The University Grants Commission (UGC) should not read politics behind Delhi and Maharashtra’s move to cancel final year exams because of the Covid-19 pandemic, a three-judge Supreme Court bench hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the July 7 directive of the higher education regulator asking universities to compulsorily hold examinations by September 30 was told.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for the petitioners, told the court that there was nothing political about the decision of Maharashtra and Delhi to cancel the examination. He said the state governments took a collective decision after taking stock of the ground realities and consulting the vice-chancellors of their respective universities.
“Besides Maharashtra and Delhi, states of Punjab, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Odisha have informed the ministry of human resource Development (MHRD) that it is not possible to conduct exams as per the July 6 directive. There is no politics involved but it is the convergence of states. These are responsible governments. They are not mad to affect the students’ future,” Singhvi said.
He said this is a time when the pandemic is at its peak and both fresh cases and deaths due to Covid-19 are rising. “The National Disaster Management Act is applicable throughout the country as these are not normal times. States have been issued guidelines by the Centre asking them to stringently follow lockdown rules, breach of which will invite punishment under the Act,” Singhvi said. During such times, he wondered why the MHRD did a “volte-face” by pressing for mandatory conduct of exams when its past directives of April 15, May 1, and June 29 made it optional for universities to hold exams.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, who represented Yuva Sena, the student wing of Shiv Sena, said that in Maharashtra most colleges and hostels have been converted into quarantine facilities. Intra-city and inter-city transportation is not provided and communication in far-flung areas is still a challenge.
The Union government has given relaxations to colleges and universities across the country and allowed them to open for the conduct of final-year examinations, which will be held in accordance with an order issued by UGC, the Union home ministry said in an affidavit in the Supreme Court on Thursday.