Final exam crucial step in student’s academic career: UGC tells SC
New Delhi: The UGC has told the Supreme Court that final examination is a “crucial step” in the academic career of a student and the state government cannot say that its July 6 directive, asking universities and colleges to conduct final year examinations by September 30 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, was “not binding”.
The University Grants Commission (UGC) said the July 6 guidelines are based on the recommendations of experts and have been made after due deliberation and it is wrong to claim that it will not be possible to conduct the final examinations in terms of the guidelines.
“That apart, the state govt (Maharashtra) 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,” the UGC said in its reply to the affidavit filed by Maharashtra earlier.
The UGC has also filed its reply to the affidavit filed by Delhi government in the top court.
On August 10, the UGC had questioned the decisions of Delhi and Maharashtra governments to cancel final year exams of state universities amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying they were against the rules.
In its reply to Maharashtra’s affidavit, the UGC has said that it is “entirely wrong” to say that its revised guidelines of July 6 are “not binding on the state government and its universities”.
The commission said that it had already filed a common counter affidavit earlier on the batch of petitions which have challenged the July 6 directive to all the universities and colleges to conduct final year examinations by September 30 amid the pandemic.
“In its common counter affidavit, the UGC has already emphasized and justified the need for conducting final examinations, be it in the form of program-ending terminal semester examination or final annual examination, because it is a crucial step in the academic career of a student,” it said while responding to Maharashtra’s affidavit.
It said the guidelines provides sufficient flexibility to the universities or institutions for conducting the final year or terminal semester examinations and it had duly consulted the stakeholders before issuing it.
It claimed that Maharashtra’s affidavit is “contradictory to its own claim that the prevailing circumstances are allegedly such that universities/institutions cannot function even to hold final examinations. Needless to say, those alleged circumstances should then prevent even the commencement of the next academic session.”
In its reply to the affidavit filed by Delhi government, the UGC has said that it has taken the policy decision to conduct final year or terminal semester examinations in the interest of students across the country after duly considering the prevailing situation of a pandemic.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had on August 10 told the apex court that states cannot change the rules of the commission as only the UGC is empowered to prescribe rules for conferring degree.
Mehta had argued that not conducting exams will not be in the interest of students and degrees may not be recognized if the states would act unilaterally. Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, appearing for some of the petitioners, had claimed that the July 6 guideline for holding exams are neither legal or constitutionally valid.
The solicitor general had informed the bench that out of over 800 universities in the country, 209 have completed the examinations while around 390 universities are in the process of conducting exams.
The UGC had earlier filed an affidavit in the apex court and justified its decision directing all universities and institutions to hold final year/semester examinations in September saying it was done to protect the academic future of students across the country.
The UGC had said that in June this year, considering the evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, it requested the expert committee to revisit the April 29 guidelines, by which it had asked the universities and institutions to hold final year examinations in July 2020.
The expert committee submitted a report recommending that terminal semester/final year examinations should be conducted by universities/ institutions by the end of September, 2020 in offline (pen & paper)/ online/ blended (online + offline) mode, the UGC had said.
It added that this report of the expert committee was deliberated and approved by the UGC in its emergent meeting held on July 6, since the conduct of the final year/terminal examination is a time-sensitive issue.
Assailing the decisions of some states like Maharashtra and Delhi of cancelling the final year examinations, the commission had said that such decisions directly affect the standards of higher education and will be an encroachment on the legislative field of coordinating and determining the standards of higher education that is exclusively reserved for Parliament under Schedule VII of the Constitution.