SC reserves order on UGC Case, concludes hearing
Final Year University Exams can be postponed or delayed but cannot be cancelled. Replying to the Supreme Court, the University Grants Commission argued that the degrees cannot be granted without examinations as it was a statutory mandate. It has further stated that the universities may seek to push back the September 30 deadline but cannot decide to cancel the examination.
Answering to the many representations and the argument in regards the Disaster Management Act and authority of State Governemnt to overrule UGC Guidelines, SG Mehta representing UGC stated that under the DM Act, the Central Government does have the supremacy to decide. He further argued that the entire country is working. “The students are 21-22 year olds. Can you really believe that they will not be going out ?” he questioned. Read SC Hearing on UGC Case August 18, 2020 here.
Supreme Court has reserved its order in the UGC Case. The court has asked all the parties to submit a note on their submissions within three days. It is expected that the SC would announce its decision on the UGC Case after the submissions are made. It has further stated that interventions are not permitted.
SC heard the arguments on the pleas filed against the UGC Guidelines 2020 which mandate that the university examinations must be conducted for the final year students by September 30. The three judge bench constituting of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah heard the case for and against UGC guidelines.
Arguments were presented by the counsel for Yuva Sena in matters regarding Maharashtra University Examinations as well as the counsels representing West Bengal, Odisha and Delhi Governments. SG Tushar Mehta and Senior Advocate PS Narsimha presented arguments for the UGC's stand on conducting the examination.
Representing the students, Advocate Datar pointed out that the safety and welfare of the students was of paramount importance. He further pointed out that UGC had allowed the universities to chart their own course. "When the UGC back then, said chart your own course, how can they now make it mandatory,” he argued.
Justices had various questions regarding the final year examinations and if they could be skipped. They asked if the petitioners were asking for the first five semester exams/ assessment to be considered. To this the counsel answered in affirmative, stating that the student who has cleared all the exams till March 25 had completed 5 semesters and about 85% of the course.
Justice Bhushan countered that a standard as set by UGC was required. “If there is a standard fixed by UGC that without final exam, a degree cannot be given, can universities really decide to cancel the final exam? Then all the universities will come up with their own method,” shared Justice Bhushan.
Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta representing an Organization of Teachers from West Bengal argued that internal assessment would suffice. “For those who have to take the final examination, significant portion of their examination and assessment is already complete. There is no difference between other exams and last examination,” he submitted.
Adv. Gupta further asked for the UGC Guidelines of July 6 be struck down. He argues that UGC did not hold ‘effective consultation’ as was required. “On legal arguments, this order is an executive order and is in violation of Article 14 and is arbitrary and unreasonable. This is against the Wednesbury rule. They have not even taken into consideration the difficulties faced by the State to hold offline exams. This order has to go.”
Senior Counsel KV Vishwanathan representing Delhi Government also argued that the State was well within its right to cancel the examination. “This is in pith and substance an issue of public health and states have control over it under A. 239AA (for Delhi),” he argued. He further stated that there was a class divide where the poor students were at a disadvantage.