recommendation made by an expert committee regarding the conduct of final year exams, had in fact been accepted by the Maharashtra government.

UGC on Delhi Govt’s Decision

The UGC reportedly said before the SC that the Delhi government has "unilaterally chosen to cancel the final year exams and graduate students using alternative assessment measures in contravention of the UGC's guidelines even though it was required to hold such examinations in the interest of students."

Further, UGC asserted that the decision will impact higher education standards in the country.

“Decision taken by Delhi government will impact the standard of higher education in the country which the UGC is mandated to maintain.”
UGC, according to Bar and Bench

Background

"6 July guidelines of the UGC which now mandate the exams to be conducted by 30 September have to be adopted and applied by all universities including state universities,” UGC informed the Supreme Court, pointing out how universities are bound by UGC guidelines.

The Supreme Court had previously asked the UGC to submit its reply to Mumbai and Delhi governments’ decision and had also sought a clarification on whether the Disaster Management Act notifications can supersede the UGC guidelines, reported Bar and Bech.

“For the sake of our youth, I urge Hon’ble PM to personally intervene and cancel final year exams of DU and other central govt universities and save the future,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had said in July.

Meanwhile referring to 50,000 new coronavirus cases per day in India, Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, who was appearing for a group of 30 students from across the country requesting that final-year-exams are cancelled, had said in July that there needs to be a stay on guidelines issued by the UGC till the matter is decided by the apex court.

(With inputs from Bar and Bench)

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