UGC guidelines for final year exams: Will Disaster Management Act have an overriding effect on UGC directive? Supreme Court seeks to reply
The Supreme Court has begun hearing the petitions seeking for the cancellation of final year and semester examinations that are supposed to be held in September 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court on 10th August 2020, announced the next hearing on the UGC’s directives for the final-year exams on August 14, 2020. This comes after the apex court has asked the UGC to clarify if the Disaster Management Act supersedes UGC’s notification. Today, the Supreme Court heard various petitions against the UGC guidelines making it mandatory for final year exams to be held by September 30.
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The Supreme Court wants to seek clarification from Tushar Mehta to appear for UGC on whether Disaster Management Act can override the UGC’s notification. The court had granted 4 days time to Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who is appearing for UGC, to respond to affidavits by Maharashtra and Delhi. Due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, he urged that final-year exams must be cancelled. The states had also requested that the results must be declared on the basis of their past performance of students in the previous examinations.
Earlier in the previous hearing, Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava, who had appeared for 31 students filed one of the petitions being heard by the Supreme court, had raised the questions on the authority who set the UGC guidelines. Even though the court had asked Delhi and Maharashtra for replying about holding the final-year exams during the COVID-19 pandemic, their key concern was the validity of the UGC guidelines.
Justifying its revised guidelines which were issued earlier on 6th July 2020, the UGC had announced that it adequately takes into account the evolving situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and providing sufficient time to the universities and colleges till the end of September 2020 for conducting the final year or semester exams only after following every prescribed protocols and procedure that are related to COVID-19 including social distancing and sanitisation.
What happened during the last UGC hearing in the Supreme Court?
- On July 31, the previous hearing for the UGC, the top court didn’t pass an interim order for the examination. However, UGC was asked to clear the stand of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on this issue.
- The UGC declared that nobody should remain under the consequences that since the Supreme Court is examining this issue, announcing till then the final year/semester examination will have stayed.
- SC Mehta had said in the court that they are only concerned with final-year exams and reported that around 390 universities are under the process of conducting the examinations as there are over 800 universities across the nation, and almost 209 have already completed the examinations for final year.
- The bench which was headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan in the previous hearing comprised Justices R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah and was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is going to appear for the Centre and the UGC, and would be apprising the court about MHA’s stand on the issue.
- Advocate Alakh Alok Srivastava had also raised the issue of the plight of students who are stuck in the flood-affected areas of Assam and Bihar. The Supreme court had directed all to file affidavits till 7th August 2020, and will have to wait for the next hearing.